Well there’s nothing more “King Canutish” than trying to stem the tide against human nature! Today, the UK’s coalition government has declared ware on nepotism. See the report here at the BBC website of an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Regular readers of the blog will have seen a post about British culture called “Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network” earlier in the year. The main point of the post was that Personal Networks can bring influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.
I happened to be watching breakfast TV when Clegg was being interviewed. I nearly choked on my cornflakes! He said: “We will stop all informal internships in Whitehall, in government, so that you can’t just have this network where people get an internship because of who they know. They should get an internship because of what they know.”
I’m a big fan of meritocracy – we’ve all worked with people who have little talent, but great connections! However, what needs to be recognised is that in the absence of knowing a person, we test out people ultimately through reference to others. Here are two personal examples from the last week that illustrate that “who you know” is so important.
First example, I’m planning to invest in a small US start-up in the area of crowd sourcing. I had a conference call with one of the advisers of the business who is based in San Francisco last week. We’d not met/spoken before – but I have the luxury of checking out his CV via Wikipedia and LinkedIn. He can do the same for me. CVs over – how do we connect. Well, he knows and is trusted by my friend (and start-up founder), Todd, who I’ve know for 20 years. At the end of our first call, the guy in SF floated “do you know ****”? No, but I did know someone who knew **** well – who used to be my companies chairman – and onwards. We’re all reassured by the trust of the “who we know”. CVs are the “what you know”!
Secondly, I had a tweet last night from a Friend of a Friend – Chris Book. We’ve not met, and this was his first tweet to me. He’s from Bath and is very good pal of one of my first connections in my new home town. He tweeted me because of who I know – and knowing my interest in Personal Networks. He wanted my opinion. His tweet was:-
Interesting thought (ish) – my last contract I got through linked in (exactly 3 years ago) this one through twitter
My opinion is that LinkedIn is primarily a CV – and has filled a gap in finding candidates, collating information. The “recommends” service has little use. If you wanted to business with someone or employ, you would pick up the phone/email and check with their connections. Twitter has moved this on so much, you can see whether people are genuinely active – and who wants to know them and engage! Twitter gives the who you really know and have a relationship with – and how they interact with you in a transparent format. LinkedIn gives you the “what you know” and “what you’ve done” presentation.
Sorry Nick! I’m a big fan of the coalition but you need to accept that “who you know” will always be our way of quickly building trust to offering partnerships, employment, opportunities – and internships! As Social Media develops Personal Networks will become more valuable every day. Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life. The CV and application form doesn’t tell the true story….
Enjoyed reading, thanks!
“Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life.”
You shouldn’t forget reputation you have with people you know. To me one of the most valuable assets in life is those “Who you know respect/like you”, if it makes sense
Hi Konstantin. Thanks for reading and commenting. You picked out my favourite sentence – you have my respect! P
THANK YOU, Phil.
This is exactly the power that the “social network” extends to people not part of the “posh and posher” set. I find myself explaining this concept to frustrated job hunters frequently. People buy from/hire those they know, like and trust. This is good. Get yourself known, liked and trusted – and make it easy for people to find your positive and compelling information online. Participate in your community and let people know when you’re looking for work. Have a business card ready that directs people to your positive, compelling online information. This way, the uncle of the guy on your soccer (football ;D) team who’s looking to hire can a) get your card passed to him by your buddy along with a recommendation and b) learn more about you online so he picks up the phone to call.
Your resume, then, becomes just a piece of paper the guy in HR needs to complete the file. This is why limiting your job hunt to sending out scads of resumes is ineffective.
We talk the same language! I’ve just been listening to Mr Clegg getting further grillings by the UK press during the day. They found (predictably) that he’d got an internship at a bank through his father. We need to be imparting the skills to build a strong Personal Network full of trust and mutual advocacy – we shouldn’t try and change the world to CV writing and application form filling! I’m cross….
Keep on doing what you are doing – we’ll convert their thinking!
World of difference between the use of connections, and the abuse of connections.
Methinks there’s a baby in that bathwater . . .
“Methinks there’s a baby in that bathwater . . .”
I like that! You got it in one. You’ve also called it right on use vs abuse. Interestingly, we all know the abusers – and guess what their reputation is within our trusted Personal Network? Yes, we can police this ourselves! Even better, let’s level the playing field by getting the value and power of Personal Networks understood by those on the ladder of life.
Thanks for commenting. I value your enlightening views on what’s taxing my brain.
Obviously there needs to be a balance. Also it strikes me as bit rich coming from Clegg and, presumably, Cameron. Are they trying to pull the ladder up behind them? Did Cameron get his pr job at Carlton TV because he had a relevant qualification, or because his future mother-in-law was a friend of the chairman? Well he didn’t have a relevant qualification…( see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/20/david-cameron-the-pr-years). And as for Clegg, did he become leader of the party at so young an age just because he is competent? or because he built up a network of support and allies? The same could be said of the Millibands and their Downing Street years. Nepotism is wrong when the wrong person gets the job. If a candidate has the right skills and the right network, surely that is value added? Neither network nor qualifications are a guarantee to competence on their own. the days of trusting someone because of the framed certificates above their desk are, thankfully, long gone.
Good to hear from you – and thanks for reading and commenting. You’re right – it is a balance. I suppose my biggest frustration is the traditional “knee jerk” reaction to issues.
I think they are holding their hands up to the hypocrisy – but not really setting people a “network” challenge to improve the “who they know”. What you know just strikes me as CVs, form filling bureaucracy – and we’ve all had enough of that. Social mobility means giving the skills to those who need to develop them – and getting others to broaden their network up and down the social spectrum.
Lacking direct experience, a ‘buyer’ uses trusted sources to assess the value of prospective investment of resource. In some scenarios, the buyer gains knowledge about that prospects’s potential direct value. In others, the buyer mainly participates in a highly valuable side transaction, of favour-exchange. Guanxi. Network-based inference with partial information. Different language. Same stuff!
Hi Heather. Great to hear your thoughts. I like the link you have made to Guanxi. The value of the network is so ingrained in to the culture of places like China (and look at their success) – we seem to have lost that. In the old village system the whole place would have been effectively run through “nepotism” – every one was kin or cousins. The challenge in our society is to build trust – and throwing away the personal recommendations (and implied trust) is quite frankly daft.