Research shows hanging out with sociable kids while studying is better for one’s career

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New Delhi | Published: December 15, 2018 2:53:28 AM

A researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that sociable peers during your college years better your chances in the job market than high achieving ones.

labour market, educationProximity to high-achieving students has a retarding effect on the low-achieving students’ academic achievement. (Representative image: Reuters)

A researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that sociable peers during your college years better your chances in the job market than high achieving ones. Sociable peers, write Román Andrés Zárate in a blog for the World Bank, improve your social skills significantly. With growing adoption of automation, social skills will become a key determinant of a person’s chances of labour market success—between 1980 and 2012, previous research shows, the share of jobs demanding high levels of social interaction in the job market rose nearly 12 percentage points. Even Google’s Project Aristotle reveals that best teams at the company are those that have high levels of soft skills, particularly social skills such as emotional security, empathy, curiosity and emotional intelligence.

Using data from board schools in Peru, Zarate shows that sociable peers have a positive effect on a student’s social skills while high-achieving peers have no impact on a student’s social or cognitive skills. Worse, proximity to high-achieving students has a retarding effect on the low-achieving students’ academic achievement. However, less sociable students who were assigned beds near more sociable peers in a dormitory showed improvement in their social skills, and were more likely to see themselves as friendly than shy. The findings give a new twist to the old precept “Choose your friends wisely”. If Zarate’s findings are to be the lodestar for “the company you keep”, better hang out with the popular kids than the straight As. It may be hard to see the party-hoppers trumping the nerds for that coveted job, but if there is anything that we have learnt from high-school/college movies, the cool kids go places. And here is serious research bearing that out!

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