WorkInSports podcast

Is Networking Dead?

By Brian Clapp | May 25, 2021

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the WorkInSports podcast! 

Amazing week last week – we finalized our integration into iHire. WorkInSports.com is still your site, but it’ll look and function a little different, dare I say, better. 

As I’ve told you before I’ll start discussing some of the cool features we’ve added in the coming weeks. Today, I’m going to share with you something magical that happens when you use WorkInSports.com.  

That’s right, I just called this magical.  

It’s called iMatch. Letter I then followed by the word Match. I don’t want you to think we’re turning into an optometry site. It’s not eye match, we’ll you get it, moving along… iMatch is our behind-the-scenes super smart algorithm that is working constantly to make your search results smarter and more applicable to your needs. 

Think of it this way: when you hear me say “we now have 25,000 jobs on WorkInSports.com!” That may seem daunting, it does to me. You may fear missing something perfect for you amongst the insane total of available sports jobs. Again, I would understand this fear. 

Well, iMatch helps. Every search you conduct, every job you save, every job you apply to, or reject – basically every action you take on the site - informs our algorithm with more information to customize your experience. Each time you come back you’ll be served up more and more logical openings that fit your desires. You’ll see the best of the best in every search.  

Which means not only a more efficient experience, but you can also relinquish the FOMO in your life.  

iMatch is awesome, but if you are like me and you search for everything all the time, study job descriptions and are always trying to keep up on the industry from all angles – iMatch just responds “you are a weirdo, pick a lane.” 

I’m kidding, iMatch doesn’t talk… yet. 

Ok, this is normally the spot I would insert the Stat Line – but we’re talking at least a week off from the data.   

We are going to revamp the entire segment…but it requires me to have a few more meetings with our analytics team. They are excited to help me bring more information to all of you, and I’m excited to be able to pull relevant data for all of you…so bear with me for a bit.  

Meredith Johnson, I know this is your favorite section, forgive me for the break. 

Let’s get into today’s question which isn’t a question at all. It’s a statement, by me.  

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? 

If we break down the usefulness of networking, it is quite vast.  

Insider industry information 

  • Mentorship 
  • Advisement 
  • Connection 
  • Confidence 
  • Job recommendations 

I’m sure we can come up with more reasons to network, but that is a good starting point. Fact is that a lot of us network out of the hopes that it will lead to the right person being able to influence a hiring manager at the right moment. 

Let’s be honest with each other, all the other things are nice and important, but most people put effort into networking for the promise of greener fields.  

Will this change? Is networking for the purpose of job referrals change with this new information? 

Possibly.  

Now, this is one team in one league, so I don’t want to overstate things. But it is a major league, and it is a big market team, and D, E & I initiatives are taking hold throughout society, so it stands to reason this could spread. 

And if so… then what?  

Well, if you ask me, it levels the playing field, and you should all be excited by that. 

Networking is still important, knowing and connecting with people to build your personal brand and reputation matters. Having resources to ask questions and gain advice, matters. 

But, more than ever, acquiring skills that will align you with industry needs will be the thing that gets you hired.  

Sports organizations will become more and more reliant on interviewing and hiring people that aren’t recommended, but instead match the skills of the job description. 

I’ve been saying it for years, if you don’t know what skills are in demand for the jobs you want, you are missing your greatest advantage.  

The time is now to go at networking with different intentions and frame of mind. Maybe it isn’t the long-term goal of getting a recommendation. Maybe instead it’s building your personal brand, having a thought leader in your corner and having a sounding board for advice and mentorship. 

Again, this won’t all change overnight, but we must think to the future and prepare for it.  


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