Cultivate your career
Principle 3: Maintain your bridges
A landmark 1973 sociology paper by Mark Granovetter described the surprising amount of benefit we receive from our acquaintances, whom he called “weak ties” (as distinct from our “strong ties,” who are our closest friends and family). For example, in one study, Granovetter interviewed people who’d found a job through their contacts. In about 83 percent of the cases, the critical job lead came from a weak tie—a person seen occasionally or rarely.
To understand why, consider the redundancy of your strong-tie network. Chances are, a lot of your strong ties know each other well (e.g., your mom knows your sister pretty well, and your two best friends probably see each other frequently). Information flows quickly and easily within the network, which means that to a reasonable extent, everyone knows the same things. Weak ties, by contrast, serve as bridges between separate networks. So when you talk with a weak tie, you’re tapping into a wealth of knowledge that you have no other way to access.