Getting Your First Jobs From Connections, Right Or Wrong?

Getting Your First Jobs From Connections, Right Or Wrong?


Many people have been through it: The difficulty of getting the first jobs when your CV has barely got any impressive names on it. Some find their first experiences through volunteering or unpaid works. Others find them through 'networking', the privilege that 'outsiders' thought of as a fall-from-sky asset to those who are well-connected, or to those whose parents are. Is it fair, many have asked? But very few have formally put this in writing: these are some of my thoughts on this matter.

I shared a humble family background like many others. Since I was young, my parents have taught me to observe the act of the wealthy people around me and learn from what made them successful. Whether you accept this or not, 'The rich do make themselves, and other rich people, richer" In my mind, I usually regard it as 'The Club', an anonymous term for the circle of well-connected, successful individuals with prosperity and opportunities exchanging hand to hand.

'The Club' can take many different forms in different societies, and sectors. Should you recall from your experiences, you might find that you came across some forms of it regardless of you being consciously aware of it. Parents who is in 'The Club', exchange opportunities, skills and wealth, recommend their kids to each other to make their next generations becoming as prosperous as they are. These kids grow up with prosperity and the initial support from their backgrounds, get entitled to be the members of 'The Club' and again support their children. This cycle is perpetual.


Back to the question of whether getting jobs through networking is right, I believe there are two types of opportunities through networking. One is 'second degree connection' opportunity, where you got your placement because of someone else's connections (your parents', relatives', teachers'..) and another is 'first degree connection' opportunity, where you get opportunity by utilising your own network. First degree connection opportunities are usually well-regarded and encouraged by the public: There are dozens of books/media channels that teach you how to network your way. The former kinds of opportunities receives mixed public opinions: most of the 'outsiders' of 'The Club' regard it negatively as a sign of unfairness and inequality. 

Your peer got the position you dream of, through his dad's friends. Your blood might be boiling because at least you think he is no better than you anyways. Wrong. His dad might have worked really hard to get in The Club, gain that friend's trust since early day, and spared more time than your dad on meeting other relevant people to seize these opportunities for next generations (instead of spending it with family or on leisure). Your peer may have visited his dad's friend's family a couple of times, written a few Christmas cards and sent them Easter presents every year. Have you done that? No.

It may sound like I support second degree connection opportunity, however, I believe everything has it prices. Put it simply, easy come, easy go. From my experiences, people who got their place through second degree connections usually dont appreciate and get as much out of it as those who networks on their own for it. Hence, the former usually approach it more passively and got treated 'just as an intern' whilst the latter is more active and can further his route to the company after the placement. 

Life is unfair. Live it anyways. Perhaps the most rational thing you can do is to either change your conception of fairness, or if you insist on your beliefs, then use that unfairness to your favour. We have all observed some forms of the perpetual 'The Club', it will always exist in society despite all the complaints. Instead of being an outsider moaning 'Why', we can ask ourselves 'Why not'. Why have I not been in it? Hence, instead of thinking whether it is fair that your peers got their first jobs in a bank through their parents, perhaps should you think how that can work to your favour.


Keith is my favourite author. In his book, he portrays networking not really as a tool, but more like a lifestyle. I personally believe that, before you can successfully ask someone for 1, you need to do 10 for them. That is one way to gain the most important asset in networking: trust. The people in 'The Club' trust each other because they are of similar level of prosperity. If one trusts in your ability, they'll be able to put their name forward to recommend you to others for opportunity. It's not about what you know, who you know, but 'who knows you'. That's why I never believe in the act of collecting dozens of business cards in networking events - in the end, the business reps still dont know you anyway.

I would probably write about my thoughts on 'How to get into 'The Club'?' in another blog entry due to its length. To conclude this entry, let me just put an imaginative picture in your mind. Imagine you and many other peers are running for a marathon of life. You must remember, no one has the exact same start. Some are behind you, who you usually dont care of, and many are ahead of you. Even if you and those who are ahead of you are of equal ability (running at the same rate), since they are placed at a further starting points (due to many factors e.g. family prestiges and access to opportunity): they will always be ahead of you. In this case, you'll either need to run faster than them to catch up and abandon them behind. Or you can find out, learn and utilise the factors that place them ahead, so that you can get the same lift. 

Another way to further your position is to help people behind you to get to be where you are. (Some may think: Aint nobody got time for that?) This is one of the most underrated route to success, which I would discuss in my next piece. "Real networking was about finding ways to make other people more successful" as Keith once said.


Illustration: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 - 1669), A Young Scholar and his Tutor, Dutch, about 1629 - 1630.
Copyrights: Open Content License from J. Paul Getty Museum 
10 Ultimate Lessons I Have Learnt In 2013

10 Ultimate Lessons I Have Learnt In 2013