Networking, nepotism and family values

Nick Clegg with his wife, Miriam González Durá...

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A couple of weeks back now, the British Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said “it was “wrong” that his own career had been boosted by parental connections when he was starting out, getting him time at a bank and his first job in politics.”  I thought I should let the predictable press nonsense die down before adding my two-pennyworth.

I don’t write directly about politics and I am sure Mr. Clegg means well and is embarrassed at having had certain advantages from having a successful businessman as a father, and having gone to “posh” Westminster School. However I don’t think he should be embarrassed that his Dad got him an unpaid internship (aka work experience) with a Finnish Bank. It happens all the time. We do our best for our family and we cannot sacrifice them on the altar of political ideals.

Closer to home

My wife’s granddaughter is going to have some work experience with a solicitor soon. The offer has come through a family friend and seems ideal. That has nothing to do with privilege. It is just how society works and has always worked and throughout the strata even when we had distinct social classes. It has always been possible to “have a word” to get a young lad an apprenticeship, to get a poor Victorian girl a post as a housemaid (OK, probably not a great life when women were treated as second class citizens), young Billy help in joining the Army or the Church, and young Lottie into Girton College or the like. I cannot see anything wrong in that even in modern society.

Nepotism or networking?

Why do we network? It is to find people we trust and can very likely work with, or to whom we can make recommendations when they need help. An employer will always want a recommendation when taking someone on, so if there is an offer of an employee they already know something about , that is an added comfort. It is no different from taking up a really good reference which employers would always ask for when engaging a new employee. Should we employ people without knowing anything about them?

I think that these days people can largely get on though their own merit, and that includes using their network, or, shock horror, their family’s network. Someone without ability is unlikely to get a job this way, or if he or she does, is not likely to keep it. Education is given more people more opportunity since the mid twentieth century (disclosure: I went to a posh school as a scholarship boy with a free place as my parents couldn’t have afforded to pay). Modern networks do not amount to nepotism but helping people work with those they feel comfortable with.

I realise not everyone will agree, especially given the fuss over Mr. Clegg’s comments, but let us get over the hair-shirt complex, use our network and move on. What do you think?

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