Do You Know Whom to Network With?

Personal Branding

By far the most effective way of getting a new job is by networking. When making presentations to large groups, I often test that tenet, and invariably it proves to be true. Therefore, networking is how people in transition should spend most of their time. For many, though, networking is a challenging task because they are introverts or they don’t know with whom to connect and network.

If we took a quick look at all the possibilities, we’d see there are two broad groups: a group with which we have strong ties such as friends, family, or coworkers and a group with which we have weak ties. When asked, most people say that if necessary, they would work on improving their relationships with those in the group with which they already have strong ties. However, sociologists specializing in the field of social interactions have found certain interesting information: (1) although counterintuitive, networking with that other group—the one with which people have weak ties—is more beneficial; (2) more-novel information goes to individuals through weak rather than strong ties; (3) the reason for that is that because our close friends tend to move in the same circles we do, the information they receive overlaps considerably with what we already know; and (4) the quality or strength of interpersonal ties is based on a combination of several things such as amount of time that the people know each other, the level of emotional intensity between them, the level of intimacy between them, the level at which they confide in each other, and reciprocal favors or services they perform for each other.

The sociologists’ research revealed that most jobs were found through weak acquaintances. In fact, one study found that more than half of people who found jobs received the leading information via people with whom they had only occasional contact. This is both interesting and informative, because logic would seem to favor that such information would come rather from those with whom one has frequent contact.

To support the empirical evidence, I’m reminded of an article I read that said two total strangers sitting next to each other in an airplane might end up disclosing to each other certain information that under normal circumstances would be discussed with only very close friends or family.

So, the next time you go networking, don’t cling to your buddies, but start a conversation with a stranger. Who knows? It could lead to a new job.