Weak relational ties can be more valuable for your career than strong ones

Weak Ties = Better For Career Than Strong Ties

That seems counterintuitive, right? You want to be chasing strong ties and strong relationships, no?


Here’s why, as explained somewhat by Stanford University research (and FSU research):

Recognize that weak ties are more valuable for job performance and careers than stronger relationships. That’s because weak ties provide you non-redundant information, while the people to whom you are most strongly tied, close friends and colleagues, probably know approximately the same things and the same people as you do. Therefore, they do not add as much additional value.

That actually makes a lot of sense. It’s kind of tied up with two related concepts:

1. If you want to be better at networking, the first thing you should do is stop networking.

2. The reason a lot of meetings are failures is similar to this concept: meetings often bring together a lot of people with mostly the same information, and then they trade around and wallow in that information, as opposed to proposing new things or putting forward concepts that can be evaluated and considered. (The meeting leader typically should have more information, but because work is largely about protecting your turf and pockets of information, sometimes meeting leaders don’t even share the information they have.)

But think about this, right?

In your day-to-day existence professionally or personally, you probably have a handful of people you are pretty close to. One or two of them may be superstars with huge networks (“Rolodexes”), but most of them probably know the same amount/variety of people you do (potentially relative to their own industry).

But there’s a million — nay, billions — of “weak ties” out there, which are people you’ve never met or may have a chance to connect with around some shared viewpoint. Those are who will drive your career. The strong ties are just good to have in times when you need an immediate boost or some such. The weak ties are actually much stronger long-term.

Ted Bauer

One Comment

  1. LinkedIn is probably a great example of this idea. I would wager most people don’t have 500+ friends or acquaintances in real life, but it’s possible to have that many weak ties throughout someone’s career, even if it’s relatively early on in your career. My guess is that the breakdown of close ties to weak ties on LinkedIn is probably near Pareto…20% close/80% weak.

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