Nepotism For the Win!

NOTE:This is a guest post from Drew Kime of Cook Like Your Grandmother. I’ve largely decided that guest posts feel odd to me on this site and almost never accept them (though I do appreciate the thought), but I’m making an exception because:

1. Drew’s other guest post got a pretty good response, and
2. I think it’s hilarious to have a guest post on business and networking coming from a cooking blog. Perhaps I should accept one from a cattle rancher next.



The lonesome stranger.

The lone gunman.

The Lone Ranger.

Lone wolf.

Lone survivor.

We’ve got this fascination with the heroic solitary hero. It’s a romantic ideal, the guy who makes it on his own … against all odds … without help or comfort from any quarter.

And it’s bullshit. Which isn’t surprising when you think about what “romantic ideal” generally means. It’s a mythic story that has power specifically because it doesn’t work that way in the real world.

Ewww, favoritism

Going it alone is a myth we like so much that we even demonize the converse. Quick quiz: What’s your first reaction to the word “nepotism”? Without being too specific I’m betting it wasn’t a really positive response. The idea that someone gets ahead based on family connections rather than innate talent offends our sense of fairness. It just seems wrong.

We don’t just hate the people using family connections, though. Use your friends and it’s the “good old boys network”. You might even be qualified, but if you got the job because of “connections” suddenly your whole background becomes suspect. Maybe you only got into college because you were a legacy. Maybe your father plays golf with the dean and he helped with your grades.

Even the people with connections know better than to admit it. Tori Spelling says that when she auditioned for Beverly Hills: 90210 she didn’t use her real name, so that she wouldn’t get the job just because her father was producing it. And I am so sure there wasn’t anybody working on the show who recognized her. [wink]

So if everyone with connections is using them (but denying it), and everyone without connections distrusts anyone with connections, what’s really going on here?

The dirty little (not so) secret

Here’s the deal. What if it’s your company, and your son looking for a job. Don’t you put him on the management track? Don’t you groom him to take over the company some day? Haven’t you worked all those years specifically so that you could provide for your kids?

Of course people with connections use them. We all like helping our friends and family when we can. It’s human nature. It’s also human nature to resent the “in group” when you’re the outsider.

Wait … “outsider”. That sounds cool. I’m an “outsider”. I’ll bet there are lots of other outsiders just like me. Maybe we can be a group! I’ll focus-group that, have my media team do some commercials calling my opponent a “Beltway Insider”, and make it sound like a bad thing.

Oops, a political reference. Why did I do that? Because it makes the point that the most connected, most “inside” people know enough to position themselves as outsiders … “Just like you.” To build affinity. They deny they’re using connections while trying to connect with you. Ooh, irony.

Besides, interviewing sucks

There’s no way someone can fairly evaluate you in an hour. But guess what? The hiring manager hates it as much as you do. So if he knows someone, or a colleague knows someone, who is at least minimally capable of doing the job, guess who’s going to get it?

But don’t go thinking you should aim for “minimally capable”. I hear of openings all the time, and I know people who are looking. And if there’s a match of course I’ll recommend them. But I’m not going to recommend someone who I think is going to fall on their face.

Lizard brain vs. human brain

If you’re looking for a reason to be angry, to feel left out and mistreated, to complain about the unfairness of it all, go ahead and listen to the lizard brain. The part of you that hates any group you’re not a part of.

Or you can use that big lump of gray matter wrapped around the brain stem — you know, the rest of your brain — and realize that you really want to join that group. You want to be a member of the group of “successful people”.

Maybe you can hold both ideas in your head at once: “I don’t like them” and “I want to be like them”. I can’t. [WARNING: Obscure reference alert!] I’m not Walt Whitman.

So instead of looking at people who have what I want and criticizing the connections they use to get it, I look at what I have that they might want. How can I convince them to let me into that circle. Why would they want to partner with me.

Everyone has connections. Everyone has an in. Everyone has opportunities, or can create them. Everyone can find the right people to help them.

Sometimes getting into the club isn’t the hard part. The hard part is deciding that it’s okay to want to be in the club.

Drew Kime writes about food at How To Cook Like Your Grandmother, and blames his wife for watching the “Inside Hollywood” episode where he got that Tori Spelling anecdote.


  1. Ross Hudgens says:

    I’m still hate nepotism. How it works against normal relationships is that it isn’t necessarily based on the value the person adds, but rather their geneology. If society was based on foundations where we didn’t love someone just because they’re related to us, I might see the comparison.

    I like the last bit, though, and the real point – don’t blame people. Be you. Do you.

    And be happy your parents paid for college. Damn Nepotists.

  2. So Ross, if a one-hour interview isn’t enough to get to know what someone is capable of, and we’re not supposed to hire people we already know … what’s left? Flip a coin?

    I’m completely serious. Either I interview people or I hire people I already know. Do you know another option?

  3. Pace Smith says:

    Nice post, hobgoblin. (:

  4. Pace Smith says:

    Oh! No, you’re not a hobgoblin, you’re large. You contain multitudes. Sorry, wrong obscure reference. Both work, though.

  5. Sanford says:

    I think we all contain multitudes.

    Good for you, coming out and telling it like it has always been. If ya’ don’t want to be alone and talking to yourself ya’ gotta make some friends.

  6. Sanford, don’t do that. You took my whole freaking post and said it in 16 words.

    PS: Yes, you and Pace got the right obscure reference. Did you need to follow the link for it?

  7. @TheGirlPie says:

    Hey Drew (nice exception to your rule, JBT!) —

    This Nepotism post caught my eye because you were teasing me on twitter: “does this mean we’re the cool kids now?!” (and no, we’re so not… and not because it’s cool to be uncool, but more that [a] we’re not kids anymore and [b] like Pace would say, we’re ALL “freaks”… but I digress…)

    It also caught my eye because my first job in an exclusive industry could be seen as a fluke of A-list nepotism… I got the Interview because — along with the facts that I was the right demographic with the proper interests in the desired geographical locale with the desired skill set — my Mom worked for the long-ago College Roommate/Buddy of the Bigwig who needed a Personal Assistant. BUT! I only got the JOB because I’m the one-and-only GirlPie. (The Boss didn’t get to be a Bigwig by hiring like an idiot.)

    So yes, make friends, network, tap relations, link-in with alumni, friend competitors, offer help, keep in touch — DIG YOUR WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY by Harvey MacKay is what I wish I’d read before I needed it — and use every possible connection you can to get the Meeting, Interview, Return Call, Guest Post — whatever. You’ll have made your own opportunity because you made the connection in the first place. (it’s not just about a blood relation since no one will recommend someone who’ll hurt their reputation or abuse the trust of the connection.)

    BUT once you’ve got your foot in the door, you’ve got to get the job, the slot, the byline — the gig — solely on your own heart, mind, guts and spirit.

    And your post raises an interesting point when you state that everyone likes to support/recommend their friends. There are concentric rings of “friendship” that are amplified in the online world, where many of us are virtual pals. Johnny may think you’re the bee’s knees, may love your tuna potluck recipe, may send everyone to your site ~ BUT! If you weren’t a decent guest poster (with a loyal readership different from his own, making for a smart expansion for both of you), he’d never have you guest on his baby, his business, his blog. NEVER. (Well, maybe, if he lost a bet or found a bribe… but you know what I mean.)

    “Contacts” (friendship, connections, etc.) may allow access, but they don’t grant unearned opportunity where a savvy businessman’s income is concerned. (We reserve that risk for our cause, our mentee, a worthy start-up or apprentice or favorite lover… but Not just because dear Auntie or Superstar Expert asked us to give some pothead nephew a break. Nuh-uh.)

    Which is where twitter RTs come in handy (among other reasons.) Personally, I still only RT a link that I have actually gone to, read through, and add my stand on in the RT… but most don’t, and that’s fine. Re-tweeting a tweet/link of a contact, friend, partner, superstar or just someone with a new audience we want to reach can support (or make use of) a ‘net Pal without having to really vouch for them; a little link love seems friendly, supportive and low-risk… (but it’s fascinating to track the stats at just how many will RT a link without EVER clicking through on it themselves!)

    But conversely: with many Pals having FB pages that we’re asked to ‘like,’ or affiliate programs that reward supportive recommendations, or partnered products that have launches to be publicized… it’s becoming just as important, when advised to “make friends,” to consider exactly where you allow your name/reputation/implied endorsement — your friendship — to be used, and by whom, for how long, in connection with what… the internet, especially with the way back machine, has a long memory.

    Anyone who’s seen my pink face knows that I’m ALL for making friends. And the sweet-swell-smart-tart online Gang I that adore — I’ve been supporting them with comments, purchases, emails, calls, accolades and conversation since 01/08 so I’ve seen most of them start-up or build wonderful businesses & communities in that time — feel every bit as true friends (or moreso) than my IRL pals.

    But the thing that makes these connections feel like Friendships is that we trust each other to be honest with one another. Drew wouldn’t have me guest post for his blog on “The Shiksa’s Guide: How to Cook and Host a Passover Seder for 9 Plus His Parents While You’re Living In Sin” no matter how much he adores (?) me if it’s not right for his readership… and he’d be honest enough to tell me so. And maybe point me to a blog called “How to Cook Like a Yenta” instead.

    [Oops! These little comment boxes trick me into thinking I’m just jotting a few thoughts, sorry for the guest post in your comments~!]

    SO ~ yes, make friends, build connections, dig your well before you’re thirsty, play matchmaker, serve needs, and support pals, and lend a hand, and ask for help ~

    AND YES — consider the value of your personal recommendation, of your implied endorsement, of the referrals that influence your own reputation as trustworthy ~

    BUT– when you get that connected opportunity, when you get up to bat — knock it outta the park on your own strength and skill, then run like hell ’round those bases!

    And I’ll be here in the stands like always, cheering you on…

    Your pal,

  8. There, Sanford. That’s how to write a reply.

  9. Annie Stith (@Gr8fulAnnie) says:

    Hey, Drew!

    Love the insight. From someone who’s a true introvert, it’s insightful and somehow reassuring that people who can and do network have some hidden insecurities of their own.

    [“True introvert”… Is it a group if we don’t network with each other? Hmmm…]

    I try so hard to connect on the I’net, having to push past my own insecurities to do it. “What could I possibly have that they’d want?” [asks the voice in my head. Well, one of them, anyway.] I must say, tho, that if I think about it like I’m wearing a persona on the I’net, it’s easier than when I have to put my real self out there IRL.


  10. Nepotism is the only way to fly. It’s the same reason that Word OF Mouth works so well in marketing.

    People like to buy from people they know and trust, so they will heartily make a purchase based on a reccommendation from a friend.

    …same thing with everything else. People help other people. Why work harder when you can work smarter. There may be more honor in clawing your way to the top, but if you can get there by knowing the right people, you might as well not get dirt under your nails.

    Besides, it’s all about financial freedom and helping out each othere anyway. Why struggle for no reason? Of course you must follow your own ethics etc. I’m not talking about joiing the mob or something, but no one that has ever made it, has done it complely alone. It’s not possible.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionare

  11. Johnny says:

    One thing I’d add here — and this goes to GirlPie’s epic comment mainly — is something I kind of railed about in my How to Make Your Own Luck post:

    Nepotism and favoritism open doors. But once the door is open, the person still has to perform.

    It’s rare that someone can hire/promote/whatever a person SOLELY because they’re family or a friend, and then that that person can simply do nothing and still keep their position, get paid, or whatever. Most forms of “knowing someone” mean that you get a shot, or that you get moved to the top of the pile, or that you or your work stands out for consideration. But then you or your work has to shine, or back to the rabble you go.

    The point about someone putting their reputation on the line when recommending someone is quite valid too. If you’re in a position of power and all you do is advance people you know and all of those people turn out to be incompetent assholes, then you’re not going to last long in that position of power 9 times out of 10.

  12. Brilliant, Drew – and just look how cleverly you used that “big lump of gray matter wrapped around the brain stem” to get into the circle! If I wore a hat, I’d doff it to you …

  13. Sanford says:


    I can’t even write a post that long and have it make sense.

    Also, one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite poets. I clicked through just to read some of it again.