In 1973, Mark Granovetter, a sociological researcher made a simple claim, that “….when it comes to finding out about new jobs – or, for that matter, new information, or new ideas – “weak ties” are always more important than strong ties.” When using the phrase “social network” now, we tend to think about the folks we are connected to online. But even in 1973, Mark Granovetter was examining in-person social networks and the roles they play in our lives.
His main point is that when it comes to finding a job, someone you don’t know could be more influential than a friend. Check out Sabina’s story and how she reached out to Tom, who she had only seen present at her school once, to see if he was hiring:
“As I wrapped up my senior year of college, I knew I needed to figure out my next step in life. I spent some time thinking about what activities made me feel like my “best self.” I realized I loved my time on the board of a cultural club, as well as being an orientation leader. Tom had done one of our trainings when I was an orientation leader my junior year. I remembered the name of his company. On a whim, I sent him an email explaining that I would be a great fit for Swift Kick. I attached my resume. Turns out, he was hiring, and I started working in July of 2013. The rest is history.”-Sabina
In fact, just about everyone at Swift Kick got the job based on someone just outside their network. Take my story, for example:
“In 2015, a friend invited me out to dinner with a group of speakers, poets and performers on the college market. There, I met Tom (CEO of Swift Kick) and chatted briefly. At the time, I was still working in higher education and saw this as an opportunity to hang with an old friend and make some new ones. Weeks later, my friend reached back out and told me to look at Tom’s Facebook page. He was hiring a second speaker. Ta -da!”-Melissa
Strong Ties vs. Weak Ties
Sabina and I were able to obtain our jobs one level outside of our normal circles. Our normal circles are known as our strong ties – the people we talk to frequently and know pretty well. One level away from that becomes our weak ties – people we don’t know that well but maybe with whom we share something in common. For example, the person you met that one night two years ago, and became Facebook friends with because they work in the same field. That person is now a connection for a potential job, conference ticket or speaking opportunity.
Your relationship with your weak ties should be maintained and cultivated, knitting your networks together to encourage information free flow between the different parts of your networks.Eileen Brown, socialmediatoday.com
Your Network = Your Networth
Think about all the people you know, and then all they people they know and so on. There are limitless opportunities for success when you get to know who is in your network and who you have access to as a result of your strong ties in your network.
Mark Granovetter surveyed people in professional, technical and managerial professions who recently changed jobs. Nearly 17% heard about the job from a strong tie…. But surprisingly, people were significantly more likely to benefit from weak ties. Almost 28% heard about the job from a weak tie. Strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties served as bridges: they provide more efficient access to new information.Marc Miller
Your strong ties – your good friends – might not be first in line to recommend you to their boss. And with good reason: if things don’t work out, they still have a boss and a friend that like them! Reaching out to your weak ties could open doors you didn’t know were available before.
Think about it like stepping out of your comfort zone. Your next opportunity could lie just outside your normal network.