School Networking: Friends versus Connections
By Bryan Caplan
At least in this admittedly self-selected sample, the two big patterns are:
1. People make lots of friends at school at all academic levels.
2. People make few professional connections at school at any academic level.
Question 1: How many people you met in K-12 are you still friends with?
Question 2: How many people you met in K-12 do you professionally interact with?
Question 4: How many people you met in college do you professionally interact with?
Question 5: How many people you met in graduate/professional school are you still friends with?
Question 6: How many people you met in graduate/professional do you professionally interact with?
As you might expect, people make the most professional contacts in graduate/professional school: .2 for K-12, .8 for undergraduate, 3.1 for graduate/professional. But the median is zero at all three levels.
You could argue that since my questions specified current interaction, it masks the full impact of professional connections. Maybe people use connections to jump start their careers when they’re young, then gradually lose touch. However, simple regressions of professional contacts on age lend almost no support to this story. The average number of contacts lost per year is .01 for K-12, .03 for undergraduate, and .03 for graduate/professional.
P.S. Read this before you invoke “the strength of weak ties.”
HT: Caleb Fuller, for tabulating the results. When respondents gave a finite range, I used the midpoint. When they gave an infinite range (e.g. 20+), I used the minimum.