Friday, December 1, 2023

It is who you know and not what you know – nepotism or networking?

If you are still poring over newspapers’ vacancies pages looking for a job, then you have missed the memo. It is not what you know, but who you know to land a job in Botswana. That pretty much sums up one of Transparency International’s (TI) country report on Botswana.

The global non-profit Organisation founded in 1993 to help combat corruption however did not say it in so many words. The report stated that Corruption in Botswana is primarily used by the small, state elite. It is these individuals that have used their power to create patronage networks and have the interests of both the public sector and private sector blur together. Combating this form of corruption is much harder. It is more entrenched in the state government and private industries, and the small minority that is benefitting from this corruption can use their power to ensure that it continues on. Nepotism and patronage are the preferred methods of these state elites.

This perception is echoed by Wikipedia under the headline “corruption in Botswana. The online encyclopedia created and maintained as an open collaboration project by a community of volunteer editors using a wiki-based editing system states that, “despite Botswana’s good reputation abroad, the country is still faced with some challenges with regard to corruption. A lack of transparency, deeply entrenched patronage networks, conflicts of interest and nepotism.”

With the country already haunted by the specter of nepotism, most Batswana are uncomfortable with working networks to get a job. In Botswana, there is still a lot of confusion between nepotism and networking — both of which use connections to help get ahead.

Mompoloki Makwana a Motswana author, however swears by networking and even gives it a pretty face. In his book “What Amazing Employees Do, The Attitude and Mindset of Employees Creates Extraordinary Results Toda” he argues that, “we all need to understand that there has been a shift in the job market.  The jobs available now are irrelevant to what people studied in school. There is a lot changing, employers are now looking for people who can reinvent themselves, for people who can embrace the fourth industrial revolution. The truth is, recruiters now look for character when hiring- they want people who can work on their character and attitudes. Sadly, in Botswana, we don’t have networking platforms for professionals. People don’t network so they don’t know the next available post even before it gets advertised in the papers. If there were networking sessions, people wouldn’t have to fight for a position with thousands of other people. In today’s workforce, the burden is on you to take control of your career development. Hence the importance of networking. As you network with people at your company, in your industry, and even outside your field of interest, you’ll uncover opportunities to connect with different types of mentors and advisors, increase your visibility with senior management, further develop your areas of expertise, and improve your skills.”

While Mompoloki’s advice that “people don’t network so they don’t know the next available post even before it gets advertised in the papers. If there were networking sessions, people wouldn’t have to fight for a position with thousands of other people” may sound like a wink wink, nudge nudge to nepotism, Dr Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’ Speaks in Gaborone does not think so.

In an interview with Sunday Standard Lifestyle Dr Jongman pointed out that “it can help a lot to know someone inside the company to which you are applying to work. It helps if that person knows your abilities and is willing to write a recommendation as they pass along your resume. It also helps if they are well-regarded by the people doing the hiring. Chances are, no matter how hard you’ve worked on your own, there were people in your life who opened new doors, gave personal advice, took bets on you, wrote letters of recommendation, or offered words of encouragement. Networks unlock valuable advice, insights, and influence that can be powerful for opportunities.”


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