Thursday, May 06, 2010

Who you know who knows what you know

This first article for Thursday Theory was inspired by Peter Sawyer's talk at the graduation ceremony for my Post Grad teaching. Peter emphasized "networking" though joining organisations such as the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce to not only swap business cards, but help them out in the hope that they would also help you out some day. This led to the adage "It's not what you know, but who you know"

After getting my first job through Andrew, I came up with an adaptation to the adage (as well as an awesome tongue twister):
It's not "It's not what you know, but who you know", but "It's not what you know, but who you know who knows what you know"

The key change is the emphasis on capability is conferred to the person referring you rather than being left out altogether. In practical terms this means that people will only refer others that they believe will be capable for the job. This is because if the other person fails at the job, that reflects poorly on them as a referrer.

Since my first job, I have only had one of around 30 that I have needed to go through an interview process. The rest have been through referrals by people who "know what I know". Now they don't know all the things I know, but they know capability. They know that I have succeeded in the past with a similar task and should also be able to succeed in the prospective task, or that I have as much chance as any of completing the task, and the level of security in a known quantity is enough to make the appointment over other potentially more qualified applicants who are unknown.

So what of University then? Why bother going to uni or learning anything for that matter if it's all about who you know? Well, completing university demonstrates a couple of things to your peers, rellies and friends:
- You are interested in a specific field of work / study more than other areas
- You are skilled enough to complete a degree
- You can persevere enough to complete a degree
- You now have a skillset in that field to complete most tasks.

University also offers a fantastic place to establish a network of people doing other disciplines that now "know what you know". They know what it was like to go through Uni and what the end skillset is likely to be. They know what YOU were like going through Uni.

By the time you realise this it's probably too late. The networking gained at Uni comes into play after you leave, and is more or less irreversible. If you were a slacker through Uni, most of your peers would be hesitant to recommend you for fear of you not fulfilling the task when there's money on the line.