Weak ties – are they enough for job search?
I encourage clients to find out about jobs via people they know. Like many career professionals I encourage people to focus on weak ties, to get them to look to their wider connections – friends of friends. The problem with our close friends is that they are like us, they know the same people are don’t expand the reach of connections.
This is based on the work of Mark Granovetter, a sociologist. Back in the 1970s he interviewed 100 white-collar workers who had switched jobs in the previous five years and discovered that weak ties helped many of them find out about their next job. Back in the time of his study, 83.4% said they found out through weak ties.
A recent article “A Friend of a Friend” Is No Longer the Best Way to Find a Job, set out to check if this focus on weak ties was still relevant. What the author, Ilana Gershon found was that through the 141 people she spoke with, only 17% found a job through weak ties. What was now helping was workplace connections with 60% saying that a co-worker, former boss or former client helped them to find their next job. These were people who knew them and could vouch for them, providing useful evidence on what the person was like in the workplace. So weake ties is of lesser relevance.
This demonstrates the importance of staying in touch with ex colleagues, and perhaps to get back in touch with them. LinkedIn can be a good approach, so too can be meeting for lunch occasionally.
One of the changes between then and now is that back in the 1970s people found jobs via newspaper ads or word or mouth, so it was great to be told about the opening, and weak ties was helpful. Now it’s much easier to find the jobs to apply for.
The challenge is to stand out from all the others who are applying.
How to get shortlisted, especially when so much of this is done by technology. So, having someone who knows you, can vouch for you, and can physically hand over your CV will be helpful, and more so than a focus on weak ties.
Ok, so you want to work for the XYZ company, but you don’t have anyone to vouch for you, so how can you increase your chance of getting shortlisted?
This is when it’s important to grow your network and to help them to get to know you better. LinkedIn can be useful if you take a medium- term approach. As you connect with people start to share useful articles/ comment on their posts/ look for ways that you can be of help. Only then can you start to ask for some help.
Don’t forget, not everything has to be done online. You can arrange to meet for coffee or if you live too far away have virtual coffee via Skype.
If you are looking for a job right now, it can be hard to face track building connections. Ideally this will be something you have focused on over the years. But it is possible. For now make a list of everyone you know and take action each day to connect with the people you know.