First Person: Does Popularity Really Lead to Better Earning Power?

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Apparently, the popular kids will eventually make more money over the course of their life. Of course, there is also another study that suggests outgoing people die sooner. So, take your pick. As a professional and a parent, what am I supposed to do with this type of information? Should I strive to be the life of the party so that I can eventually make more money? Or is it too late for that sort of interpersonal adjustment? In addition, should I encourage my children to make more friends so that their earning power goes up in adulthood?

The pros and cons of your personality

One challenge with this type of research is that personality is, well, kind of personal. In other words, you are largely who you are. As humans we can identity certain personality traits and attempt to change them over time, but overall we tend to gravitate towards certain behaviors and particular types of people. According to the study, "There is a lot of evidence documenting a tendency for various types of individuals to associate with others who are similar to themselves." You think? Welcome to the human experience. We gravitate towards people that are like us, whether they are popular or not.

Networking

Granted, some of this has to do with networking. If you are popular, you tend to be comfortable building relationships, which I suppose could mean that you will go after more lucrative jobs. This is a basic principle of professional life. Of course, my experience in high school was that some of the "popular" kids were also the people that tended to get into trouble. I was mostly in the non-descript group of general students that did not stand out in any particular social category. Looking back, I am happy with how life turned out. I made good friends, and at this point I don't care whether more popularity may have led to a "better" career. What about professional satisfaction?

Legislating popularity

The challenge with this kind of data is that popularity cannot necessarily be created. If you try too hard to be popular, it is going to come off as forced and people aren't going to buy it. I can't say to my children, "Hey kids, go be popular at school." They are either popular, or they aren't. In addition, this notion of earning power does get a little tiring after awhile. Obviously we all have to pay the bills. However, does everything have to be about making the highest salary? You cannot buy genuine friendship, job satisfaction or a sense of meaning in life.

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