In 1973 Stanford professor Mark Granovetter described the powerful role that "weak ties" – links among people who are not closely associated - play in spreading ideas, finding jobs and helping people join together for action.
Fast Company's What LinkedIn Data Reveals About Who Will Help You Get Your Next Job covers research by LinkedIn showing the power of weak ties continues to be unabated.
In fact, weak tie impacts are likely even stronger due the Internet and social media.
But over and over again, studies and surveys show us that "weak connections" are key to getting the job of your dreams—not the strong ties that everyone places so much weight on.
This is confirmed by LinkedIn's data, which shows people are more likely to be referred for jobs by their second and third degree connections than their first degree connections.
There are several reasons weak tie networks are so important.
The main reason is simply size. Because most people have many more weak tie connections than strong ties, their weak ties are more likely to be aware of opportunities.
But the Fast Company article also points out something we've also seen in our research. Strong ties can be hesitant to recommend their strong tie connections. Key quote on this from the article:
"... concluded from in-depth interviews with 146 blue-and white-collar workers that strong ties don’t matter as much when it comes to landing a job for two reasons.
The first, "the costs of making failed matches" mattered more to them than "the benefits of initiating successful matches," meaning they’re too invested on what would happen to them if things didn’t work out. Second, they know too much about their close connections’ flaws, whereas weak ties can more easily rave about their referral’s positive attributes without being aware of their foibles. Hence, they can make the referral with a sound mind."
These findings have very important implications for freelancers and coworking.
1. Networks and weak tie connections are, if anything, becoming even more important than in the past. We've done a number of studies on this topic and we've concluded It's All About Networks when it comes to being a successful independent worker. Maybe we should change this to It's Really All About Networks.
2. Coworking spaces help independent workers build networks and weak ties. This is a key reason the coworking industry is experiencing explosive growth.
Fast Company's follow-up article on this topic - LinkedIn's Top Three Secrets To Getting Hired In 2016 - provides two sets of important advice for job seekers:
Traditional 9-to-5 work is no longer the norm; it’s just another option.
... professionals need to keep doing what they've always had to do: Work your connections. Keep learning. Stay flexible. And always keep an eye on the market, because new, never-before-seen opportunities will be waiting around every corner.
These are also, of course, good advice for independent workers (and reasons to join a coworking space).