My Connections

My son took advantage of some family connections and recently procured a fairly decent full time job.  Since full time work is going the way of the dodo that was considered a minor coup and the job is one requiring proficiency in a sophisticated software suite, in which the demand was high enough that they were willing to train.  The job is at my wife’s place of employment.  She heard about the position, knew the requirements for the job, and was able to give our son some useful guidance in putting together a resume and in interviewing for this particular position.  Of course, succeeding at the job is all on him, but he more than likely would never have heard of it, let alone known how to successfully apply for it if it hadn’t been for a family connection.

That’s not an uncommon story.  Lots of people get their jobs with help from family.  At my current job I telecommute so I’m rather cut off from office goings on, but when I worked at an office it was not uncommon to see siblings or parent/child combos working at the office.  Usually the kids heard about the job from their parents and if the parents were well respected at work, they were an informal reference for the new applicant.

Among my son’s peers many of them work for the same companies based on feedback they had gotten from their friends.  If a place is hiring and the salary, and benefits are better than what their friends are making at say, in the fast food industry, they’ll get the hook-up to put in an application, and give them details enough about the job so they have a much better idea of what the job is then the average applicant reading the brief description from an online job searching site or even more quaint, your daily newspaper. A couple of good connections are worth more than a thousand emailed resumes in today’s job hunt.

Growing up, I even took advantage of connections to get a job.  My father worked for a major national airline, and one summer when the airline was hiring temporary help to work the ramp, my father told my brother and me about it to see if we were interested.  Indeed we were, since the job paid double the minimum wage in those days, and it certainly beat washing dishes. The interview was barely that since I had met most of the people who had worked there before.  So by the standards of that time and place, that was an excellent paying job for a couple of guys in community college.  And it’s a job I would have never heard of if it hadn’t been for a family connection.

Needless to say, the military is rife with family connections.  My first visit to the Army Recruiter was a good example.  Upon entering, the office, hopped up on the movie Stripes and Reagan’s America, I stood patiently waiting while the recruiter was filling out paperwork; he barely raised his eyes to look at me and returned to his paperwork.  But of course, I had the hook up.

“Ahem,” I said, clearing my throat, “But I’m a legacy…”  This time he looked up in earnest, a big smile on his face.

“Well why didn’t you say so?  Please follow me!”  We retired to the military recruiter’s wood paneled study, and over brandy and cigars, discussed my future military career, and my father’s draftee inflicted one.  Of course, even as a legacy, one has to be careful to take the recruiter’s promises at face value.  Apparently, many of the things he had promised me turned out to be flights of fancy.  Based on the MOS I had selected, I was promised that I would never need to handle a weapon again after basic training, and I would work in an office building in civilian clothes.  Much to my surprise, this turned out to be not quite accurate, although in what would have probably have been a surprise to my recruiter, many years later I did in fact have an assignment in which I worked in an office in civilian clothes, but that was well beyond the influence of my recruiter, my legacy status, and depended more on dumb luck and being at the right place at the right time.

It wasn’t much of a surprise that most (although not all) of the people I met in the military usually had a family member, most likely a father, who had also been in the military.  That sort of personal family knowledge makes the idea of joining the military conceivable; in a way that someone without such intimate family knowledge might regard it as a totally off the wall due to their lack of familiarity to the idea of the military.

And that applies to almost the entire job market.  The labor market isn’t a pure, well functioning machine. It has a lot of bumps to it, making it difficult to get the idea of the full opportunity for jobs that are available in a particular geographic area.  Think how many buildings you drive by in a day that are staffed by hundreds of people working for companies you have no idea about doing jobs you’ve never heard of.

So taking advantage of the network of friends and family for finding when doing a job search is probably far more cost and time effective than virtually anything else you will do when you job hunt.  It’s far more useful than emailing hundreds of resumes to unwatched email boxes.

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6 thoughts on “My Connections

  1. I’ve always been kind of a pacifist. When I was a kid, my father told me, “Never hit anyone in anger, unless you’re absolutely sure you can get away with it.”


  2. I’ve actually been thinking about this “connections” process recently. It goes beyond job searches into all kinds of other help, both financial and practical. Just this weekend my dad called and asked if we wanted their old car. They’ve gifted us more than one old car over the years, and while they’re not luxury or top condition they’re certainly usable. Compare this to people who are so disenfranchised they can’t even buy, maintain, or insure a clunker. When I was first married my parents loaned us money for a down payment on a house. Not a huge sum but enough to make a difference. Multiply this by countless other small helpful gestures and I almost start to see what the progressives are talking about when they start whining about “privilege.”

    But it never quite gets that far because I know people who’ve had plenty of help, yet who squander opportunity and fall flat on their faces while blaming everyone around them, or people who grew up with nothing yet pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. And of course the government can’t replace this familial or personal network, as much as it endeavors to do so through wealth redistribution and legislated “fairness.”


  3. And given that military officers are nearly 100% conservative, your son will likely later speak of the stupid lazy people who have no skills.


  4. One cannot pull himself up by his bootstraps when he has no boots or his boots have no straps.

    To volunteer for the US military is to be evil, unless one has no better option, unless one has no boots.


  5. The just-world-phenomenon is so strong in some that even when they learn of it they think it’s a good thing. I know a partner at Goldman like this.

    There are many examples of people who achieve great things who are from humble or socially isolated backgrounds (but many fewer in America than in the rest of the developed world). There is no denying that. But it’s totally irrelevant. George Will once said that poverty doesn’t cause crime because most poor people aren’t criminals. Thanks for the 6th grade argument.

    And when you look more deeply into these supposed Horatio Alger stories you’ll find breaks a lot of the time. In general, in America, which has THE most rigid class structure of any developed country and has THE greatest inequality of any developed country, those who overcome disadvantage are much more talented and ambitious than those who don’t and than 90% of those with advantage.

    The problem is poor people, irresponsible people, having children.

    You’re on the dole Mike. The US military is just an enormous welfare scheme.


    • The military actually requires some performance. There have been hundreds of thousands of military deployed the past dozen years or so who don’t feel they are sitting around collecting.welfare.


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