It’s Not All About Who You Know

I have a friend who we’ll call “Steve.”

Steve got an internship at a large online company and did a superb job.

People waiting in line outside of nightclub

Steve is now an experienced, highly valued employee at a start-up in Manhattan.

Steve and I got into a discussion about the “it’s who you know” argument when it comes to landing jobs, clients, internships, etc., after I found out his family friend was a higher-up at this large online company.

“Aren’t you lucky?” I said (jealously, I admit).

“It’s all about who you know,” he replied.

“No it’s not…” I hold firm to this belief and will find it near impossible to ever let go.

My mother worked in education and my father works in engineering. No matter how we might try, those worlds never just so happen to collide into my profession: public relations.

I have held three internships, and two jobs all on my own merit. Did I network and use the tools available to me? Yes! (I actually was first introduced to my new job via Twitter.) I networked and put myself out there. But I never got a job because I knew someone on the inside.

Is that to say anyone who does land a job because he or she does know someone on the inside isn’t deserving? Absolutely not. What I’d prefer to stress is that for those of you job searching who don’t “know” anyone, it is OK. You will find something fitting on your own merit. You just can’t be afraid to network, network, network!

How do you feel about this topic? Have you gotten a job without knowing anyone at the company? Or did you know someone? What has your experience been like?

Kate OttavioThis post was written by Kate Ottavio a PR professional working in Manhattan. You can find her at

*This blog post is based on my own views and do not reflect those of my clients or employer.

8 Responses to It’s Not All About Who You Know
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tony Karrer, nkr consulting. nkr consulting said: It’s Not All About Who You Know […]

  2. Marissa Harrell
    October 22, 2010 | 3:36 pm

    Very true! My mom’s a nurse and my dad was a fireman, and I’m in public relations. Only person in my family to pursue a white collared profession and I’m doing just fine. Four internships, 1 job, all on my own merit and abilities.

  3. Brittany
    October 22, 2010 | 4:03 pm

    I kind of half agree with you Kate. My first two internships I got due to my hard work and willingness to be in PR. My third internship I knew someone that know a friend looking for interns lol. For my job I feel like it’s a little bit of both. My mentor works for the company but when interviewing my internships were pointed out as showing that I am very much interested in PR.

    When it comes to my family, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, I always get asked what exactly I do. :/

  4. Brittany
    October 22, 2010 | 4:05 pm

    Oops clearly made a mistake while commenting at work.

  5. Rebecca Lucente
    October 22, 2010 | 4:14 pm

    What a great topic Kate! I’ve been on both sides of the discussion, and in my experience, the jobs that I have gotten on my own ( like the one I have now) are the good ones. I once worked for someone in my ex-husband’s industry, and because of that connection, he felt it was okay to hold my paycheck for weeks because he knew it wasn’t exactly keeping me from paying rent, etc. The job I have now is my favorite one ever- and I found it off craigslist. The most important thing I think is to go and meet the people in person that are hiring- I sent my resume to the email, but I also went to the office that day to let them know I had done so, and spent some time chatting with the people there. Knowing I got the position solely on my own merit is the most rewarding feeling of all. I have seen it work for people, but I have also seen people get set up with fantastic internships because of family connections and gain nothing from it because their own sense of entitlement led them to think that they were above an interns duties and should just start at the top.

  6. Dj
    October 22, 2010 | 6:13 pm

    Great topic…My two cents…

    I find it intriguing that your post begins with a stance against acquiring a job based partially on personal relationships and ends with advice to take advantage of networking.

    Teetering on the verge of an oxymoron, no?

    I think in order to properly address this age old topic/argument/debate you have to start by first defining ‘it’s all about who you know’ as it relates to careers in the modern world.

    As I perceive it – it is more effective to acquire jobs through your personal network as opposed to other available methods. Bigger network = more value and opportunities (something I would argue you’ve experienced firsthand via Twitter.)

    Unfortunately, the phrase often carries the negative connotation of an undeserving or unqualified candidate receiving a job. However, I think that’s atypical (not to say it doesn’t happen).

    So perhaps when discussing the value of landing jobs based on ‘who you know’ there is a better way to phrase it.

    Switching gears slightly…

    There are many intricacies involved in getting and maintaining a job that are often overlooked. In most cases, they’re the most obvious; do you simply like these potential colleagues, do your attributes compliment theirs (and vice versa), the list goes on.

    It’s a marriage in more ways than one and I have found that some of my most fulfilling jobs/hires have been acquired through my personal network. Mainly because a friend, family member, current/former colleague had a similar friend (in personality and drive) who was on the hunt for talent. If it’s good business, it’s good business.

    In conclusion, I enjoy working with people in my network and encourage others to do the same. It can be a challenging and rewarding experience.

    I hold no firm stance against the idea of using other resources/methods. Whatever works, it’s all about finding the happiest, most productive you!

  7. Ari Herzog
    October 23, 2010 | 2:24 am

    You’re right. It’s not about who you know. It *is* about who knows you.

  8. Anonymous
    October 23, 2010 | 12:30 pm

    And that is one of the reasons that making a good first impression is something that you never know when that person you meet might have an impact on your future.