What matters: Meritocracy vs networking: The Debate

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Juichiro
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At school and academia you are always told that success come from efforts alone. However, the uni careers advice and most graduate job website say the opposite: it's not what you do but who you know. They argue that networking rather than effort is the way to an interview and ultimately a job. What do you think?


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Some links for related reading:
http://www.theamericanconservative.c...n-meritocracy/

https://blogs.wellesley.edu/mycws/re...meritocracy-2/

http://www.thecommentator.com/articl...racy_in_the_uk
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Smack
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A lot of people do not properly understand what networking is. They think it entails going to various events and trying to brown-nose employers attending them in the hope that they will bag a job or interview out of it.

But that's not the case at all. When looking for jobs, in reality what you're doing is trying to sell yourself - your skills, knowledge and experience - to employers in the hope that they will want to buy them, i.e. offer you a job. Networking is just better salesmanship, really.
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Quady
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(Original post by Juichiro)
At school and academia you are always told that success come from efforts alone. However, the uni careers advice and most graduate job website say the opposite: it's not what you do but who you know. They argue that networking rather than effort is the way to an interview and ultimately a job. What do you think?


---------------------------
Some links for related reading:
http://www.theamericanconservative.c...n-meritocracy/

https://blogs.wellesley.edu/mycws/re...meritocracy-2/

http://www.thecommentator.com/articl...racy_in_the_uk
How is networking not effort...?
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Juichiro
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(Original post by Quady)
How is networking not effort...?
I meant job-focused effort as in work focused on your discipline rather than job focused on getting inside the discipline. So for an engineer it means knowledge and academic excellence rather than resorting to networking.
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Clip
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This makes the rather erroneous assumption that knowing the right people and being able to make things happen are not marketable qualities in their own right.

If you are opening a restaurant, it's no good hiring the best chef and hoping that it will all work out. You need someone else in the organisation who will make things happen, bring the right people in and get the word out there. In fact, if you take things back a step - without a headhunter or experienced HR specialist, how on earth would you even know where to begin recruiting the best chef?

Social skills, in reality are just as important if not more so than education or technical skills.
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Quady
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(Original post by Juichiro)
I meant job-focused effort as in work focused on your discipline rather than job focused on getting inside the discipline. So for an engineer it means knowledge and academic excellence rather than resorting to networking.
What do you mean 'resort to'? Its all very well having technical knowledge, but if you don't know where jobs are coming up you're going to be unemployed.

So an engineer without contacts is as effective as one with?

I recently got a job in a different organisation. The job spec said the role required an in depth understanding of the sections strategy. Knowing people there I could sound out the level of internal interest in the role (to gauge the competition and if it was worth my while applying), get a copy of said competition and the organisations PowerPoint template for use in the presentation. I phoned the job holder to discuss the role before submitting an application. Above and beyond the technical capabilities being able to tailor my application was very helpful and demonstrated some of the skills I had for the role.

Networking doesn't get you a job, it makes you better placed to apply. I don't see how that isn't a skill which isn't a 'job focused skill'.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by Juichiro)
At school and academia you are always told that success come from efforts alone. However, the uni careers advice and most graduate job website say the opposite: it's not what you do but who you know. They argue that networking rather than effort is the way to an interview and ultimately a job. What do you think?


---------------------------
Some links for related reading:
http://www.theamericanconservative.c...n-meritocracy/

https://blogs.wellesley.edu/mycws/re...meritocracy-2/

http://www.thecommentator.com/articl...racy_in_the_uk
Once you've ignored that evidence that is based on another business culture (the first two) and the one that is *****ing about things that happened 20-30 years ago, you can ignore all of it.

So the juxtaposition of meritocracy v networking is a false comparison. It presumes that the individual is the only person that can demonstrate their merit.

For employers, especially those working in an environment where there a re very many candidates and very little to differentiate between them, selecting the right person for the job is a very difficult challenge. Given people's natural inclination to present themselves in the best possible light, right through to the people prepared to blatantly lie about their grades, or experience, what a candidate is prepared to say about themselves is not necessarily a very good indicator of 'the best person for the job'. That's why no-one employs directly from the paper application - they pick a selection of the best paper applications and then 'test' them further, in person at interview.

So everyone has the same opportunity to present themselves honestly on a paper application (ie online form or CV and covering letter). But if employers can get advice from other credible parties that candidate X really is outstanding, then that is of great value. It's just common sense and good business practice. And you can bring the same logic into anything - if you are captain of a Uni sports team and someone says have you heard about that kid in Biology who was county champion? you are going find that kid and ask him to trial for the team. If you seriously want the team to do well you aren't going to either ignore the info, or give the kid an automatic place. It's the same with employers.

In fact, networking makes very little impact in the total volume of graduate, entry level appointments, the numbers are too high, the recruitment process too visible, and the competition too tough. But the more senior you get, the more developing a network of people prepared to introduce you to new opportunities, speak positively for you etc, the better. Networking is just a professional, managerial skill. It is not cheating or seeking an unfair professional advantage - if you aren't great, no-one is going to risk their own professional reputation suggesting that you are to a potential employer, it's entirely two way! People who are lousy at their job and still network furiously are just wasting time and effort, it doesn't work for them.

Networking still works within a meritocracy, it doesn't replace it. It just enables the good workers to get more opportunities and the bad workers to shoot themselves in the foot.
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Hedgeman49
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Who says that the most academically able people are even the best for the job "on merit"? They may be the smartest but if they have terrible organisational skills and manner then they won't be the best candidates.
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aheppenstall
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It's a combination of both. A lot of people rely on social proof when trying to assess people because it's an easy metric to use. It's unlikely you'll really get anywhere by being good at networking alone because when someone is recommending you they are putting their reputation on the line and therefore you need to be good at what they're introducing you for.

I would look at it like this. It's a meritocracy (ish) in that you need to be competent or better to succeed. Networking is about opportunity. It's no good being competent if you can't find opportunities and this is where networking shines. It helps you to find positions that you can apply yourself to.

People have bad perceptions of networking but I find that most people are good at it if they come with the right mindset. If you're putting yourself out there and trying to meet people with the simple goal of 'How can I help them?' you'll do great.
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