“You look very happy today, or is that your normal face?” I asked on a light note. I had noted this lady from the moment the Human Resource director introduced me. Her face shone and she really looked interested. The moment I stood to take over the training program, her smile could not be hidden. That is what prompted my question. In a room of forty senior managers, she seemed the happiest. I quickly looked up her position on the name tag, Capacity Building executive; it read. That seemed to answer my question. As a trainer it always feels nice to take a seat and listen to another trainer.
She actually confirmed this as we talked over tea break. She was happy not to worry about the content, how to deliver, how to keep the participants alert or whether the participants will be happy with the training. However, as the conversation unfolded I realized there was more. She happened to be my ardent follower on social media. She knew that we attended the same college for both undergraduate and post graduate studies. She also noted that I was a former boss to her close friend. She had actually advocated for my ability to deliver the training despite having not sat in any of my trainings.
“The world cannot be this small,” I thought. If I had met her along the corridors, I would have assumed she is just another stranger. I would have thought she has no idea who I am. I actually was not aware of all the things she mentioned A week later she called in asking for my partnership in facilitating some training programs. As we spent time together this week facilitating the trainings, I remembered a certain concept: The power of weak ties. I also realized this had happened again earlier this year. A certain CEO stepped up to close a governance training that I had just facilitated. He then looked up to me and said, I follow you on social media and I had no doubt that you would deliver. That caught me off guard. I actually logged in to my social media pages to check. To my surprise he actually was my follower. I would have never realized that, I had not met him or heard about him before. He was however a friend to an acquaintance.
In a Harvard review article that I read recently, it noted that weak ties are the greater source of opportunities compared to strong ties. We refer to strong ties as your friends and weak ties as your acquaintances. Weak ties are those people who you do not know well those people with whom you only have a casual relationship with. Everyone has been telling you that you need to network and develop deep relationships to help in your job search or other opportunities. That is still true however people who know you really well, know the same people you know. People who know you more casually likely know a lot of people and opportunities that you do not know.
Strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties serve as bridges: they provide more efficient access to new information. Weak ties are more likely to open up access to a different network. Weak tie is someone you know, but not very well. It may also be someone you were close a long time ago but haven’t been in contact for years. They could be:
- A classmate from high school.
- Your college roommate.
- One of your favorite professors.
- A coworker or boss from one of your early jobs.
- An old neighbor.
- Someone you met at a conference years ago.
- People you bump into at your local coffee shop or gym.
- Your silent social media followers/connections.
In the wake of globalization and social media, it is easy to remain in the face of your weak ties. Weak ties ca be valuable in;
- Discovering new opportunities & New Information
Within your stronger and closer networks, many of the people have already heard about the same opportunities while weak ties may have access to different opportunities.
When you want to learn new things continually, you’ll often discover that your weak ties in your broader network are a better source than your strong ties.
1. Exposure to new points of view
We live in our little worlds, seeing the same people every day, having the same conversations, and are too busy to explore beyond those boundaries.
2. Improved cultural understanding
Embracing the weak ties in your network allows you to become more culturally aware and sensitive. You can appreciate where someone is coming from, even if you don’t fully understand it or want to adopt it yourself.
3. Increasing the diversity of your network
This diversity includes backgrounds, education, socioeconomic status, profession, industry, gender, race, and age. If your network is homogeneous, it’s time to shake things up.
4. Increasing the power of your network
Your weak ties will help you build a more powerful network that spans professions and industries and includes people at higher levels of influence.
5. You are viewed as unique
Your friends, family, and colleagues are all too familiar with your experiences and capabilities. They are so accustomed to you that they may even take you for granted at times.
“When it comes to finding out new jobs, new information or new ideas, weak ties are always more important than strong ties.”
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