The Truth of Social Networks 

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A college student throws her graduation cap into the air to celebrate. According to a Pew Research study, 70% of college students with parents who attended college themselves went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree while 26% of students whose parents did not attend college did the same.

There are a million things I do not know. Things I had hoped to learn in college and knew I would need to succeed in my life. Connections had never been one of them. I got along with people and could entertain small talk and I thought that was enough. My understanding of social interactions proved false and also detrimental to myself. Like many, I discussed with others how they obtained opportunities, and oftentimes the answer was simple: through their connections. An uncle or an aunt. A friend of their parents. Now I knew that it was important to build connections within college but I was not aware of how many connections students often came into college with, especially if they had parents that also went to college in the United States.  

A recent Pew Research study found that students who had at least one parent attend college often fared better than first-generation college students. Indeed, 70% of college students with parents who attended college themselves went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree while 26% of students whose parents did not attend college did the same. There are a multitude of reasons for this disparity but professional connections seem to be but another facet of success in which certain backgrounds and statuses place some individuals at a disadvantage.  

I won’t spend too much time discussing whether or not this is fair. It is not. It means those who entered college with big dreams simply have to work harder. That is not to say using one’s connections is a bad thing. I use whatever I have and so should others. But it does give an advantage to some. And personally, as a relatively introverted person whose main connections to the professional field are her parents who also, unfortunately, do not know anyone in my interesting field I knew I would have to make a greater effort to form valuable professional relationships. But how?  

Of course, there are all the common ways to build your social network, especially in college. Building your online presence. Participating in activities, both professionally and leisurely, in which you get to meet like-minded people. And of course, by networking with professionals in your field (even if you barely know them). But as I mentioned before this can be hard for the average introvert with a minimal social battery. Unfortunately, I haven’t found many resolutions to this other than utilizing the social battery I do have to always be asking questions. To show up to office hours even if I have no questions just so the professor knows my name. Simple things that can little by little form these relationships. 

At the end of the day, some people will have advantages over others in the real world whether it comes from their background, their socioeconomic status, or their personality. But the realities of these things do not mean these gaps cannot be bridged. Yes, one may have to work harder but it is possible to lessen the effects of such things and in the world of professional work, it is possible to make your own way even if few people aid in making your path easier.  

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