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.
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.
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.