Building a strong network
As much as you may believe in your heart that two, equally qualified people should have equal opportunity to thrive professionally, the fact is, this isn’t the reality in many cases. There is a wealth of research that supports the notion that the strength of a person’s network has a significant impact on their ability to successfully manage their careers and to gain access to opportunities that others may have access to.
LinkedIn, the premier professional networking platform has utilized their massive wealth of user data to understand how a person’s network not only supports their long-term success but what factors contribute to (or stifle) a person’s ability to develop healthy networks throughout their lives.
Meg Garlinghouse shared these insights in her article on the LinkedIn Official Blog
- Where you grow up. LinkedIn users who grow up in areas with a median income above $100k are 3x more like to have a stronger* network than other users.
- Where you go to school. Users who attend top schools are 2x more likely to have stronger networks.
- Where you work. Users who have work experience at a top company are nearly 2x more likely to have stronger networks.
This ‘network gap’ presents a reality that can hinder career opportunity for some simply based on factors that are partially, or completely, out of their control.
Closing the ‘network gap’.
Understanding and acknowledging that some populations have a steeper hill to climb based not on their talent but on their life circumstances it is incumbent upon employers to be intentional about finding ways to expand their recruiting practices beyond the historical methods to access the potential talent that resides outside of the “typical” spots.
RJ Naugle, Principal with REV Consulting and prior service Army officer has worked in the area of veteran transition for years and also brings the perspective of a leader of a B2B business. Naugle suggests that the network gap impacts veterans in a variety of ways, some of which are within each veteran’s control. “We need to meet transitioning servicemembers where they are at. Too often the transition is treated with a ‘one size fits all’ approach versus a more human-centered design that enables each servicemember the ability to take charge of their own transition,” Naugle adds. Regardless of the specific situation, a servicemember may find themselves in when they transition, each one would certainly benefit from a “navigator” to help them chart a course to the over 46,000 veteran-serving organizations that exist and the “sea of goodwill” that can often overwhelm people.
That said, Naugle acknowledges that there are aspects of the transition process that servicemembers can control. He suggests that transitioning servicemembers must, “Take charge of their own transition by not managing their own objections (getting past all of the reasons why they feel they can’t network, etc.), putting a clear plan in place ‘getting ready to get ready’ to engage without ever actually taking action, and doing things to develop a network that expands beyond the military bonds which can feel very uncomfortable and overwhelming to many.” Mr. Naugle speaks from experience as, he himself, navigated this transition and is grateful for the already transitioned veterans who assisted him on his post-transition path.
Not only has Naugle himself transitioned from the military to a successful civilian career as an entrepreneur, but he also has direct experience supporting a great many other transitioning service members in his prior role supervising veteran programs for Microsoft and then Starbucks and the Schulz Family Foundation. When asked what tips he might suggest to companies who are looking to expand their recruiting pools to better find fantastic veteran talent that they may otherwise miss due to the network gap he responded, “For a business looking to diversify their workforce, especially in the midst of great flux like the pandemic we are currently grappling with, they need to first acknowledge that they can benefit by finding qualified talent that can be counted on to be self-accountable, loyal, adaptive, and able to work in dynamic and ambiguous situations.”
Second, Mr. Naugle advocates for companies to take a more long-term view of talent acquisition by, “… seeking out talent that may not have the direct technical skill (but is trainable) but who has the right values and work ethic that will help drive their organizations into the future.” This shift in thinking about talent will help hiring organizations adapt and expand where they are looking for top talent for critical roles.
As research into the ways in which an individual’s networks impact their opportunity continues to develop, we will continue to gain a deeper insight into the ways in which certain populations are marginalized. Businesses will also be armed with additional data and understanding from which to continue to find creative ways to find great talent in the spots they typically may have overlooked in the past.
By expanding the pool of potential talent, businesses can bolster their efforts of finding diverse talent that they may have otherwise missed out on.
*LinkedIn measures the strength of a person’s network based on size (the number of connections they have) and openness (the number of connections the user’s network has that extend beyond the user’s immediate network).