What is the role of networks and contacts in advancing in working life? It is of great importance if you believe Caroline Tovatt who has conducted a dissertation study on the subject. It is more likely that you ask someone you know about people who have applied for a job than to just go for merit on paper.
Within the network that a recruiter knows, there are those who can make good testimonials for a certain person or in the worst case speak badly of someone. This can often weigh more than if a person is really suitable for the service.
Is this so strange? Not really. It may not be fair but it is how we go about it when we want to feel that we are making good choices. Networks not only function as information carriers and information providers, but as the best opportunities for the networks.
Those who are good networkers have better opportunities to advance in their careers than those who have small networks.
Perhaps one might think that it is better that the one who is best suited for a task should perform it, especially in our complex society where the one who speaks best does not have to be the best performer.
At the same time, we know that many innovations have fallen flat because those who have come up with a smart solution cannot speak for it and therefore the innovation receives no recognition and dissemination. Having a certain social skills and a network that can back one up is important.
Networking is linked to social capital. Social capital is created by being reliable and helpful within the network. So you can’t just mingle around and make yourself known and heard to take advantage of a network.
One needs to be credible and genuinely interested in one’s surroundings in order to be considered as someone else wants to speak well. Instead, there is a risk that people will see through those who network in a superficial way. These people may be less well-spoken when it comes time to apply for a new position.
The balance in networking is important. Network because you are interested in people and think that there is a mutual exchange. Be willing to stand up for others before you expect others to stand up for you.
In an earlier post I have tried to find out what the overall research has to say about networking and social capital. It turns out that this factor is important in life at large, a so-called width factor. Networking and building up social capital has an impact on many areas of life, such as succeeding in your career, having good health, good relationships and accumulated wealth. In the long term, social capital is one of the most important factors.
Don’t underestimate social capital and networking but don’t expect quick changes. Social capital seems a bit occasional throughout life.