Networking and the strength of weak ties

By Charlie Wood

Not all relationships are created equally.

Being a recruitment consultancy it feels right that we look at challenging long-held assumptions regarding job hunting and give some advice on how to overcome it.

When you are looking for a job, who do you turn to? I threw this question to a few people I met last week and if you are like most people I spoke to, you turn to those closest to you. This of course makes sense, because they are the ones who know you the best and would do anything to help you succeed.

While these strong ties are important in many situations, when job hunting, this is often not where the real advantage comes.

A Stanford sociologist, Mark Granovetter, set out to test the assumption that we get the most help from our strong ties, surveying people in professional, technical and managerial professions who had recently changed jobs. Nearly 28% percent heard about the job not through their strong ties, but in fact through their weak ones, compared to 17% from strong ties.

It is often the people with whom we are least connected to that offer us the most interesting and diverse career opportunities.

Why is this?

The problem is that our strong ties are too close to us; they work in the same places, read the same things and socialise with the same people. Weak ties on the other hand are our acquaintances, the people we know casually and potentially haven’t seen for a few years for whatever reason. It is these weak ties that offer a connection to new networks, introducing new and interesting opportunities and job leads.

Often a short conversation with a relative stranger over coffee can spark a deep connection and open up a whole new world of opportunities that were previously not on your radar.

Now that you know this, what comes next?

Start building those weak ties now… before you need them. Engaging with lots of different people will increase the likelihood of these serendipitous encounters. Start thinking about how you can grow your network, be it through social media, hobbies, industry events, alumni groups or any other social groups and occasions.

Do you have any examples in your own career of a weak tie that’s had a big impact?

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