The strength of weak ties for your career network

Focused on job opportunities, a recent LinkedIn study confirmed that weaker contacts resulted in more job opportunities than closer/stronger contacts.

A September 25th NY Times headline, “LinkedIn Ran Social Experiments on 20 million Users over 5 years”, likely caught the attention of everyone concerned about data privacy & ethics… probably for all the wrong reasons.

In this study, LinkedIn empirically confirmed one of the most critical ‘social network’ concepts first hypothesized by Mark Granovetter in 1973. (Full disclosure, I was a I/O graduate student fascinated by and totally engrossed with this kind of research from its inception.) In his study, Granovetter theorized that as an individual’s network expands from a small group to multiple networked groups beyond their primary (1st order) relationships, their ability to influence (or be influenced by others) would shift to weaker ties. His seminal article, the ‘Strength of Weak Ties‘ was arguably one of the two or three major theories underlying what is now social media.

An interesting impact on talent acquisition

Rather than focus on some nefarious research agenda, it’s worth reading the article and study results to consider the impact on talent acquisition. Focused on job opportunities, the LinkedIn study confirmed that weaker contacts resulted in more job opportunities than closer/stronger contacts. Lead author on the study, Sinan Aral an award-winning management and data science professor at MIT, was surprised that the job-focused angle confirmed Granovetter’s original theory, noting “Acquaintances are more valuable sources of job opportunities. We also found that it’s not the weakest ties but moderately weak ties, which are the best.” [Source USA Today]

A fifty-year old reminder to look beyond the obvious when seeking a new job, looking for candidates, or trying to solve a problem.

Gerry Crispin

Gerry Crispin

Gerry co-authored eight books on the evolution of staffing and has written 100s of articles and whitepapers on similar topics during a career in Human Resources that spans more than 40 years from HR leadership positions at Johnson and Johnson; to boutique Executive Search firms; a Career Services Director at the University where he received his Engineering and 2 advanced degrees in Organizational/Industrial Behavior; and, GM of a major recruitment advertising firm even as he launched CareerXroads 25 years ago.

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