Who You Know Vs What You Know

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Type: Vocabulary
Originally published on October 8, 2020 and last updated on July 17, 2023

Exploring the topic of “Who You Know vs. What You Know” is valuable for English learners as it aids in enhancing their language skills while offering insights into professional dynamics. By delving into this topic, learners can expand their vocabulary related to networking, connections and qualifications.

Understanding the importance of both aspects equips learners with the skills necessary to navigate the job market effectively and cultivate meaningful professional connections. Ultimately, studying this topic helps English learners develop a holistic approach to career development and personal growth.

Go through the vocabulary below with your students and ask them to try and use this vocabaulry where possible when discussing the different conversation questions.

Who You Know Vs What You Know Review

The age-old debate of “who you know” versus “what you know” centres around the influence of social connections and acquired knowledge on success. While possessing knowledge and expertise is undoubtedly essential, the significance of networking and relationships should not be underestimated. Connections can provide valuable opportunities, access to resources and insider information.

However, true success often lies in striking a balance between competence and a strong network. This topic prompts us to explore the interplay between qualifications and connections, encouraging us to consider how both factors contribute to professional and personal achievements.

Useful Vocabulary

Try and use the following vocabulary when answering the question. Click to look up the definition in the dictionary

  • knowledge (noun)
  • aspect (noun)
  • especially (adverb)
  • bring into (phrasal verb)
  • take away (phrasal verb)
  • well known (adjective)

Conversation Questions

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  • Do you believe that personal connections are more important than knowledge and skills when it comes to career success?
  • Can you think of any examples where someone's connections helped them achieve professional success?
  • How do you balance the importance of qualifications and networking in your own career aspirations?
  • Are there any industries or professions where "who you know" is particularly influential? Why do you think that is?
  • How can networking and building relationships contribute to personal growth and professional development?
  • Is it fair that personal connections often play a significant role in career advancement?
  • Should universities and educational institutions place more emphasis on teaching networking and relationship-building skills alongside academic knowledge?
  • Should employers prioritise hiring candidates based on their qualifications and expertise rather than their personal connections?
  • Is it possible to achieve long-term success solely through personal connections, without acquiring substantial knowledge and skills?
  • If you had to choose between having extensive knowledge in your field or having a strong network of influential contacts, which would you prioritize for career advancement?
This conversation topic was prepared by Gregory

Gregory is a qualified TEFL teacher who has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (ESL) for over a decade. He has taught in-person classes in Spain and to English learners around the world online.