Print this list of occupations or copy them onto a sheet of paper. Put a check mark next to each profession in which you know someone well enough to talk to, even if you are not close to him or her. Indicate whether that person is a relative (R), friend (F), or consequential stranger (CS). Then scroll down to see what it all means and how your answers compare to national samples.
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What It All Means
The above list was used in a survey of 3,000 employed or previously employed adults, aged 21 to 64, conducted by sociologist Nan Lin who devised the method (and graciously allowed it to be reprinted in the book). Theoretically, the more people you know up and down the occupational ladder, the greater your ability to access information and resources.
Best-known: Nurse–nearly 70% of the respondents knew at least one.
Somewhat well-known: 45% or more respondents listed a hairdresser, lawyer, police officer, computer programmer, or middle school teacher.
Not very well-known: Fewer than 20% knew a taxi driver, CEO, production manager, or a congressperson.
Least known: Hotel bell boy (2.7%)
How diverse is your social convoy?
On the low side (meaning you probably don’t have a very diverse social convoy): Knowing people in five or fewer occupations. Slightly more than 2% of those surveyed didn’t know people in any of the occupations.
Average: Knowing people in six or seven occupations.
Above average: Around a third knew people in eight or more occupations. No one knew people in all 22 jobs–19 was the upper limit.
What About Your Consequential Strangers?
Sorting your contacts into columns shows how you know those people. Adapting Lin’s method in this way, sociologist Bonnie Erickson found that weaker ties–consequential strangers–”give substantially greater access” to a variety of occupations and therefore to people in different economic classes. In a study of the security industry (using a different and slightly short list), people had relatives in “only about two” occupations, friends in twice to three times as many job categories as relatives, and weak ties in twice as many classes as friends. You’ll probably find that your list is heavy on consequential strangers, too.