By Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, co-author Work The Pond!
People don’t like networking at the best of times. Add doing a job search while networking and it’s enough to make you want to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed. You are thinking to yourself: Is talking to a bunch of strangers, with whom I have nothing in common, really going to help me in my job search? The answer is a resounding yes! There are undeniable—and I mean forceful, persuasive, compelling—reasons to get networking with strangers and it’s called The Strength of Weak Ties. Written over thirty years by Mark Granovetter, The Strength of Weak Ties has been described as one of the most influential sociological papers ever written.
In WORK THE POND! Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life (Prentice Hall) we describe it this way: “Mark Granovetter of Johns Hopkins University (now at Stanford) researched the “strength of weak ties” in social networks. He discovered that more than eighty percent of the time, people who find jobs through networking find them through weak connections—acquaintances rather than close friends.”
While it is not surprising that Granovetter found that fifty percent of the time people found a job through a personal contact, what was unforeseen was over eighty percent of the time those people found their jobs not through close contacts (mate, relative, best friend, close business contact) but through someone they vaguely knew.
Most networking gurus continue to tell us: Don’t focus on acquaintances or strangers; instead invest your time in a close circle of contacts. Wrong! The problem with this advice is that these folks know the same people you do. Instead, my co-authors and I advise you to also expand your network, find new opportunities and make those weak links. Don’t qualify your contacts.
The other interesting thing that Granovetter discovered was those people who found their job through a mere acquaintance–a weak link to a distance network–actually got better jobs because they were exposed to opportunities they would have never known about and to connections further a field.
So branch out, go to different kinds of networking events and talk to everyone. These weak links are often the most pivotal. You never know who might be in their network.
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