Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Friends vs. Allies

I saw an article the other day written by Ely Portillo in which he was talking about study results published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review indicating that as a society we have fewer and fewer close friends. Now, don't get me wrong it's not like my "first read" on a daily basis is the the American Sociological Review, indeed until I saw it referenced in Portillo's article, I didn't even know there was such an animal; Sports Center is more my speed.

What struck me was that the article said in 1985 the people surveyed said they had only three close friends. That was surprising enough, but the new study indicated that the number was only 1 out of 4.

In the name of full disclosure, essentially "friend" seemed to be defined as someone with whom one felt they could discuss "important matters" whatever that may mean.

Aside from being struck by how low this number was, it made me think about something I had observed on a personal level over the years, and which has simply been underscored even more as we talk with our ExecuNet members on a daily basis.

The "learning" that most members seem to take away from making a job change is that the folks who they expected (i.e. my "A" list) would be the biggest help turned out to be pretty much a bust. The question is why? After all, aren't these guys supposed to be my "closest friends"? Well, not if you buy what Portillo's article reports. Indeed, and while we have not yet done any surveys on "friends", we have done a number of surveys on how people make changes, one of the most recent being this year's Executive Job Market Intelligence Report which underscores the value of trusted introductions.

The answer we keep getting is not "friends" but rather contacts and relationships that came about as the result of "networking." The last time I looked, the number I recall seeing from those members who checked in following their most recent change was some 70% said it came as the result of networking, but not necessarily networking with those who would be thought of as "my closest" friends, but rather people that I met during the course of my search with whom I "hit it off" and we just started to help each other. In fact, even after making the change, most would not describe these individuals as "friends" but rather as "allies" in a common cause.

Works for me.

1 comment:

David St Lawrence said...

You bring up some interesting points which finally explain a phenomena I had noticed for some years.

I have changed jobs quite frequently over the years and I was always puzzled that my connections to new opportunities never came from my close friends.

My greatest opportunities came from people I met casually through networking and struck up a relationship through our common interests.

Perhaps it comes down to this: allies have common interests and friends have some emotional attachment based on common circumstances, proximity, or mutual admiration.

The long and the short of it is that you leave both allies and friends behind when your career takes you to distant places. Continuous networking is a necessity for the modern mobile executive.