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Is Networking Dead?
Episode 37224th May 2021 • The Work in Sports Podcast - Insider Advice for Sports Careers • Brian Clapp - Work in Sports
00:00:00 00:14:46

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Last week I had a friend reach out who was applying for a cool job with a professional sports team. Since I really like and respect this person, and I know people at the professional sports team, I volunteered to reach out on their behalf to my friends at the team and put in a good word.  

Now, I didn’t bring this up to show off my altruistic nature and overall good dudedness. I bring this up because something very interesting happened, something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about ever since.  

My conversation with my friend in pro sports, led me to wonder… Is Networking Dead? 

Here is the scene. 

I reach out to my friend, a former guest on the show by the way, and I tell them the details – got a friend in the final round, they’re great, wonderful addition to your team, hard-worker, experienced, can you put in a good word with the hiring manager? 

Their response: 

“Hey Brian, normally I would do this for you in a heartbeat, your friend seems like a wonderful candidate. But just two weeks ago there was a new company policy instituted whereby no employee can discuss or advocate for candidates to a hiring manager. The goal is to remove bias, and create a truly inclusive staff without favoritism, nepotism or cronyism. By keeping the process devoid of influence, we believe we will be stronger throughout our organization.” 

Ok, process that for a second.  

My initial thought was…good for you and your organization.  

I’ve long been an advocate of D, E & I – but have always wondered how it will happen, how do we do it?   

I talked with Vincent Pierson who at the time was the Director of D, E, I at MiLB, and asked, this is all wonderful in theory but what do we do? Like, how does this become a reality? 

I’ve asked Kali Franklin, John Ferguson, Philicia Douglas, Dr. Bill Sutton and many others – what do we do?  

This initiative right here, expressed by a professional sports team is the most concrete example I’ve heard to date of process change to adapt to a more inclusive workplace.  

I’m here for it. But it begs the question – is Networking Dead? 

One more thing before we get into what this means. I have always hated the “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” concept. It drives me insane and is such 1990’s era thinking.  

Bear with me as I repat a story some of you have heard. I started at CNN/Sports Illustrated in 1996. There were probably about 30 of us entry level production assistant and associate producers hired at the same time. 4-5 of them, were there because they knew people. One had a dad who was a famous sports media columnist, other had influential parents or uncles.  

They were hired because of who they knew.  

Guess what, they all bombed out in under a year. They didn’t have the skills or the aptitude to do the job.  

Organizations got smarter and realized – hiring unqualified people really hurts us more than some intangible idea of playing favorites to some influencer. 

You can’t just know people and get by. You don’t get hired as a favor to your influential Mom or Dad. 

Skills matter. Just listen to last week’s guest, Michelle Andres SVP of the Baltimore Ravens, she said “I need to see your skill set on your cover letter, not just that you are a fan.” 

Now, let’s get back to the big topic – Is Networking Dead?