February 09, 2008

Getting a Job: Weak Social Ties and On-Line Connections

author_brad By Bradley Wright

Last summer my wife was looking for a summer job, and she did the usual things—read the employment bulletins and sent out applications. Ultimately, though, she got a job through an acquaintance. We see this person a few times a year, and she heads up an administrative unit here on campus. My wife applied, got the job, and we all lived happily after.

This story illustrates the somewhat cynical mantra of all job seekers that it’s not what you know but who you know. Sociologists call this phenomenon the strength of weak ties.

A “weak” social tie, in every day language, is an acquaintanceship—someone with whom you are familiar with but not too close. In contrast, a “strong” tie would be a good friend or close family member, someone with whom you interact a lot. An “absent” tie would be someone who you know but don’t reclip_image004ally have any kind of relationship with.

In a famous sociological study, Mark Granovetter interviewed several hundred business people and asked them how they got their jobs. Seventeen percent reported learning about their jobs from a close friend (strong tie), 28% reported learning about it from someone they barely knew (absent tie), and a full 56% of the respondents reported learning about it from an acquaintance (weak tie).

It’s a bit of a paradox: Why are acquaintances, people we sort of know, more important in the job search process than our close friends and family? Our strong ties, after all, care about us more and would be much more willing to help us.

The answer, according to Granovetter, is that weak ties are a unique social resource: they connect us with a wider set of social networks than do social ties. clip_image008Your acquaintances each have their own strong ties—family and friends to whom they are very close to. Through your acquaintances, you gain access to their strong ties—and to the social networks to which they belong. All social networks offer various resources, such as information about job opportunities, and so by connecting with a greater number of social networks, via weak social ties, you gain access to more possible employment opportunities. 

Strong ties, in contrast, connect us with fewer social networks. Your best friend in the world would probably do anything for you, but chances are that the two of you know many of the same people. As such, it’s not that your close friends and family don’t want to help you in a job search; it’s just that they have less to offer because you probably already know about most of the contacts that they would offer. You already share many of the same networks with them. So, there’s a trade-off. Strong ties are more willing and available toclip_image006 offer help, but weak ties typically have more resources to offer.

In this context, it’s interesting to think about the many social ties created by the Internet. About a year ago, I started blogging, and through that I have had contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people with similar personal and research interests as mine. Likewise, most college students have Facebook accounts in order to keep track of their friends and make friends with their friends’ friends (got that?). As a result of this on-line networking, this generation may have more casual social ties than any before.

The question, then, becomes the nature of these online ties. Granovetter studied fairly conventional acquaintances—people you see in person at places like the work place or social gatherings. Online acquaintances are different. If I met some of the people I know from online, I don’t think that I would even recognize them. Yes, we’ve exchanged many comments on our blogs, and I know a fair amount of information about them, how they think, what they do, but I’ve never met them in person.

Would these on-line ties be as useful in a job search? The answer is… I don’t know. The focus of these on-line relationships is social networking, getting to know each other pretty much for the sake of getting to know each other. The interactions with these people tend to be more social—what you’re doing, what interests you share in common. I’m not sure how often instrumental concerns come up. In everyday conversation, it’s easy to drop in the information that you’re looking for a job, but it might fit in more awkwardly in online interactions.clip_image010

Perhaps more importantly, though, is that the social networks and resources offered by online connections are often too distant to be of much value. For example, one of the people I interact with online lives in Kenya. Now, he may know of great job opportunities for me, and be very willing to help, but unless I’m willing to relocate to Africa they don’t do me much good. This maybe why in-person acquaintances remain so important—by virtue of meeting them face-to-face, you occupy the same physical location, at least briefly. Chances are, therefore, that the social resources they have to offer would also be close and thus of greater value.

So, do you want to get a job? Make sure to let your acquaintances know since they may be very helpful. Your online connections might be as well, but probably not as much.


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On the use of social sites like Facebook, I think like all technology, it really depends on how individuals use it. In a recent apartment search I had all but given up on finding a place. I posted a note to Facebook including only people in my geographic region. Within a week, through a friend of a friend, I had located a place.
Although these social sites provide you with a wider net to gather resources, it's still largely dependent on where you choose to deploy it. While my friends and acquaintances abroad couldn't help me with this task they could offer ideas and advice on other topics. Perhaps the class conflict of the future will be between those who fully utilize technology and those who don't.

This topic has become of growing importance to me. I have set my career aside and gone back to school to pursue a degree in sociology (but of course). For me, the question becomes, how would I jump back into the job market after school? Keeping in contact with the people whom I know from my past seems to be to my advantage. The on-line approach has seemed to be one option of keeping in touch with people whom I rarely talk to but have enjoyed professional relationships with.

I notice more and more the commercial emphasis on “social networking”. Whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, professional Blogs, or on-line job services there seems to be a huge focus and let’s not forget money making opportunity for some with on-line “social networking”. I have started a LinkedIn account in hopes of keeping in contact with my past business contacts and keep this “social networking” working for me. In the past I have used an on-line professional service from whom I still get regular emails reminding me how important it is to keep growing my social network as I look for a new job before I need one.

I can tell you this: it is exhausting! I seemed to have picked up a new part-time job expanding my “social network” and thinking about how to keep in contact with people. Now that I have read this blog article it gets me to thinking about how one can never replace the face-to-face contact with people. It will be interesting to see what sociologist have to say about the impact and dynamics all this “social networking” creates in peoples daily lives, personal, and professional relationships.

thank you for your information, i will visit you a letter

I have used an on-line professional service from whom I still get regular emails reminding me how important it is to keep growing my social network as I look for a new job before I need one.

Oh there is nothing like networking. When you build on networking you will get the best reference. People tend to ask for the best through people they know yet, it can cause harm if the persons skills are not any good.

I have never used social networking. I would have to agree with one of the others who posted their oppinion... I also think that technology is benificial if used properly and that surely making connections are great.I am leary of networking because you do not always know who you are connected with.

I would definetly have to agree with the above post on this one because i have myself have never used social networking. Its possible that it woulc be a great thing, as well as it could be a terrible thing. You just have to be careful about who your connected with.

I think that Social Network is a good thing because technology changes everyday.It is also a bad thing because you never know who your connected to and that is a scary situation.

So far, I've been holding strong to not using any kind of social network sight and this blog just helped me stay true. I too feel that face to face communication and networking is the real deal and you still have more of a connection in the sense that you physically know that person, you can "bump into each other." I hear people say, "Yeah, I have like over 100 friends on my myspace." Yeah, "friends". No offense of course :)

Social networking is a must in this tight job market.

“weak” social tie will be the death of a one who dont take heed. We are communication ! not made of much more social networking it is a must technology is benificial if used properly. but if you know anything about me to be part of the pic in many diffrent networks large and small is something i work at social resources = greater value.

"weak ties typically have more resources to offer" if you don't really know the connection you are probably unfamilar with the people they will get you in touch with so even though you are not "really close" you also don't have bad history together this keeps it stickly professional.

Weak ties are strong because they tend to have more social connections or more aqquantainces to help you get a job. They aren't necessarily in your normal social network so they may know people that you do not. Friends and family are generally in the same social network, and while they would love to help, they just can't offer as much help as much as a weak tie.

social networks are great to have but people like me who just like to sit around and read or watch movies with their kids and spouse don't have a lot of time to make friends. the few i have i only talk to at school or in my best friends case over the phone because she lives 900 miles away.

Social networks are great!I have recently found several of my high school aquantainces on facebook. And i tried the whole posting on facebook about a job, and the article is right, they may be alot of response to your question, but in my case the jobs entailed me relocating! Friends and family love you and would do anything for you, but they normally do know the same cirlclle of people you do, so it usually isn't too much of a help!

The sociological phenomenon of the strength of weak ties can only be explained by "it's not who you are, it's who you know." The strength of this can be found by having a weak tie, you can also find "connections." It is also a great way to get to know people. Having acquaintances can be more important in a job search process, because the more people you know, the more connections you have.

Networking is one of the most important tools when it comes to finding a job. Without it most people wouldn't have jobs in today's society. 9 times out of 10 someone will look out for a close friend or relative before they take care of a stranger. Blood is thicker than water. That said, it's very important to have a strong social network to ensure your success.

The strength of weak ties is pretty ironic, but is also makes sense. Your weak ties can offer you more then your strong ties because you know a lot of the same people and networks in a strong tie. Acquaintances are more important in a job search because there are more branches out there for you to see job opportunitites.

Weak ties are....not good. at all. You gotta have connections to move up in anything, no matter what job or career. And the connections you do have need to be on the job instead of family or friends because when an employer is looking to hire you, he doesn't want the opinion of people who like you because they won't tell him the bad. Instead he wants the honest opinion of someone who has seen your work and how well you do it.

I agree that social networking is a must in todays society

I should social network more. I moved to Alabama two years ago from a different state so I still don't know alot of people. It does make it harder to find a job when you don't have ties with the place you want to be employed at.

Weak ties are a must if you are going to go anywhere, especially now with the economy in the state it's in. Having an acquaintance help you get a job is more likely to happen than if your family member were to try helping you get a job. An acquaintance doesn't know you as familiarly as a family member would. They would judge your work performance unbiased, since they are so unfamiliar with you. If a family member were to try and get you a job where they are working, there is a big chance that you might not get hired simply because they could base your work upon your family member.

Acquaintance are inportant because they know people you dont know and can offer you something better. In close ties you know most if not everyone they know, so you already know what is out there for you. Acquaintance know enough about you to tell their boss the truth about you were as family and friend would somewhat lie to get you the job.

The sociological phenomenon of the strength of weak ties is basically like its not what you know, its who you know. Close friends and family are important but when searching fro a job acquaintances are more important. Close friends and family can only get you so far but with other acquaintances the skies the limit.

a weak tie is stronger than no tie at all.

With the recession and the economy being in ruins, there is no time better than now to have as many social contacts as possible just to obtain a job. Some employers don't even care about your work experience or what you can do because more than likely someone they know or have known for a long time will get the job before you do. I guess the phrase, "Put in a good word for me" works so much more for people in these times.

acquaintances are more inportant in a job search because knowing someone is only a good way to get an interview. You have to have a personality and some common scense to get a job.

The strength of weak ties is not always what or how much you know but who you know many times through your friends or friends of family. Many times close friends and family are helpful in job searchs and processes, but aquaintances go the extra mile to help a buddy.

The sociological phenomenon of weak ties does not help you get a job at all. At this point in time it is very important to have some type of relationship with many people. Over the past few years I have obtained a couple of jobs through people that I had met. The more people you meet the more chances you will have more opportunities for jobs.

like i said in the last blog its who you know!!!!

A weak tie is someone you know, but you don;t know too well. Like a coworker you dont work alot with or a student you see in the hallway everyday but you've never talked to them. Acquaintances have theire own social networks they belong to and can expand your network. Family would just put you around the same people.

There is an incredible strength in "weak ties" much more than we realize. An acquaintance can be many in number and they do not know every strength and weakness you possess. Their opinion of you is very vague which , in turn, helps you get a job. Also, the more acquaintances you know, the greater your chance of someone helping you from the outside of your social circles.

Your weak ties are more socially connected to the people that you need to be connected with. They know more of the right people for you to talk to. Not to say that your strong ties don't know any people who you should talk to, but as the article said, you probably already know those people.

The strength of weak ties is very strong. It outweighs all others because weak ties gives you more options for references. Knowing someone who knows someone. They can be more helpful than your family or close friends because it broadens your horizion or network of help options.

I think Society Network is a good thing in someways.

I would rather get a job through an acquaintance than a family member, sometimes family can be your downfall with out even knowing it. It seems to me in the days in times we are living in it's more of who you know instead of what you know. It takes time to accomplish certain skills, but most jobs want you to already have years of experience, some people I know never went to college but they have good jobs due to their years of experience

Weak ties are a strong factor in job opportunities. You can use those weak ties and branch out to see all the opportunities that you can have, that you wouldn't normally have with a strong tie.

I think it's great to either help soomeone get a job or to recieve a little help from someone even if it is a weak tie.The problem I have found is that by putting in a good word for someone especially a person whom you know little about reflects you. My point is that sometimes the act of kindness can backfire causing problems later on.

I believe it is important to have a good network of people strong or weak. I used networking before to get a job all though it was through a strong tie and not a weak one.

It's not what you know, but WHO you know. This sums up the sociological phenom referred to as "weak ties" Weak ties are acquaintances that you aren't very close to, but you see every now and then. While job searching, acquaintances can be very prudent in the process. Every weak tie can provide a connection. It's all about networking.

Acquaintances are important with jobs because the more people you meet and the more you show your skill or will power to work it keeps you going from job to better job. until you reach the point where there is no where else to go. Its all about who you know these days that tell you where you will stand one day

Weak social ties will get you nowhere in todays job market. It really is all about who you know. Social networking is a great benefit to those who use it properly. Acquaintances are more important that close friends and family because acquaintances know you on a business level. If you have an arguement or issue with your close friends and family they may say something negative about you or not promote youas well as they should. Their are too many emotions involved with close friends and family. Also some people take advantages of those realtionships and do not work as hard. This may in turn jeoprodize you close friens or familiy's relationship with whom ever they recommened you to. It is best to stand on your own two feet and make your own connections. In the long run you will be better off.

It is sad that the world revolves around not how well you do your job, but who you know! It is the cold hard truth. I am unable to find a job of ANY sort, because I don't know the right people.

Any way you look at it the internet and all of its uses are becoming more and more practical and useful. That applies to almost every aspect of our lives. Either its a job or a wife, people are using this tool to its fullest ability. Otherwise we would still be doing the face-to-face ordeal or doing alot of printing. Again, stupid.

Don't know what is wrong what is rite but i know that every one has there own point of view and same goes to this one..

Internet-based weak ties work the same way as real-life weak ties. Before I landed in full time industry employment, the majority of my work came from friends of friends on the internet and people I had met and networked with. However, I will say that it can be dependant on the industry you are attempting to find employment in.

It is sad that the world revolves around not how well you do your job, but who you know! It is the cold hard truth. I am unable to find a job of ANY sort, because I don't know the right people.

Waooow!! Nice blog, this will be greatly helpful.

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