It’s actually not ‘who you know’ – Intelligence trumps connections for career success
We recently wrote an article called Eleven unfair ways that people make more money. It outlines numerous factors unrelated to your actual ability that can impact your career success. Well, it turns out that there is some fairness to people’s advancement in life after all. Contrary to popular belief, it turns out that what you know is actually more important to your success than who you know.
Tel Aviv University professor Yaov Ganzach wrote an in-depth report comparing the effects of being well-connected vs. being more intelligent on people’s careers. Guess what? Intelligence wins.
The research examined the career advancement and salaries of over 13,000 Americans from 1979 to 2004. Analyzing people over the span of their careers from their first jobs to 25 years later, the study shows a clear pattern of how people move up the ladder.
Participants were sorted by family income and the level of their parents’ job status, they underwent intelligence testing, and they were surveyed annually or biannually about their career progress over a quarter century.
People from wealthier families with a broader network of connections did get a head start in their careers, usually obtaining higher-paying first jobs. However, that’s where the family benefits end. They were limited in their ability to move up. The more intelligent people, even from lower socio-economic background (so less connected), soon surpassed them in their careers.
Nepotism can only take you so far.
“Your family can help you launch your career and you do get an advantage, but it doesn’t help you progress. And once you start working, you can go wherever your abilities take you,” says Professor Ganzach.
This is good news for people who don’t have aunts and uncles on the boards of directors of major firms to hand them plum positions. You might have to work a little harder to land that first gig, but once you get your foot in the door, your future success is up to you.
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