In 1974 Mark Granovetter, University of Chicago (now professor at Stanford University), published a paper on a study of 282 men and how they got jobs. He looked at how they found out about the position, who gave them referrals, how they landed interviews, and who had helped them. The study found that when they approached strangers, they had little success, but when they appealed to friends, help was given.
The most surprising finding was they received the most help from casual acquaintances, friends of friends. Granovetter called these connections “weak ties”. These weak ties gave the men access to social networks they otherwise don’t belong and proved more valuable than strong-tie relationships. In this study 56% used personal contacts, managers were more likely to have positions created for them and usually they got them through personal contacts. Often new jobs are created with the type of person they would like in mind. In the study he found that the contacts that led to new jobs were not recent — most were relationships lasting two years and beyond.
What has changed in the last 40 years? Nothing! Your network, and your network’s networks, are as important as ever today, even more so, and according to predictions on the job market of the future, will be even more important. The power of weak ties also applies to business, in fact to any interaction between people towards an outcome. These ties gave power to movements such as civil rights, disability rights, voting rights movement, globally.
Are you cultivating your weak ties, expanding your network for the times when you will need it?