Home > Advice, college, Gen-Y > I Am Not A Lemon – Part Three: Why college is less about books and more about learning how to build Social Capital

I Am Not A Lemon – Part Three: Why college is less about books and more about learning how to build Social Capital

Editors Note: The following is the third part in a five part series about what to do, what not to do, and how to make the most of your college experience. There are a lot of lists out there telling students how to succeed, but not too many of these lists have been written by recent graduates still living in the college mindset. Please read this series not as a “do as I say bible”, but rather one humble ex students suggestions.

Social Capital or Plato? Both can be a benefit of college, yet only one can make you a CEO, award-winning musician, or Dane Cook for that matter. And believe me, it’s not Plato.

From day one college is, and should, be about building relationships. Social Capital, one of the largest differentiators between the lower middle class and upper echelon of the American workforce, is not something that can be taught by a book. But in college, those precious four years spent chasing tail, discovering drinking games and memorizing Plato, building social capital is easy and obtainable. The sad thing is most students do not capitalize on the opportunity.

There has been a rash of posts over the last few months about ways technology is breaking apart face-to-face interaction, and causing some super-connected Gen-Yers to become lonely. It’s a sad reality of always being in control of your relationship with someone. You decide if you want to view their pictures, read their blogs and respond to their texts. As great as this may sound, it’s not going to help build your social capital.

Think I’m crazy? Think again. Take for instance the overly used game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Everyone somewhere has a connection. Sometimes they brag about their connections, while other times they are quiet and shy about the fact that their best friend is a big time movie star. I’ve even gotten to know someone for years before they told me they were roommates with Dick Cheney. Holy cow! Two degrees and I’m at any top tier leader in the world. Very cool.

Some basic ways to build social capital:

Be nice to EVERYONE even if they aren’t that nice to you. It’s a small, small world, and if they’re in your major, it’s even smaller. You never know when they are going to pop up again.
Keep an address book. This does not mean a MySpace page, or Facebook account. Rather, get the details about your friends and start to build a rolodex. Take the time to make some notes about them and why they are important to you. In ten years when you need to refinance your house, there is a good chance you were friends with a broker in college.
Put yourself out there even if you’re scared to death. College kids tend to run in packs. I remember the first time I was left alone at a party and didn’t know anyone. My first reaction was to get wasted, but then I decided that probably wasn’t the best idea since I didn’t know where I was. By the end of the night, I’d made several new friends, one of them who now even works for NBC. Would I have met them otherwise? There is a possibility, but I can’t be sure. As the Budweiser commercial so eloquently says, “Don’t hold back.”
Take the time to get to know someone. Relationships today have been reduced to 160 characters or less. We are forced to communicate through short hand and broken English. It’s OK when you know the person, but not OK when you don’t. When you meet someone new, make sure to listen. They have a story to tell too, and it might just be better than your own. So don’t just rush into what you want to do. You might miss something really important.

These are just a few of my suggestions on how to build social capital and relationships during your college years, but of course they are not all appropriate for every individual person. Take the time to find out what works for you, and when you do, write it down. If you learn how to build relationships early on I guarentee you will find yourself in situations not once thought possible.

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Categories: Advice, college, Gen-Y
  1. August 17, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Can it be – another WordPress user interested in Social Capital? Nice to meet you, and thanks for the link! This looks like an interesting series. Keep up the good blogging!

  2. Dan
    August 19, 2007 at 11:15 am

    I must admit that social networking has always been a bit of a chore for me – seeing people as a means and not an end… if you know what I mean? Still I wouldn’t mind someday being less than 6 away from Kevin… maybe then I can show up on this site:

    http://www.kevinbacongame.com/

  3. Dewey Bushaw
    August 20, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    One thing I have trouble with is remembering people’s names. I can’t tell you how many times I have run into people years down the road only to be embarrassed that I do not know their name.

    My Tip: When you first meet a person, try using their name a few times over the course of your conversation. Also try linking their name with something interesting about themselves.

  1. December 12, 2007 at 4:53 am

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