Networking: The Strength of Weak Ties

In a Harvard Business Review article, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz contends that research by an American sociologist and professor at Stanford University, Mark Granovetter, in the 1970s still has relevance in today’s job market.  Granovetter’s research focused on how professional, technical, and managerial job-seekers found most jobs, especially good ones. As is often the case, most applicants had the best luck by applying through personal contacts instead of other more formal means like direct applications.  People who managed to secure a job through a contact often greatly benefitted from higher pay and an overall greater satisfaction with the secured employment.

Granovetter coined the expression – “the strength of weak ties” – because he and many subsequent researchers have found that you are more likely to find jobs through personal contacts who are not too close to you, speak to you infrequently, and work in occupations different to your own. Having a wide array of diverse acquaintances can be especially helpful. These contacts might come from your community, college, hobby groups, etc.

Given these findings, Fernández-Aráoz  recommends creating a list of 100 (!) contacts. The number is meant to be large to encourage you to think of as many peripheral connections as you can. He encourages you to then rank and prioritize your list given the quality of your relationship with them and the possibility that they might be able to expose you to new opportunities.

Next, start reaching out to these connections….but start with number 10 or so. Anytime you engage in informational interviewing, you might feel a bit rusty. You might be anxious and your “Tell me about yourself” pitch might not yet be well honed. Work your way up to your #1 person after you feel a bit more comfortable. He suggests being upfront about why you are reaching out explaining  your reason for being in touch, what you are hoping to find, and a little bit about how you could add value.  You can read the full article here, but the key takeaway message is don’t discard casual connections as a potential resource for new opportunities.

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