A sociologist named Mark Granovetter authored the concept of “The Strength of Weak Ties” back in 1973. He did a study on people who found jobs through networking. The study revealed that only 16% of the people who found a job heard about it from someone they spoke to regularly, someone in their tight network. The other 84% found jobs through people they spoke to infrequently or from a friend of a friend.
My notion is that this statistic holds true today and is perhaps even more weighted towards weak connections as a result of the hyper-connected world we live in.
How Your Network Can Limit Your Career Prospects
If you have a really tight-knit network limited to select people, you’ll have much less likelihood of finding out about new opportunities. As Granovetter indicated in his research, in a tight network, most participants in that network all hear about the same news and information. And if all of those people are in the same industry or same types of companies, the spectrum of opportunities will be limited even further.
Whereas if you have a broad network with lots of weak connections, your network will likely span many industries, many companies, and many different types of opportunities. You’ll inevitably hear about news and information your tighter network wouldn’t hear about. And you’ll have more avenues to find your next job.
Implications for You to Consider
When I’m referring to your network, I’m not referring to how many connections you have on LinkedIn. What I’m referring to who is how many acquaintances you have who know you by name and can recall you in their mind at any time. LinkedIn is a vehicle to help track of and keep in touch with those acquaintances, but email, phone, video-chat and in-person is a better way to deepen those relationships and stay more top of mind. The most valuable weak connections are those who think of you when they have an inbound request. How you get thought of by more people is by doing things that keep you top of mind such as being savvy with how you stay in touch with people via email and phone/video, and also by sharing helpful/relevant articles directly with people via email or LinkedIn.
While building really strong and deep relationships is also valuable, extending your network as broadly as possible in a genuine way can offer long-term career benefits.
So how broad is your network? And are you doing things to cultivate those connections? Is your network limiting your career or will it be primed and ready to help you advance it when you need it the most?
Please drop me a comment over on LinkedIn to share how you’ve cultivated your weak connections over time.