Oftentimes we focus on building strong relationships with people, strong ties. After all, the better we know someone and the stronger the relationship is, the more valuable it is for us right? It’s a bit counter-intuitive but in the workplace it is not the strong ties that can be the most beneficial, in fact, weak ties (acquaintances or people that you might not know that well) can be far more valuable!
Weak ties give us access to information that we would normally not have.
In 1973 the sociologist Mark Granovetter published a paper titled “The Strength of Weak Ties” in which he talks about and explains the value of weak ties. Granovetter analogizes weak ties to being bridges which allow us to disseminate and get access to information that we might not otherwise have access to….
When two people have strong ties they typically know many of the same people and have access to the same information, which means there is strong overlap between the two. Strong ties at work are typically co-workers that sit next to us or perhaps work in the same department. This means that if you need access to someone or something outside of your department, that your strong ties generally don’t have access to things that you can’t get access to yourself.
However, when you have a weak tie with someone this acts as a bridge to an area where you most likely don’t have access to the same people and information that your weak tie does….
Both weak ties and strong ties are important.
The dilemma is that weak ties may not know your capabilities very well, so you also need to count on your strong ties to go to bat for you in job hunting situations.
Letting folks in your social network know that you’re looking for work is a good first step, but you should also work to sell them on the idea that you’d make a great employee. Don’t assume that contacts already know everything they need to about your professional life.