Earlier this year, there was a New York Times article about how the lack of connections drove black unemployment. The consensus of the article, based on a study conducted by Dr. Nancy TiMaso, was that because black people aren’t in the right social circles, they miss out on job opportunities; regardless of how qualified and educated they are. The other day, I read a similar article on a different site which essentially said that the nepotism white executives show does nothing for the promotion of workplace diversity.
So if you’re to believe the validity of both articles – what does it take for minorities to get results from networking?
There’s no direct answer to that. On the subject of ethnic disparities, I will say black people exercise nepotism the same way white people do. We just don’t openly acknowledge that. For example, black fraternities and sororities have populations of professionals across multiple fields. When it comes to getting the hook up on an employment opportunity, they’re far more likely to help one of their “brothers” or “sisters” than a non-Greek they know who’s equally qualified.
In the sports world, as players have become all-encompassing brands, agencies have opened up seats for the natural hustler’s mentality of black men. But off the top of my head, I can only name 4 exclusively black-owned NBA agencies, Goodwin Sports, BDA, Klutch Sports, and CGL Sports. Although, black agents are more apt to hire women and younger people, they’re just as pragmatic in who they let sit at the table. From my experience, some are less inclined to help black males because eventually the talent they groom will become their competition.
One of the articles made a point that was simplified about how most of us view networking.
It is only natural that when there are jobs to be had, people who know about them will tell the people who are close to them, those with whom they identify, and those who at some point can reciprocate the favor.
I’ve attended networking events where I could tell it was going to be a monumental waste of my time. People are caught up in titles and they’re strategizing about how to get that next title. So basically the only way someone is going to truly help you is if it’ll help them in the near future. It’s selfish and people should understand that that’s the bottom line of networking before even knowing their career aspirations.
“Who you know” will always be relevant in the corporate world. As an entrepreneur, many of the opportunities I’ve come up on had little to do with my ability. I sought out people who I could get along with outside of the boardroom and cubicle. Organic relationships, in my opinion, breed the best recommendations. When someone likes you as an person, it’s much easier for them to believe in your success. They want to see you do well.
When it comes to networking, there’s no science or trick to it. Something to remember though that the people in power hear the same small talk all the time. If your reason for networking is to grow a social circle that delivers results (whether it’s getting a job, finding an investor, having a mentor, etc), then you have to figure out what you can offer that’ll make the right people see your value.