03/22/2023 Getwork

A huge study revealed who will help you find a job

Weak ties are more likely to help you land your next job

50 years ago, a highly influential paper by Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter proposed that weak ties were incredibly useful for social mobility. Cut forward to the present day, and this theory has been tested on 20 million people. 

A weak tie is someone in your extended circle, a friend of a friend, or a brief acquaintance. 

LinkedIn and MIT have proven that it is often our more casual acquaintances, rather than close friends and family, who turn out to be our most useful connections in job hunts. Granovetter’s 50-year-old theory holds true. 

The recent study used the “People You May Know” algorithm on LinkedIn. For five years, from 2015 to 2019, the algorithm was adjusted to show some users a higher concentration of weak ties, and others a higher concentration of strong ties. 

The 20 million people created two billion new connections, made 70 million job applications, and accepted 600,000 new jobs during five years. 

It is by far the largest study into weak ties that has ever been conducted. 

The conclusion, the stronger the newly added tie, the less likely that the connection would lead to a job. 

The result is not linear, we do not get the best results from the weakest ties, they come from moderately weak ties instead. Around two to 10 mutual connections are the ties that will prove most valuable. 

So what gives acquaintances the edge over your inner circle? Close connections might have attended the same school, followed the same career path, have a similar socioeconomic background, and be within a similar age group, therefore, their circle mimics your own. They have fewer professional options for you. These connections do not dramatically increase the reach of your network. 

Weak ties diversify the possibilities. When you tap into people who attended different schools, are older or younger than you, and don’t have a career journey that mirrors your own, you will find that their network has far less of a crossover. You will still have some commonality, but these areas of non-overlap are valuable. 

The effects do vary by industry. Weak ties are particularly beneficial in digital and fast-paced industries, which tend to involve machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotization, software use, and remote and hybrid work, compared with less digitized industries that require in-person presence.

It’s worth remembering that a weak tie should not be a stranger, a little familiarity is essential. This isn’t endorsing the practice of adding random people to your LinkedIn network. Look for people you have a small link with. 

To make the most of weak ties, don’t ignore the “People You May Know” recommendations on LinkedIn, especially when you have mutual connections. If you can’t initially see the value of this connection, remember this could be exactly who you need to secure your next job. Suggest a connection with a short note, or better still, ask for an introduction from a mutual connection. 

With the following tool enabled on numerous creator profiles, you could initially explore following valuable profiles, before making that vital connection. 

After events or networking opportunities, add other participants to build your network and seek out connections in new places. If you’re part of a group related to a hobby or interest or conduct volunteer work in your community, add these new acquaintances into your professional network also. 

Generating valuable weak ties is about creating warm connections. Light touch approaches work best, rather than solely transactional ones. You should not expect a weak tie to lead to an immediate job opportunity, it’s about nurturing and growing your pool of contacts. 

This is, of course, not to say that you should neglect strong ties. Your strong ties demonstrate your interpersonal skills, and for many groups such as immigrant groups accessing weak tie opportunities is harder. 

Remember, that by building more weak ties, we do not just support our career development, but we also expose ourselves to new ideas and perspectives we may not have encountered otherwise. Greater network diversity even has a positive impact on our mental and physical health.