The Strength Of Weak Ties

A (Networking)In addition to the types of people with whom you network, to benefit your network you also need to consider the extent with which you know people
in your network. This is known as “The Strength of Weak Ties.”

In his 1974 book Getting A Job, author and sociologist Mark Granovetter found that 56% of people found jobs through personal contacts. This is
not surprising. After all, it is “not what you know, but who you know.”

The surprise in his research, however, was that the personal contacts used to obtain these jobs were not from family or close friends. Rather a significant majority of people who found jobs via personal contacts did so via their “weak ties”. In fact, 55.6% of individuals reported that they saw their “job-producing” contact only occasionally and 27.8% saw their contact only rarely.

Therefore, when it comes to finding out about new jobs – or, for that matter, gaining new information or looking for new ideas or finding clients – weak ties tend to be more important than strong ties.

Why? Because your close ties tend to occupy the same world as you do. For example, a spouse or close friend might substantially share the same network as you. Thus, they could only refer or connect you to people you already know.

Mere acquaintances, on the other hand, are much more likely to know something or someone that you do not. While you might share a small overlap in networks, most of the people they know are completely unexplored territory for you.

Bringing the concept of “The Strength of Weak Ties” into your business, profession or career means this: Do NOT rely on those that you know real well to build your clientele.

Rather, a better means for fortifying your network is to make a point of occasionally associating with people you know, but not that well. The person from work that you sort of knew from occasional meetings or trips up on the elevator. The person at church that you see every week and can address by name, but you know little else about them.

Thus, from a networking perspective, the most important people in your life are the people who aren’t closest to you. In fact, the more people you know who aren’t close to you the stronger your position becomes.

In summary, what matters in getting ahead is the quality of your relationship, but one measure of quality is to what extent someone is not particularly close to you. Having lunch with your long-time best buddy can be fun. It, however, does little to build your network. If you want to build your network, have lunch with someone you know, but not that well (e.g., the friendly stranger).

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