Why it pays to widen your social circle: Study of LinkedIn connections shows distant acquaintances are more likely to help you land your next job than close friends
- Researchers studied data from 20 million LinkedIn users over a five-year period
- During that time, they found that 600,000 new jobs were created
- Some users received more recommendations from distant acquaintances
- Others received more recommendations from close friends
- Results revealed that weaker ties increased likelihood of job mobility the most
When it comes to finding a job, you might think to ask your close friends for their help.
But a new study suggests that targeting the friends of your friends might be a better bet.
Researchers from MIT studied LinkedIn connections and found that distant acquaintances are more likely to help you land your next job than close friends.
Researchers from MIT studied LinkedIn connections and found that distant acquaintances are more likely to help you land your next job than close friends
In the study, the team set out to assess the impact of social media on the labour market.
‘The “strength of weak ties,” one of the most influential social theories of the last hundred years, maintains that infrequent, arms-length relationships—known as weak ties—are more beneficial for employment opportunities, promotions, and wages than strong ties,’ explained Professor Sinan Aral.
‘Despite having over 65,000 citations in the last 50 years, there have been no large-scale experimental causal tests of this theory as it relates to employment.’
The strength of weak ties theory was first proposed by Mark Granovetter in 1973.
It is based on the idea that weak ties allow distant clusters of people to access new information that can lead to new opportunities.
In the new study, the researchers set out to understand whether the strength of weak ties theory would be helpful in delivering new employment opportunities via LinkedIn.
Their study included data from more than 20 million LinkedIn users over a five-year period, during which 600,000 new jobs were created.
The researchers randomly assigned some LinkedIn users to receive more recommendations from distant acquaintances, while others received recommendations from close friends.
The results revealed that weaker ties increased the likelihood of job mobility the most.
Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that people looking for jobs should widen their social nets beyond their immediate friendship circle (stock image)
‘Our results show that the greatest job mobility comes from moderately weak ties – social connections between the very weakest ties and ties of average relationship strength,’ said Professor Iavor Bojinov, an author of the study.
The researchers also looked at how this effect played out across different industries.
They found that weak ties particularly led to more applications in IT, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
‘The strength of weak ties effect was true on average, but was even stronger for jobs in more digital industries,’ said Professor Erik Brynjolfsson, co-author of the study.
Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that people looking for jobs should widen their social nets beyond their immediate friendship circle.
‘Weak ties on social networks can be an extremely useful part of managing your career, promotions, advancement, and even wages,’ Professor Aral added.