Imagine that you are searching for a new job, and you are leveraging LinkedIn as a resource in your search. You are trying to make the right connections to facilitate the process. What types of connections are most useful? First and foremost, you should be building that network LONG BEFORE you are actively in need of new employment. Don't wait. Second, you need to consider the types of connections that are most impactful. For a long time, scholars have argued that connecting with others with whom you have "weak ties" can be more useful than leveraging those with whom you have "strong" ties. Why? People with whom you have weak ties enable you to access opportunities, information, and resources that are not readily available to you already. They help you discover options not known to your close friends and immediate co-workers. Branching out can be powerful and effective.
Professors Iavor Bojinov, Erik Brynjolfsson, and Sinan Aral collaborated with two researchers at LinkedIn to test the theory of weak vs. strong ties. They examined two experiments conducted in 2015 and 2019 involving millions of LinkedIn members and the "People You May Know" algorithm on the social media site. They discovered that connections with "moderately weak ties" tended to be most effective in the job search process. These folks tend to be a bit more junior or senior than you, but not extremely distant in terms of stage of their careers.
Moderately weak ties tend to be most useful for those working in fast-moving industries, or fields such as research and development. Staying on top of new trends and discoveries outside your narrow domain turn out to be critical in those fields. Finally, people engaged in remote work tend to benefit a great deal from moderately weak ties, in part because they need those connections to discover novel information they might not otherwise uncover due to the sometimes socially isolating aspects of working from home. In sum, don't just focus on people you know well when building your network, but consider the diminishing returns of making connections with folks very distant from you. Finally, the researchers stress that hiring managers need to think about building moderately weak ties as well, because those connections can help them discover talented candidates outside of their smaller group of people with whom they have collaborated closely in the past.
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