In professional life, we are told from the get-go to seek out and nurture relationships which can give us the edge. A gold plated network can open doors to jobs, promotions, the best assignments from partners, and insight on how to do our work.
Yet, as so many know from pain, that pursuit of contacts can prove to be counterproductive to our careers. Also, look at so many self-made successes ranging from the late Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, both not particularly socially attuned, who used their innate talents and strengths to break through whatever.
In a North Carolina courtroom we are baring witness to a number of alliances which went very wrong. At the top of the list, as Kim Severson reports in THE NEW YORK TIMES, is Andrew Young's hunger for more through the wealthy, charismatic, good looking, and well connected John Edwards. He was not alone. Also featured during the trial of John Edwards are his staff's hostile comments about his late wife Elizabeth. Instead of everyone in the Edwards loop simply playing the game smart, too many seemed to design their moves to gain advantage through some assumed "close" relationship with Edwards.
However the reality is that those at the top of whatever got there because they are skilled in using other human beings to their advantage. Some they use do benefit from the association. They could be hired into great jobs if the mentor is successful. They could gain unique exposure. Also, they learn new skills. But there is no guarantee. That's the rub. And that's where those with the power to grant favors are themselves vulnerable. Young brutally turned on Edwards. Had Edwards had his eye on the ball and not been distracted with an affair, he could have exerted better control on Young and the other aides. As a result he might not have gotten into this legal pickle.
Reflection: Is the building and maintaining of a network overvalued in the majority of professional contexts? Through pain, especially during this severe downturn, I have come to create my own breaks in real time through my own efforts. Only then, do others come to notice and good things begin to happen.