It should come as no surprise that the number of friends and professional connections you have affects your health in life. The more social you are, the more people you have looking out for you. The more connections you have in life the more you are aware of what is happening around you. We all like to think that we don’t need anyone else in life to help us because we feel that we are bothering that person but the truth is that when you create a healthy relationship with someone where the give and take are roughly equal, in a sense, then you will see that we very much need people in our lives. The truth of the matter though is that our social circles also affects our career options in life.
Our social life is directly linked to our health which means the more events you attend and the more people you meet, the more energetic you are to get out and meet more people. Social fears and phobias develop in youth when a child is prevented from going out and exploring the world on their own. They never learn social skills by learning to strike up conversations with strangers. The problem with the age of 18 is that society somehow thinks its a magical number where someone just is expected to know how to deal with everything in life all of a sudden because they turned 18; not if they are not allowed to learn and do things on their own before then.
Many young adults, and people in general, feel they are socially awkward and rather than risk looking like a fool in front of other people they just stay home and watch on-demand entertainment (a habit that is destroying traditional TV watching). The reason Dale Carnegie made a huge success on his books was because he first tapped into the area of social-psychology by teaching people how to interact with one another and showing them how to make friends by using very simple techniques. Those same skills are still being taught today in seminars and workshops which can cost a lot of money. So why don’t schools focus on teaching students social skills that literally can make or break one’s whole life experiences? The reason? It’s too soft a skill to teach and many certain groups of people would feel that their children are being brain-washed by some left or right wing thinking. How sad.
Your Future Employment
It’s no surprise that people with the jobs they like the most are usually connected to a number of other people. For example, Bob in senior accounting will let his best friend know there is an opening coming soon and that if his friend wants to apply he should send his stuff right away to so and so. Study after study keeps confirming that the more people you know the easier it is to get a job. Infact, it has been proven that the more social people are in school the higher their success rate later in life. You can read here for some networking career tips here from Yale’s career center on how to get better at networking.
The great thing about school is that you are constantly surrounded by people so it is easier to make connections, find out what is happening in your community, and learn about job opportunities faster. Group projects enable people to make new connections and learn about people’s strengths and weaknesses. The schools that create the best creative people focus on group projects for all their work because it gets people to learn to work together and maximize their strengths but also connections. Teens and young adults are exposed to a number of new people daily because of their school life so the number of opportunities in life is dependent on the number of friends they have and the connections of their friend’s friends.
The interesting thing about social groups is that they get smaller as you get older because life switches from doing school daily for 12 years surrounded by a lot of people to going to college and learning more but in a less crowded manner. In school you have people around you all the time that you know, whereas, in college you are surrounded by a lot of people you don’t know so your social circle shrinks. This is why they say to join student organizations because it will help you make new friends with people who share your same interests. After college your social circle shrinks again because you are constantly working and have less time to spend with friends. Your friends social time also shrinks because they might be more focused on career goals and might be starting a family.
Social groups change from the teens to the 20s and the 30s, from large groups of people to smaller groups to pairs. This kind of social shock for some can limit people’s social opportunities. The people who are not tied down enjoy more opportunities in their life and career because they do not have to discuss their decision with anyone else. They advance faster in their career and can travel more. The challenge with getting older though is that it does get harder to make new friends because there are less opportunities to join organizations and meet people if you are not social. This is why the website meetup.com is so huge because it allows people to find groups of people with similar interests but for many though it can still be a challenge just to show up to one because of social phobias. But if everyone has them why not make the first move by introducing yourself?
Social Skills Over Time
This is an area that most people do not think about because most people think their social skills are fine or that they do not need to make any new friends. The truth is that people need to always refine their people skills because those that know how to talk with others to get stuff done go farther in life than those that do not know how to start a conversation. Growing up in school it is easier to start conversations with other people because you are surrounded by so many people you grew up with so it is easier to just jump right in to any group of people and start talking
In college you have to be more forward in order to talk with other people otherwise you will be left by yourself most of the time. You cannot expect other people to approach you so you have to get out and do stuff and many times just go right up to people and say, “hi.” The last part is a huge challenge for majority of people because of fear. In the workspace it can get a litter easier to strike up a conversation with someone because everyone works for the same employer making it easier to have something to say in the beginning. It is not uncommon to develop work friendships because everyone is working on the same projects and have something to talk about afterwards. Then Ttere are those groups of people who just want to come in and impress the boss so they work longer hours, finish their work faster, and get more done at the expense of talking to people and making friends.
People who work in the same job for many years risk losing the understanding of what it takes to find a job. They expect that they will always have the same job. Those are the people who will have a culture shock when they are finally let go and have to find a new job again. The challenge with that is that they do not realize that after all those years they should have been making more friends and connections and updating their skills in order to stay marketable to other companies instead of working hard all the time and ignoring social outings with co-workers. The risk with getting too comfortable in your current job is that you can lose your job at anytime and have nothing to show for what you’ve done. The connections you make in your 30s and 40s have a huge impact on your employment in your 50s and 60s when it is harder to employ older individuals.
Again this is an area that most people do not spend time thinking about because they are too focused on themselves for anything. The myth that if you just do your job really well and meet all your deadlines your company will reward you with a promotion, bonus, and job security. Job security isn’t real anymore and everyone is at risk for losing their job at any moment. In many cases the people who finish their assigned work the fastest might make it harder for the company to find them work to do and see a reason for demoting you to part-time instead of full-time or just hiring on a case-by-case basis. This can come as a shock to someone who believed that as long as they did what was asked of them, they would be rewarded. That is just not the case anymore.
Researchers, Connie Wanberg, Ruth Kanfer, Darla J. Hamann, and Zhen Zhang went through many studies across different disciplines to analyze social behavior on employment and what they found was that people who are younger tend to be unemployed for shorter periods of time than older individuals. This is all due to the fact that younger people are exposed to more social groups and interact with more people on a daily basis so they hear about more opportunities faster. Older individuals, on the other hand, are unemployed longer because of the nature of many things, including their social circles, which tend to be smaller because they value the quality of certain relationships more than maintaining larger groups of friendships. The other issue is that older individuals are out of touch with the ways of finding a job in today’s economy. If a person in their 50s and 60s, and maybe even 70s were to look for a job they would have to understand that they will not find it in any kind of newspaper or walking door-to-door to shops and businesses. They will have to learn how to perform certain actions that are common in the workplace now that were not taught when they were in school.
The number of social connections gets smaller as people get older and the only way to fix that is by maintaining the ones you have now and going out and meeting more people. The results of the researcher’s study found that if you want to make it easier on yourself for finding a job when you are older, you need to maintain the relationships you have at work and outside in your 30s and 40s so that you have connections to new job opportunities in your 50s and 60s. Those friendships from long ago will help you manage new job opportunities in the future. Infact, older people are realizing that with the new gig economy happening, they can find new sources of income that can help offset the growing costs of living. This is very important to learn because it can mean an improved way of living. For others who still want to continue working, it is helpful to understand the importance of always meeting new people in life.
In the movie, The Intern, a older man realizes that retirement is not all what he hoped it would be. He spends time with a few people but he knows his time could be better spent working again. The long days of having nothing to do got to him so he applied for a job. He found a flyer looking for older people who would like to work for a startup fashion company. He took the information and called them up. In the movie you see this man grow his social circle by ten-fold and make new friends. He quickly realized how outdated his technical skills were but not his executive skills. Many older people will enjoy this movie because for some it will strike a chord in their heart in knowing that they would like to work again like they used to when they were younger. The other part that is touching about the movie is that the older man watches how frantic all these young people are working knowing what is at the end for all of them. I thoroughly enjoyed the film because no matter where you work, there will always be someone there after you to fill in the spot so rather than focus on putting in the long hours, one should focus on the friends they will make everywhere they go because you never know when you might need to call on that person for a favor or a lead to a new job later on in life. Do yourself the favor of going and seeing this movie because it has so many interesting things to say about the workplace for older people who are can still provide value.
If you are stuck about how to improve your social circle, look back at some of my past articles on networking but start first with Never Eat Alone and The Fine Art of Small Talk. Those should help you get started. You can look in the book section of this website to find out other books to read on networking.