The week@work – College choice & future earnings, friends@work, ‘ambition’ and a networking mindset

This week@work we learned that future earnings @work is affected by where you attended college. In the workplace, it’s not so easy to make friends@work, ‘ambition’ can be an insult and a networking mindset is about authenticity and generosity.

The New York Times contributor Kevin Carey reported on ‘Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data’. Analyzing the data from the federal government’s ‘College Scorecard’ he found not only a disparity in earnings between elite college grads and second tier universities, but also a gender gap in earnings among alumni of those elite colleges.

“The data reveals how much money students are borrowing in exchange for earnings after graduation. While U.C.L.A. and Penn State are both prestigious public research universities, recent U.C.L.A. grads leave with about 30 percent less debt, even as their predecessors are earning about 30 percent more money than counterparts at Penn State. Harvard students borrow barely a quarter of what Brandeis students take on, and earn nearly twice as much.

The return is unequal in other ways. There is an earnings gender gap at every top university. The size of the difference varies a great deal. At Duke, for example, women earned $93,100 per year on average, compared with $123,000 for men, a difference of $29,900. At Princeton, men earned more and women earned less, for a difference of $47,700. Women who enrolled at Cornell earned more than women who enrolled at Yale.”

Let’s imagine you have landed a great job, what are your expectations of the workplace? Do you want to socialize with colleagues?

University of Pennsylvania professor Adam Grant asked the question, ‘can work colleagues be friends?’

“Once, work was a major source of friendships. We took our families to company picnics and invited our colleagues over for dinner. Now, work is a more transactional place. We go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds. We have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships. 

It’s not that Americans are less concerned with relationships overall. We’re social creatures outside work, yet the office interaction norm tends to be polite but impersonal. Some people think pleasantries have no place in professional meetings.

Why are Americans so determined to get down to business?

The economic explanation is that long-term employment has essentially vanished: Instead of spending our careers at one organization, we expect to jump ship every few years. Since we don’t plan to stick around, we don’t invest in the same way. We view co-workers as transitory ties, greeting them with arms-length civility while reserving real camaraderie for outside work.

Some observers blame the rise of flextime and virtual work. When more people are working remotely, we have fewer chances for the face-to-face encounters that are so critical to companionship. But a comprehensive analysis of 46 studies of over 12,000 employees demonstrated that as long as people were in the office for at least two and a half days per week, “telecommuting had no generally detrimental effects on the quality of workplace relationships.”

If you don’t build relationships @work, how will you navigate the corporate culture? How will you understand how to motivate a diverse workforce? How will you learn that the word ‘ambition’ is one of those code words with different meaning for men and women?

Kristin van Ogtrop, editor of Real Simple magazine reported on the results of a poll conducted by Real Simple and Time magazine exploring how men and women define success and ambition.

“When it comes to success in corporate America, context trumps competence. Lisa Shalett, now the chief marketing officer of The Odyssey, a social content platform, recently concluded a 20-year career at Goldman Sachs with both a highly sought-after partner title and the wisdom of experience regarding what women must do to thrive in a male environment. “Ambition,” says Shalett, “needs care and feeding, having the kind of informal relationships where you understand ‘How do I navigate this path, what do I need to know, how can I get there?’ Men tend to be ambitious for things, for positions, for titles, for results. Women tend to be ambitious to be recognized for performance, to be valued, to be included, and maybe expect that good things will come from that.”

“Barnard president Debora Spar believes entrepreneurial has replaced ambitious for a new generation. “I don’t think anyone has ever come in my office and said, ‘I’m ambitious.’ Everyone I know is ‘entrepreneurial.’” And now a number of ambitious women are simply channeling their dissatisfaction with traditional corporate life into fast-growing new businesses.”

The key to building and sustaining relationships in the workplace is networking. Our attempts to reach out may fail and it may be because we are a bit too focused on our side of the equation.

CEO and co-founder of Alumnify, AJ Agrawal shared his thoughts on ‘How to Develop a Networking Mindset’.

“Over and over again, we hear about the importance of having connections to get ahead in business and in life. “It’s not what you know, it’s who know” as the famous saying goes. While people repeat this all the time, it questions the meaning behind relationships. Do we make connections because we like the person’s work and ideals, or because we think they can help us?

To build a strong network, as (Sar) Haribhakti puts it, your mindset should be focused on initiating relationships with authenticity and generosity. People always tend to capitalize on what they think the other person might be offer them for achieving their personal goals, growing their businesses, or get an introduction to an influential person. He thinks what most people fail to realize is that every human has an innate desire of being appreciated and valued.”

One additional article of interest on the topic of professional development:

‘Teaching Tech Skills to Millions, And Fast’ – on-line degree provider,Udacity partnered with technology companies to create online courses geared toward teaching a set of discrete, highly prized technical skills — including mobile programming, data analysis and web development. Students who complete these courses are awarded the nanodegree, a credential that Udacity has worked with Google, AT&T and other companies to turn into a new form of workplace certification.”

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