My partner Karen was pointedly told, “We can’t use you as a recruiter.” She went to the head of HR and said, “I was just told you can’t use me anymore. Is that true?” The answer was, “Of course we can still use you. You bring us our best people.”
Karen was part of the good old boy network in several banks and other companies. She knew who to call. They knew they should call her when they have a particular problem. Karen exploits them, and they exploit Karen. Actually, it is a case of mutual trust.
How to exploit the network
There are two ways to exploit the network.
1. Become part of it.
2. Get a couple of powerful players to trust you so you can use them.
By the way, number two is number one on a minor scale.
The way to exploit the network is to become part of it. It isn’t a matter of becoming the chief string puller. You need to discover two or three influencers and take them to lunch, help them out or get their help. The manager 2 levels above you relies on the advice of a host of people. Who does he rely on in cases you care about? Which people have been able to shoot down your favorite projects? Is there someone who always seems to be able to get a budget for little projects? Those are people who are significant players in the good old boy network. They can get things done. They have “juice.”
One more time: invite the folks in the network to lunch one at a time. Do it after you have had a chance to compliment them about some project they got funded or finished on time. Tell them you want to talk to them about how they did it. Ask them to help you understand who influences projects like that. And if they don’t accept your invitation, be prepared to talk with them for a few more minutes about what THEY care about. The invitation and the conversation are important, not the lunch.
Or you can help them out. If they have a project, ask if you can help. Volunteer to do research outside of work hours. Do what you can. You can even ask them for help or an opinion on one of your projects.
Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism it’s just the opposite. (John Kenneth Galbraith)
The way to exploit the good old boy network is to become a minor or major part of it. You can’t always do it, but it is worth trying. Don’t worry, you don’t have to knife anyone in the back. You have to be able to get things done.
Something to do today
Figure out who the “good old boys” are. Ask them to help you with particular projects that will succeed. Give them credit for their help. Get a reputation for winning.