Strength of ‘weak ties’: How casual contacts can boost your career

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lauren Hopkins knew who to thank when she spotted a student affairs gig at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

After all, her close friend was best friends with her hiring manager. It had to be him, right?

No. Her “mystery networking angel” turns out to be someone she had lunched with at a conference years ago.

“It surprised me because she owed me nothing,” said Hopkins, who became chief operating officer of Pittsburgh’s National Fraternity Society.

This is what researchers call the “weak link,” and it can be surprisingly important to your career path.

In fact, a recent study published in Science (deepening into LinkedIn data of 20 million people over a five-year period) reveals just how important weak ties are. In fact, when it comes to career mobility, it’s more important than strong ties.

“I was able to test the hypothesis that it wasn’t your best friend who helped you find a job, but a friend of a friend, someone’s cousin, or someone you met at a conference.” Co-author and assistant professor at Harvard Business School I have.

It seems counterintuitive that someone you barely know can have a huge impact on your career. So what do you get?

please think about it. Between you and your best friend, you probably belong to the same club, work in the same industry, or go to the same college.

But the weaker ties often move in different circles, operate in different companies or industries, and hear about different opportunities.

“The advantage of weak ties is that they span a much more diverse network and act as a bridge to different parts of that network,” says Karthik, an applied research scientist at LinkedIn and co-author of the study. Rajkumar says. “Weak ties give us access to more information.”

Among New Year’s resolutions, finding a better job or career ranks high on many lists. Here’s how job seekers can leverage their networks to improve their career prospects.

Be open to weaker relationships

When you build your social network on sites like LinkedIn, it’s natural to only want to connect with people you know very well. However, that limits the range of information you can get, so you should at least be open-minded about connecting with others you may not be familiar with. For example, people suggested by LinkedIn’s “People You May Know” algorithm. This is the basis of Science’s research. .

go off platform

While this research comes from online social networks, the same principles apply in the real world. Now that in-person meetings and other events are starting to make a comeback, let’s use the moment to nurture the weaker ties that may have faltered in the age of COVID-19.

Even better, Harvard’s Bojinov says, using online and offline connections to amplify each other. “Then when they post about a job opening, it’s information you didn’t have access to before.”

be strategic

Adding hundreds of weak ties to a network doesn’t do much if it doesn’t actually do anything, says Amanda Augustine, a career expert at the site TopResume.

Instead, think strategically about the actual “power connectors” in your network and figure out who has referred you to the most people. Please let us know about your goals. Then set up an informational interview with the resulting new weak link, and the job search is gas-cooked.

“Look for people who tend to run in many circles, as they are the ones who can introduce you to new weak ties,” Augustine said.

reach out

One of the barriers to using weak ties is that people tend to find them offensive. It can be awkward to ask for information or requests from people you don’t know very well.

Maybe so, but as the saying goes, the worst thing they can do is say no. And you may find that people are more willing to help than you thought.

Lauren Hopkins, who is currently looking for a new job in educational technology, said: “At the end of the day, if they’re on social networks, they’re there to build networks.”

Reported by Chris Taylor in New York Edited by Lauren Young and Matthew Lewis Follow @ReutersMoney

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect Reuters News’ commitment to integrity, independence and freedom from bias under its Trust Principles.

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