“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is one of those phrases that have long been a part of the job seeking lexicon, but with the rise of social networking platforms it has gained fresh impetus as networking has become something we all need to do.
The power of ones networks when it comes to finding a new job was highlighted by a study from a few years ago by researchers at North Carolina State University. It revealed that your social network is especially crucial when you’re not actively looking for work, with your contacts helping to uncover potential opportunities you didn’t know existed.
Estimates suggest that around 25% of all jobs filled in the United States are done so via this more informal form of recruitment, with this ratio rising significantly as the pay for each position goes up. The study found that the chances of a job being filled via our social networks rose by 2% for each dollar extra being paid to the successful candidate.
In other words, someone being paid around $100,000 a year is 86% more likely to find that work via their social network than someone being paid $14,500 a year.
Quality Over Quantity
A recent paper published in Management Science highlights that networks are not all equal and that quality networks are usually far better than simply large ones.
The study saw several hundred social network users quizzed both on their activities on the social network, and their job searching more generally. It found that social networks were the 2nd most common source of job leads, with most of the leads from the social network coming from weaker connections.
There is a slight caveat however, as these weak connections might have been providing a lot of job leads, but they weren’t providing particularly strong leads. When the numbers were analyzed, the researchers found that the best quality leads (determined by the interview and job offer conversion rate) came from the strongest connections.
As with the initial study, the researchers were able to quantify this phenomenon, revealing that a 10% increase in the number of strong connections meant a 0.7% rise in the number of job offers you receive. Interestingly, if your weak connections rose by 10%, the number of job offers fell by 1.3%.
“We found that strong ties have a significant and positive effect on job interviews,” the authors say. “Weak ties, on the other hand, while they had a greater impact on job leads, have a statistically insignificant impact on job interviews.”
This is probably down to the additional work needed to convert a lead into something more tangible like a job offer. The stronger the connection, the more likely you are to put that level of effort in.
Building strong connections
So how can you build such strong connections via social networks? I asked the good folk at Ning, the largest software as a service social network provider in the world, for their advise on how you can develop these robust connections.
Firstly, they have found that the best brand builders are active within their social networks. They contribute to discussions, provide great advice and genuinely help others as much as they can.
They also suggest that working closely with official and unofficial leaders of a community can be hugely powerful. Maybe you can even offer help to them in running the community. By generally being as helpful as possible you create powerful advocates.
Lastly, it’s important that you do something you enjoy. A study from a few years ago by the University of Queensland in Australia highlighted how our social networks underpin our happiness.
“Social networking sites give people immediate reminders of their social relationships and allow them to communicate with others whenever they want,” researchers said.
So get out there and make those connections. Both your career and your general wellbeing will benefit from it.
Written By: Adi Gaskell