An American expat in Britain learns about the Old Boys Network (and works it to her advantage)
Posted on February 23, 2009 by peacefulyorkshire
Its not really spoken about, but its definitely there lurking among Britain’s social and business circles–The Old Boys Network. And there is not a lot on the subject to “research” … Wikipedia has an entry on it, but I think that it lacks real understanding about what it really is. Here is how I see the definition:
You are an English male born into a white upper-middle class (or higher) family, both parents of which are considered part of the existing Old Boys through breeding. Then, you leave home, aged 4, to go to school at a posh public boarding school with a very expensive fee (around £20-25k a year). Then you make your way to an elite university with more than the academic entry requirements because you have the right background. Your friends are all of the same situation as you. When you graduate from all your schooling, you become part of the Old Boys Network. This affiliation is like a club that puts you “ahead” of others in jobs, social status, etc. It not only limited to England. But I am writing about it as an American woman because its part of my life in Britain!
I teach harp at one of Yorkshire’s most elite colleges. It is a world of class ranking and old traditions I don’t understand well, because I am an outsider looking in. I have observed the Old Boys Networking in action with the annoying parents I deal with, the snooty events that are part of the college. Heck! I have even used it for my own advantage as in I’ve said :
“Oh you know so and so at (Old Boys School)! I am a teacher in the Old Boys School, could we make a deal on this house I want to rent… etc..” I tell you what, its one benefit of working in that type of elitist environment, because it really works!
I went straight to the source for you and interviewed a 30-year-old man about the situation to give you a clearer image of how it affects those of us that are not in the Old Boys game ie: me and the rest of the world.
Tell us about yourself.
What is this for again? When are we going to get coffee? Do only American women read your blog? um. I am a 30-year-old Male, British University Lecturer, single. I teach GPS. Can you write that I also own my own flat in Edinburgh because I can settle down in 5 years – who knows if I will still have a house or job though in this economy.
Are you an Old Boy?
No. I went to the wrong school. I was born in the wrong place and was born to the wrong people to be considered an Old Boy.
Do you like Old Boys when you meet them?
Um. In small doses they can be fine, however I spent most of my life resenting age-old barriers that were put in my way.
How do you know if a person is an Old Boy?
The first signs are his non-localised accent, (which he is encouraged to leave around age 4). Second, his varied and deep education, particularly to subjects that are off the national curriculum: Latin, choral singing and so on. From there, a quick couple of questions about where he is from and what he does generally confirms suspicions. Look out for the phrase “He’s one of us!” Whenever you hear it, it tends to mean there is an Old Boy lurking about.
Have you felt a barrier in your career because you are not a member of the Old Boys Network?
Particularly when dealing with blue chip and large cooperate organisations.
Anything else you would like to add?
The important thing to know about the Old Boys Network is that it isn’t to do with money. More to do with breeding. For example. Wayne Rooney earns more then any of those Old Boys out there–but he will never become one of them. Despite the fact he owns more money and houses and so forth. These days I’ve comes to terms with the Old Boys network. It is there and its an important part of its history. It wouldn’t be the same country without them. I have found my own way to circumnavigate it as have many other successful business men. The real key is to make it work for you, not against you.
What about females, where do they fit in in all this?
Females are encouraged to marry off one of the Old Boys, although these days it might be changing I don’t know.
Right. Maybe that will clear up some of the confusion for anyone who is curious about the Old Boys Network, thanks!