The other day I was having a conversation with a leading super-specialist doctor about his professional journey and the key milestones he has achieved. A seasoned professional with over 35 years of practice behind him, it was not difficult for him to reel off his achievements. They are impressive. I asked him, why is it that he is not so well known or popular among his professional circle. “You know, our profession, like many other professions, attaches too much importance to pedigree, the institution we qualified from, the institution we work in and so on. There are strong networks of alumni that are deep and connected. It is not easy for an outsider to break-in.”
I heard a similar kind of a comment from a young communication professional recently. She said it is difficult for someone under 30 to be accepted and acknowledged among the Kings and Queens of Communication and PR networks or associations. With so many seniors and veterans around, most of us don’t even get a chance to make it to a reasonable level in these groups and networks, she explained.
Bonding runs deep
With many parents finicky about the choice of school, from K12 education onwards, children in India are made to realise the importance of pedigree and a good circle of friends. The same continues when one enters higher education too. In these phases, one does see people forming groups based either on where they hail from or the language they speak or their interest in a topic and so on. But all these get more pronounced and accentuated when one starts their professional work life. While one realises early in their life that bonding runs deep, the depth of such bonds and networks is felt the most as a career professional.
We often see when everything else is equal one is preferred over the other as either they hail from the same alma mater or same city or have worked together earlier etc., A friend who joined a large communications team of a tech MNC last year exclaimed, after a couple of months, the team is so well entrenched and bonded it almost feels like a cartel that she needs to break into.
Some young professionals in Communications and PR find the marquee associations, networks and groups are not something they would like to spend their time on as it is so tough to break the glass ceiling. They are not sure whether all the effort they take is worth it in the end. In an article published more than a decade ago in the Harvard Business Review, the authors Herminia Ibarra and Mark Lee Hunter say, “a majority of the managers they work with find networking insincere or manipulative—at best, an elegant way of using people”. That’s another kind of glass ceiling that younger professionals struggle to break. As they move ahead in their career to emerge as leaders, they are not able to make networking strategic that helps them pivot mainly because it’s a tough mould to break.
My first exposure of the power of networks and professional clubs was in the early 1990s in Bangalore. The Advertising fraternity that I was part of had the same brands, firms and campaigns walking away with all laurels and awards for several years. Years later I found an uncanny resemblance to SRK winning this famous film magazine’s Best Actor award during his hay days.
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