“In interviews with hundreds of people on this topic, I found that all but a handful used the help of family and friends to find 70 percent of the jobs they held over their lifetimes; they all used personal networks and insider information if it was available to them” NANCY DITOMASO MAY 5, 2013 9:12 PM, New York Times.
Have you ever gone to a meeting or an event and did not carry your business cards? Have you ever set goals as to how many people to interact with in an event? How many happy hours have you been to in six months? Do you ever follow up with your contacts after exchanging business cards? Your answer to this will determine how awesome or terrible you are as a net-worker and might also determine how (un)successful you will be in the US. It is notable that the job market is entering a new era where employers are comfortable with hiring those theyknow or at least one whom their friends know.While networking was mainly meant for product marketing in the past, it has now transitioned to become the most preferred way to advance almost everything including job recruitment, marriage and political office. In the US and as well as other developed nations, if you have to be successful in penetrating the lucrative job market, and access well-paying jobs or what Jim Clifton in his book “The Coming Job Wars” describes as “full-time jobs,” you will have to be a smart net-worker. In a highly charged networking culture, it is likely that friends recommend friends or relatives recommend relatives to their network in order to access potential employment opportunities. Although job adverts are made open to public in LinkedIn, Devex, etc., it is still practically OK to offer a friend a “full time job”, because you networked before, you shared your passions at coffee, you both have some social issues in common or it can be as simple as ‘oh he/she is great, he/she is funny and he/she plays well with my pet or they go along well with my son/daughter’.
“Friends recommending friends” or “relatives recommending relatives” is referred to as favoritism or nepotism. By definition, favoritism is just what it sounds like; it’s favoring a person not because he or she is doing the best job but rather because of some extraneous feature-membership in a favored group, personal likes and dislikes, etc. Favoritism can be demonstrated in hiring, honoring, or awarding contracts.It is ironical that while the word favoritism or nepotism is still actively used in developing countries and attracts condemnation, in the developed countries it has been replaced by a charming term ‘networking’ referring to, in my view, the same, but in a positive way. Why is networking especially for job seekers same as favoritism? It is simply because in networking an employer has 90% chances of offering a job or a contract to a person(s) they have met before of have heard about them from someone before. In normal English, an employer is most likely going to “favor” a person he/she has had a prior knowledge of, hence, removing the sense of fair competition! Another down side of networking as a means of identifying job fillers is that professional networks are not heterogeneous; people in a community with low income levels or perceived little influential power are more likely to associate (network) among themselves and those who come from well off backgrounds will find themselves networking together. Partly because spatial preference of networking events vary with each category in the society and some networking events come at a cost only affordable to the haves. This might eventually lead to high inequality among people of the same country.
However, there is a common saying that “if you cannot fight them, join them”. While networking can be challenged and to some extent morally questionable, it is something rooted deeply into the Western Society such that trying to oppose it is a wild goose chase. In cities like Washington DC of the world, nothing seems to come through the common pool or fair competition anymore, but networks. The more you master networking means the more people you get to know and the more successful you become. To master the art of networking, requires that you have to be smart and not just run around in every event “networking” event and distributing business cards. To be a successful net-worker you have to set yourself smart networking goals. No one puts it better than Keith Ferrazzi the author of the book, ‘Never Eat Alone,’ “Networking is largely useless unless you have goals, which he eloquently defines as a “dream with a deadline.” Ferrazi advises that if you want to be successful net-worker, “connect with connectors” and you will have leverage to hundreds of contacts through one person (connector). If you do something to make someone else more successful, they’re more likely to value your relationship with them, and the more relationships you have with value in them, the more valuable you become, not only to yourself, but to the world: your employers, your clients, and so on
While both Networking and favoritism have similar traits networking has no doubt become the modern style of favoritism. It is cool to just be part of cycles who recommend you for any jobs. The more networks you have the cooler you are and your success is almost guaranteed. Favoritism was and is still associated with corruption and it is said to be wide spread in developing countries while networking is a cool western culture. However, it is still academically correct to argue that favoritism, nepotism or whatever it is now called, was actually a strong networking culture in Africa where neighborhoods network to help each other during times of hunger, drought and lack of water. Families would support each other during difficult times to survive through the hard times. Usually help is reciprocated during times of harvest. When family x saved a family y; it was only moral that family y will in future also step in to support family x in an event of calamity. In most African societies, people know each other beyond just what you can do professionally. People know family histories. That is the traditional networking in most African societies. It is all meant for good intentions of helping each other because people did not know each other beyond village boundaries.
Without understanding this genesis, this social cause of networking in Africa has been dismissed as corruption. What do you think, do you see any similarity between networking and favoritism? Do you recognize the social class differential in a networking culture? Do you think favoritism as commonly referred to in developing countries equal to corruption?