It is not who you know, but who your parents know!

"It isn't what you know but who you know." This is the phrase I hear whenever someone talks about a successful person who seems to have achieved their fame and glory through connections rather than skill. Most likely, there is always a bit of both luck and skill but it makes those of us without great connections (or skill?) feel better to imagine otherwise, right? Like the major league catcher who only hits .200 and drops the ball all the time but still starts because Dad owns the team.

When it comes to our kids though, who can blame the Dad who helps his son achieve his dream of playing major league ball? As adults, we can build our own professional relationships to help us with our careers or to make a sale.  It is easier because the people we are approaching and connecting with are our peers, at least in the sense that they are also working for a living.  Our kids, in both high school and college, have more difficulty making those connections.  There is less in common between a 19 year old college student and the head of sales at Apple.  While peer connections from college and high school will be valuable in the future as friends spread out and move up the various corporate ladders, your son's buddy from the basketball team is not likely to be able to help him get that first job out of college.

Since becoming a recruiter, I have heard often that 60 to 70% of people find their jobs through a personal connection rather than want ads or recruiters. While not great news for me, it does help us to guide our kids.  Rather than spending hours and hours working on a resume and scrolling through job descriptions, get out and start meeting people. Which brings us back to the issue of building a network when you are 19.  Mom and Dad enter stage left! In class last semester, one of my students asked if I thought it was OK for her Dad to help her get a job at an acquaintance's company. It was not her Dad's company and it was also not a vendor trying to sell to her Dad.  I said "absolutely" why not.  Finding the right job after college is HARD and kids should feel free too use whatever (legal and ethical) means are at their disposal.  If Mom or Dad have good connections and can introduce them into a role, go for it.

Mom and Dad, don't hesitate to help. Yes, our kids may screw up, they may not do well in their first job and yes it may affect your relationship with your colleague or friend.  But if we are not going to believe in our kids then who will? If your kids are younger (not yet in high school or college) you can still get started.  Building a good connection takes time.  It is an investment on your part and should be mutually beneficial.  If you are not involved in your local community then perhaps now is a good time to start.  By the time your kids reach the age where letters of recommendation for college or introductions for jobs become important, you will have a group of people you can turn to and ask for help for your kids.

As our kids get older, bring them along (whenever feasible) to parties or events. I have been bringing my kids to my MBA alumni get-togethers and I think it gives them a chance to see how adults interact with each other as well as opportunities for them too practice talking to grown-ups other than teachers and relatives. Now, when I go without them they get upset! The people they meet will be more willing to help in the future if they know not only you but also your kids. Not every connection has to be a close family friend or relative to make it valuable. 

Who knows, as you work to build your network to help your kids, you may find it benefits your own career as well.


  1. Larry, when Yuto was small, I really got exhausted bringing him with me to any get together occasion because he was simply an animal. He hated me when I took him to friends where I do not communicate in Japanese. Just after a few years, he is very different. He seems to be very curious about my friends and network, tries to join a conversation. My dream? is to take him with me to my 25th reunion in 2016 :) - with him growing, I get the sense that I am also growing. By the way, love your new years's card. Wonderful family!


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