The Strength of Weak Ties

June 20, 2012


That’s the finding reported last week by Kenneth Arrow and Ron Borzckowski in Limited Network Connections and the Distribution of Wages. Their study concludes that 50% or more of all jobs are landed as the result of informal networks—connections to friends, families and colleagues. What seems to matter most to prospective employers appears to be recommendations and personal assessments.

According to Stanford University sociologist Mark Grannovetter, the most valuable recommendations come from “the strength of weak ties.” Acquaintances (weak ties) possess networks that extend beyond a job seeker’s immediate circle (strong ties). Yet, the acquaintance knows the applicant sufficiently well to be able to attest for his/her character and his/her ability to perform work. That’s something no social networking site is yet able to do.

I heard about this research late last week while listening to a Bloomberg News radio interview. The featured reporter shared one additional interesting fact: When asked about their levels of satisfaction with the application process, only 4% of social networking site users said they were pleased. That’s depressingly low, especially when compared to new hires who got their foot in the door as the result of a personal connection. Among this latter group, 33% expressed satisfaction with the application process.

Bottom line: When you’re starting work, focus on connecting with friends and family members. The words they utter to a prospective employer can really pay off.



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