Can you build your career using social connections or “ties”? Absolutely!
Laura and Kate examine the 4 kinds of social ties we all have, and how you can rely on them to help build your career in various ways.
Richer Life Lab Podcast show quote
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” – African Proverb
Build Your Career Using Social Ties
Each of us has a vast web of people we’re connected to. This includes the people we’re closest to, good friends, loose acquaintances and social media contacts we might never have even met. Social scientists call all of the people we’re connected to our “social ties.”
Some ties are very strong, some are weak, but it turns out that all of them can have an impact on how well we do in life personally and professionally. In fact, sometimes weak ties can help you build your career even more than strong ones.
We uncovered some interesting and surprising research about how our social ties affect our success at work. Here are 4 types of social ties you can use to build your career:
Social Ties #1: Close Family
Close family and significant others play a huge, important role in our lives. But these people aren’t just there for you to spend time with or to comfort you when you need it, they can also help you be more successful at work.
A study done a few years ago at Florida State University found that having strong ties to a partner helped stressed-out workers:
- feel better about their jobs
- have more positive relationships with their co-workers
- concentrate better at work
Other studies too show that close relationships help people handle emotional stress better, at work and at home.
Close relationships also let you double your network of contacts. A loved one’s contacts become yours, too. Think of the children of famous Hollywood stars who go on to become famous actors themselves. It’s not that they’re necessarily more talented than other young actors, it’s that they have their parents’ connections to agents and producers.
Social Ties #2: Good Friends
Good friends can also help you build your career. Just like with significant others, we often get to know the friends of our close friends, so it expands our networks of contacts. That often helps us in our careers, especially if we’re looking for a new job.
Studies show we actually work better when we work with friends. A study done at the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania showed that groups of friends outperformed groups of acquaintances on work tasks. The conclusion was that the friends communicated better, felt better criticizing each other, and were more committed to being successful together.
Companies have also noticed that when employees have close friends at work, they are happier, more engaged and loyal. Some companies are even experimenting with ways to make work much more social to get people to be better friends.
Social Ties #3: Professional Connections
Professional connections are weaker ties. These are co-workers who aren’t friends, and people we may see from time to time at social events or networking events.
It turns out that these social ties are some of the most important to build your career. In 1973, a professor at Johns Hopkins University did an interesting study showing that the vast majority of professionals got jobs through their weak social ties—people they only had contact with once and a while. Other studies since then have shown the same results.
But it’s not just about building up a large list of contacts. Ron Burt, a professor at University of Chicago Booth School of Business did some fascinating research on the weak social ties of the most successful 20% of people in business. He discovered that these people actually had fewer contacts than less successful professionals.
The contacts of the most successful, however, didn’t belong to one like-minded group of people. They were spread across different groups. This provides them a diverse experience and the ability to connect ideas that they couldn’t otherwise manage.
Take a lesson here and network with people who work outside your industry or normal sphere of activity through volunteering, or joining a non-industry specific professional organization like Toastmasters
Social Ties #4: Social Media Contacts
These are the weakest ties of all—you’ve probably never met or spoken to many of social media contacts, yet you are still in some way connected. And these contacts can have a big impact on your career because as I mentioned, it’s the weaker ties that help you the most in a job search.
A Pew Research study done in 2014 of thousands of adult workers showed that:
- over 50% believe social media helps them in their careers
- just over 50% said they use social media to connect to experts in their field, or get to know their co-workers better
- 78% said they use it to network or find new jobs
If you’re an introvert, social media gives you a huge advantage in networking without the stress of face-to-face kind of networking. Spend time strategically networking on social media. Create a great profile and contribute to discussions in groups related to your work, and share content with your connections.
Richer Life Lab Podcast practical
This week’s Richer Life Lab practical is to make a list of the 5 most important career changes you’ve experienced, like a new job, a promotion, or an entrepreneurial opportunity. Then think about which social ties helped you make those changes. Were they weak or strong ties? See any patterns?
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