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Prof. Dr Willem Mastenbroek
Prof. Dr E. van de Bunt
Drs C. Visser



Editorial Staff

Applying the strength of weak ties to find a new job
Coert Visser

Trying to get a new job? Have you sent out many application letters but without any success? Well, sending application letters in response to job openings might no be the most effective approach to getting a new job. Maybe a change of tactic may help open some new doors for you. First, here is a brief explanation. After that, I'll offer a suggestion of how you may use it.

The power of weak ties
Sociologist Mark Granovetter wrote a classic publication in 1974 called Getting a Job. He has studied how people had actually found their current job and found out that 56% of them had found it by networking, 18,8% through formal channels (job openings, recruiters), and 20% by applying directly. Furthermore, he found that of the people who had found their job through networking (which the majority of the people did), 16,7% found it through a close relationship (a "strong tie"), someone whom they met a least once a week, 55,6% found it through a relationship they met only occasionnally, more than once a year but less than twice a week (a "weak tie"), and 28% through a relationship they met with only rarely, once a year or less (an insignificant tie). The surprising conclusion is: people usually don't find their new jobs neither through formal channels, nor through close friends and relationships. Instead they find them through weak ties, people they meet only occasionally, people in the periphery of their personal network. The reason is your friends and close relationships move in the same circles as you and see and know roughly the same as you. What they know, you are likely to know too already. But the weak ties people introduce you into new worlds. They have links to new networks and see what you don't see. Therefore, they may be the people who may catapult you into new environments.

An example of using the power of weak ties
Once you realize the importance of weak ties, it is relatively easy to start using this knowledge. Here is one approach you might try. First, write a simple and brief e-mail text in which you a) greet the person, b) say that you are looking for a new job and explain what kind of job or working environment you search, c) ask the person if he or she knows someone you might talk to about this. To give you just an idea of what such an email might look like, you can find an example of such an e-mail here:

Second, make a selection of, say, 5 people you have weak ties with (people you meet with occasionally, more than once a year but less than twice a week). Perhaps you may use a social network site like LinkedIn or Facebook to make your selection. Send the e-mail to these people. Wait for the response. Hopefully, you'll be introduced to one of more people who may be interested to talk to you. If not, you can easily repeat the process of sending out a few emails. Even if this process does not lead to new opportunities, this would not be the worst thing in the world because it is not hard and takes relatively little time.

Have a go and see how it works. Let me know.

Coert Visser

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