Yes, rich kids already won the career game. Here’s why.

americans like to believe that the modern workplace, like school, is a meritocracy. sure, some people have a lot of money and don’t have to work, but americans prefer to believe that, among those who do work, side-by-side in the same environment, it’s a fair competition. to their chagrin, they observe that their co-workers from wealthy backgrounds advance three times as fast, and wonder what the hell is going on. why does one person, no more skilled than any of his co-workers, advance so effortlessly because of who his daddy is?i don’t intend to insinuate that companies or managers are knowingly being elitist. no company or manager would intentionally give favor to one who has already enjoyed so many external advantages, especially if that person’s level of talent did not merit it. people in offices are out for themselves, not trying to preserve (or to combat) the social status quo. rather, this is a subconscious and irresistible force, and it comes from one root cause: rich kids don’t fear the boss. that’s extremely important.consider two analysts at a prestigious financial firm, both 24 years old and of equal drive, intelligence, and talent. one is from a double-income family in suburban connecticut earning $125,000 per year– a decent sum by average standards, but less than the analysts hope to be making by 26. the other’s father is a hedge fund manager earning $10 million per year. let’s also assume, for now, that none of their co-workers or managers know either analyst’s family background, except through their behavior. the middle-class kid spends the bulk of his time trying not to offend, not to behave in a way that might jeopardize the job he worked so hard to get and could not easily replace if he lost it. he doesn’t invite himself to meetings, avoids contact with high-ranking executives, and doesn’t offer suggestions when in meetings. thanks to the fear he experiences on a daily basis, he’s seen as “socially awkward” and “mousy” by higher-ups. nothing recommends him, and he will not advance.middle-class kids generally fuck up their first few years of the career game in one of two ways. either they fear authority tremendously, which is crippling from a career perspective and renders them devoid of creative energy, or they show an open distaste for managerial authority, described by the wealthy as having a proletarian “chip” on one’s shoulder, and fail to advance on account of the dislike they thus inspire. even when they are cognitively aware of how to manage authority, the stakes of the career game for a middle-class striver, who will fall into humiliation and possibly poverty if he fails it, are so severe that only the well-trained and steel-nerved few can prevent these calamitously high risks from, at least to some degree, disrupting their game.


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