I have said in a previous post that this blog is avowedly non-political but once again, the Prime Minister David Cameron has sparked my interest through one of his statements. At the same time, it was suggested by a friend that I should use networking as the subject at some time. Serendipity!
On the one hand, the Prime Minister has sparked a row (according to the media) by suggesting that he is “relaxed” about using contacts to obtain internships. He has been castigated for going against the concept of social mobility.
When will the press get real? This is not a political matter; it is rather a matter of human nature. We all use contacts in almost every way to make further contacts and that is both reasonable and sensible.
To allege (as do the media) that the Prime Minister suggests only using his public school contacts is both insulting and naive. Do they really want us to believe that no-one uses their contacts for a range of reasons?
A recent survey suggested that by far the most effective way of finding a professional (from tradesman through to lawyer) is to ask either a friend or a business contact. Certainly we at Vistage have found that new members who have been referred by an existing member tend to contribute more to the group and stay longer than others.
It’s equally stupid to imply that the only route for exploiting contacts is through a public school education. What about the golf club, the rugby club, the Women’s Institute, the Parent Teachers Association (at any school from local primary through to public boarding) or church, synagogue or mosque? Do they really want us to believe that there is something immoral in making contacts and then using them for mutual gain?
By the way, many networking groups are there merely for pleasure and for being with like minded people. Sports clubs, arts clubs, gyms, special interest groups all have a part to play in the evolution of a community where we can meet and get to know people.
Networking as such has become professionalised over the past few years and indeed, my friend, Will Kintish formed a very successful consultancy and training company to help people to network more effectively. Ask anyone who has been “Kintished” whether it works or not!
The electronic versions like LinkedIn which build contact databases have also taken their place in the networking pantheon although face to face contact is far more effective and indeed more memorable.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters” as the old saying goes. In fact it is both. That is why personal experience of people and organisations is so valuable.
It is not a “toff’s” prerogative – we can all do it and, frankly, should do it. because there will be mutual gain.
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