Networking is Undermining Merit & Hard Work

Ryan Gosha
4 min readMar 22, 2024

The recent obsessive focus on networking undermines the importance of hard work, merit, knowledge, and the educational system.

Networking was probably once a good thing but evolved into a different beast, just like how the “live your best life” chantline was an inspirational sage from devout monks before every megalomaniac influencer jumped onto it and now every other infidel uses it as a mental justification for being financially irresponsible. Good things can turn bad, over time. That could be the case with networking. It got so big and so widely adopted that it began to overshadow everything else.

These days, if you study hard and work hard without networking, you don't go far. The “work” in “networking” is more important than any other work whilst within “networking” the “net” is more important than the “work”.

Elephant in the Room

Those born in the right “nets” don't have to do any “networking” work. They are born networked. Those born in low-value nets have to work hard to break out of the low-value nets and break into the high-value nets. The sheer grit that was needed in actual work is now deployed in networking work because once you are in the right net, the net does the work for you.

This newfound adulterated version of networking is, by and large, a concoction of the old nepotism, the old favoritism, and some bits of the new who-you-know-ism.

The “who you know matters more than what you know” mantra is the ultimate admission that our society is broken.

This is not something to be proud of. It's not a flex. We should be ashamed of ourselves as a society. What happened to ideals of building a fair, egalitarian, merit-based society on earth? Was that an unattainable lofty goal?

The English word, nepotism is shallow in expressing the concept as it tends to limit this to relatives and friends. The Shona word “Chizivano” is more expressive and captures the full essence of this. The literal translation of Chizivano is “The-Who-You-Know System”. We can call it Who-You-Know-Ism. Just another ism-schism.

What happened to students who get good grades getting preference? Now the grades don’t matter anymore. If the grades don't matter, the school system in its entirety might not matter as well. Some believe so. A degree is a useless expensive paper, they say. No point in getting one.

For jobs that require minimum qualifications, the ones who get it first are those with minimum qualifications plus networking. So, people obtain the minimum qualifications just to tick the box, not really to learn anything, and use networking to get jobs. Those who over-invest in learning, whilst under-investing in networking don't do so well. But those who over-invest in networking and under-invest in getting technical skills do very well. Even inside corporations, internal networking is the name of the game. Visibility, presence, and ‘networking’ with those above your pay grade are what get you promoted. That is the most important KPI, scoring a grade above other KPIs in terms of importance.

I think at this point, the corporate world has hit a point of no return. The pendulum will not swing back. Sorry to disappoint you. There won't be any pushback against excessive networking. The virus has permeated all levels of society, all sorts of organizations, including non-profit organizations, churches, and civil society. It's not just in ‘corporate’. In the most competitive areas of life, it is systematized. Investment banking has integrated this into its recruitment pipelines. You can't go around it.

This is not a trend or a zeitgeist that will pass. This is the new order of things. It's the way things will be for a very long time. There is no reason to believe that things will revert to normalcy in the foreseeable future. Beyond the foreseeable future, we cannot rule out a reversal. Maybe, an AGI overload would force us (human subjects) to change course back to ideals of creating a heaven here on earth, a Gotham, where meritocracy reigns.

At this time, there is no point in complaining about the state of affairs. You have to accept the nature of the beast.

Trust me, even some folks in the upper echelons want to change things, but the tide is against them. Remember that time in 2020 thereabout when JPMorgan tried to put in place a No-Networking Policy? How did that go?

As an executive, you know that your business model and personal career are based on networking. You get leads for deals from your network. This reality means you cannot be officially closed off from networking and cannot be seen as being diametrically opposed to networking.

Of course, you want to hire the best talent from a wider pool, not just from the pool of those who networked successfully, but the reality is that if a son of a friend of your HNW client is e-introduced to you via email, you have to respond to that with a “yes, am pleased to e-meet you, here is my Calendly select a time for a coffee chat”. That is it!

Dat is it!