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Every connection you make has the potential to make a positive impact on your career. Maximizing your weak ties is one way you can exploit this potential. Here’s how to uncover the strength of weak ties to further your career!
Preparing for an upcoming job search feels revitalizing, exciting, and is an opportunity to turn a whole new page in your career journey. Polishing your resume, updating your LinkedIn profile, and having a spring clean of your connections will have you ready to hit the job market.
But before you disconnect with Jack from your tech course who you haven’t been in touch with for years, remove colleagues from your old career path, or delete your old boss Anna (who moved across the country last year), hit the pause button. According to studies on social network theory, weaker ties have been found to be more beneficial to finding employment.
In this article we explore the strengths of weak ties and how you can use them to your best advantage for your job search, including:
What are weak ties?
Why are weak ties important?
How to maximize weak ties for your job search
Research by the Harvard Business Review (involving 20 million people) found that your strongest ties (coworkers, close friends, and family) are the least helpful for finding new opportunities and securing a job.
The concept of weak ties is not a particularly new one, but it remains an extremely relevant theory in terms of how we network in today’s digital age. In 1973, Stanford sociology professor Mark Granovetter published a paper (The Strength of Weak Ties) where he explored whether the strength of a tie (or connection) impacted an individual finding a job.
Granovetter’s research (backed up by the recent HBR study) found that weak ties (acquaintances or arms-length relationships) were more beneficial to finding employment, securing promotions, and attracting higher wages than strong ties. This is due to the fact that weak ties bridge gaps between networks, offering the chance to hear about new opportunities and enabling access to well-paid jobs that a smaller, close-knit network typically miss.
That’s not to say that strong ties aren’t important too, they just serve a different purpose. Strong ties are vital to your health and wellbeing, can serve as a sounding board if you have a problem, and will be with you through thick and thin. The goal here is to have a mix of strong and weak ties who all support you (and vice versa) in different ways.
Weak ties are important, whether you’re connecting via LinkedIn, catching up on a WhatsApp group chat, or looking to maximize your company’s internal network. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t dismiss or delete weak ties:
LinkedIn is pretty much like a spider's web, so building your connections purely around strong ties could be limiting your job search. You never know when a weak tie might connect you to someone with an exciting job opening or where a simple referral could get you a foot in the door.
Strong connections tend to be much closer and these friendships are usually developed among like-minded people in similar industries. Weaker ties are more left-field, providing you with different perspectives and access to job networks you may not have previously explored.
Research has shown that weak ties work extremely well in fast-moving industries, such as technology and artificial intelligence (AI). Developments in these sectors move at lightning pace and keeping up is critical to moving forward in your career. If you work in the technology sphere, weak ties will increase your exposure to new communities and emerging developments.
If you’re working remotely, then it can be easy to lose and hard to gain weak ties. miss out on casual interactions when you’re not in an office. Schedule regular virtual meetings and coffee mornings, chat on Slack channels with your peers, and/or take a class to get you out of the virtual office and meet new people.
Looking to maximize weak ties in your next job search? Here are some strategies to make the most out of those weaker connections:
Be proactive on LinkedIn by connecting with people you don’t know very well. This could include professionals who work in similar roles or industries, those who can deliver insight relating to your career or business, and individuals you can see yourself working with in the future. A great starting point is to check out the ‘People You May Know’ feature on LinkedIn.
Networking offers the opportunity to meet new people, make connections, and open doors to professional development and career growth. Along with your standard industry events, try to attend events that fall on the periphery of your specific expertise. While this may feel a bit out of your comfort zone, it will be worth it to gain new perspectives and expand your network.
You can also develop your relationships with weak ties in-person and via social interactions. Rather than just saying “Morning” to a colleague in the office that you don’t know very well, take time to make some conversation. Suggest a social outing with the wider team so you can mix with colleagues who you have strong and weak connections with.
If you’re looking to secure a new job, then having a clear roadmap, coaching, and guidance will help you achieve this target. Check out Career.io’s job search strategy to get started.
Strong and weak ties are equally important in your life for different reasons. Building a broad set of connections is the best option for personal and professional success.
Weak ties extend your social network, open your eyes to new ideas and perspectives, and will help you excel if you work in fast-paced industries. These weak ties are often more important for your career.
Be proactive in maximizing your network. Connect with new professionals, attend networking events, and participate in social activities to expose yourself to new people.
Helen is an experienced content writer, with expertise in corporate law, business, sales, marketing and education. Prior to this, she worked in recruitment and human resources, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in terms of a potential employee. Helen loves exploring new places, writing blogs of her travel across Europe and enjoying trips to the US, Thailand and the Middle East. She is an avid reader of fiction, poetry, self-help books and factual content and also enjoys creative writing in her spare time, including poetry and children’s fiction.