It is who you know.
I read an article the other day about discrimination. University researchers recently reviewed over 5 decades of published studies and surveys about discrimination. They found that many instances of discrimination are not rooted in exclusion based on difference but rather on favoritism based on similarity.
In other words, discrimination happened more often to help someone in-group rather than to harm or exclude someone out-group. Regardless, the decisions were sometimes based more on in-group status than on merit.
Real instances of discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, age, and weight… certainly happen. That is a subject for another time. (However, if you want to check your own tendencies, here is an amazing way to test your own implicit biases).
We’re also not talking about sycophants, apple-polishers, ass kissers, and flatterers. That is insincere, opportunistic leverage that I would never advocate.
Let’s talk about favoritism – opportunities or promotion based on similarity or mutual interest. No, it’s not always fair, but it is life. It will continue to happen because people prefer to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. We all do it and that’s OK.
Why not take the steps to ensure that favoritism happens to you and not someone else? It is a competitive advantage. You can cultivate it in respectful, genuine ways that will result in your ultimate benefit. It’s the art of being in-group – at least as much as possible – in order to achieve your objective.
There are lots of ways to give the impression that you are in-group. You may have a friend/acquaintance/relative who can give you a reference or vouch for you. You may have someone who owes you a favor and will give you an advantage just to “call it even”. The most reliable way is to establish rapport.