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Your Take: Hard Work or Connections?

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The WSJ Wealth Report blog talked about a Pew Research Center study that attempted to find the origins of the conflict between rich and poor, which has been playing out in the headlines lately. While the main story talked about the impression of significant conflict between the rich and poor, the part that interested me was the same one that caught Robert Frank’s eye – did the rich get rich from hard work or their social network? That poll showed that 46% of respondents thought they were born with money or knew the right people, while 43% thought hard work, ambition or education was the root reason.

There obviously isn’t a definite answer, there will probably never be, but the question is an intriguing one. My belief is that both are necessary and the more you have of either, the higher your probability for finding success. Whether that success comes in the form of money or in the form of achievements, it’s hard to argue that you can be successful without hard work, ambition, education, or knowing the right people. Whether you’re rich depends on where you point yourself. You can be a successful philanthropist and not have a high net worth, you’d still be seen as very successful, you just chose a different path.

What do you think?

{ 21 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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21 Responses to “Your Take: Hard Work or Connections?”

  1. Brendan says:

    I’ve always thought that establishing goals, working hard, a positive attitude, and treating people right is what gets you far in life. For some people, “far” means wealth, for others it means lots of friends, and others it could be personal satisfaction.

    Studies have shown that a happy disposition is clearly linked with success. More recently, there are studies that show happiness is not only linked to success, but actually precedes success in many cases. People want to be around and work with happy and friendly individuals.

  2. I think hard work plays a large part in this. You can be born wealthy, and squander the money away or be dumb and lose it all. Hard work and intelligence go much father in my opinion. Knowing the right people though, does play a huge role in this regardless of which option you subscribe to. I think t should be a category in and of itself.

  3. It all comes down to connections, to who you know. You still need to put in the hard work because once you make that connection, you need to show you can handle/make it. I feel that much of my success is due in part to who I know. I’ve always worked hard at everything I have done, but knowing the right people along the way definitely contributed to my success in a big way.

  4. cubiclegeoff says:

    I think success and wealth (or however you want to think of it) Is more often than not due to connections. This may be just knowing the right people like having your dad knowing a banker and getting a job that way whether you have the intelligence for it or not, or having the right connections and social environment as you grow up, like living in an area with great schools and great opportunity, versus living in an area with junk schools and less opportunity. People can do well or poorly either way, but I think overall if you have those connections you’re better off.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      A lot of people are commenting that once you get into a company you need to work hard to stay. From my experience, more often than not how well you’re liked is more important than how hard you work. Some people work hard but if they aren’t liked they won’t move up. Those that are liked move up a lot easier with a lot less effort.

  5. tom says:

    Hard work plus connections.

    If you start off with connections, hard work is critical to maintain those.

    If you start off without connections, hard work creates them.

    That said, hard work will not automatically create connections. You must be your own ad and salesman.

    • Jessica says:

      I agree. I started my career not knowing anyone I worked with. Work hard and people will notice and want to help you out. I know plenty of people that worked in the same company working on the same projects and went to the same happy hours as I did. The people who you’d want to know knew all of us. Many of them helped me out and recommended the new company hire me when it opened up (where they had immediately gone to work from knowing the guy who opened it but I did not). I got raise double what I was making at my old company.

      It’s all about how well people know how hard you work.

  6. freeby50 says:

    Something like 10-20% of the wealthy simply inherited their money.

    The other 90-80% are basically self made in some fashion. Some of them started off with nothing in life and others had some connections but I think they all worked hard. I have no idea how you can say how much people work hard versus utilize connections.

  7. yourPFpro says:

    As recently as 2.5 years ago, I was fresh out of college, frantically searching for a job with my engineering degree. I had an above average GPA from an above average university yet I was still finding it hard to get the job I wanted. Many of my friends were getting hired through family friends, connections, etc.

    I think the best way to get your foot in the door is through a connection, once you’re at the company your work ethic and skill will be revealed. I ended up getting a job I wanted through a connection I made in college :) Not saying it’s impossible to get good jobs on your own, but it sure is difficult!

  8. Mike says:

    I think good connections and choosing a career with high demand is more important. I know someone who graduated with great grades in MIT but still can’t find a job because he took Architecture and no one is hiring.

  9. I’m going with networks. I know people who work really hard and although they do well they don’t do that well.

  10. Long says:

    I definitely believe that hard work plays a huge role. I think that if you’re born into a family that has good connections and are not poor to begin with, you have a leg up on the competition.

    On the other hand, if you make due with what you have and live life with a great attitude, working hard will get noticed. It will pay off in the end.

  11. govenar says:

    For a theory on the conflict between rich and poor, listen to Adam Carolla’s rant about OWS.

  12. I actually think it’s a bit of a riddle. Connections will get in the door, but its up to you to thrive with hard work past that point. However, I also believe that the wealthy just naturally know more powerful people, so have a leg up in the connections department to even get started. In other words “the rest of us” have to work to even build the connection–then work for income. The wealthy sort of skip a step and get right to the big cheese…

  13. It’s so easy to see those with connections make it big and resent them. With good reason, of course. But not everyone who makes it big starts with a big cushion, and those are the ones I really admire.

  14. Shirley says:

    Connections may make it easier to get into a job, but hard work and attitude are what will determine whether or not you are successful in it.

  15. Summer says:

    The difference between rich and poor is one man spends his whole life digging in the desert for water and the other spends it sailing on an ocean of plenty.

    Both ‘work hard’, but only one is ever going to get wet.

    • govenar says:

      But which is which? Or they could be the same.
      If a poor man digs in the desert, finds a lot of water and sells it, he’ll become a rich man.

  16. rlaw100 says:

    Having friends in high places, can definitely help you move up, however knowing that you reach the top on your own through your own hard work and dedication, well that’s probably worth more to me.

  17. maclane says:

    Hard work without good connections can become counter productive, having the right connections in the right places, makes things easier.

  18. I think connections can help you get in the door, but hard and good work can help you stay once you’re in the door.


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