Sep 27, 2022 - Economy

The strength of your weak relationships

Illustration of a water cooler filled with chat bubbles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Our outer circle of people — friends of friends and casual acquaintances — are more important than we think.

Why it matters: We invest the most time and effort in our nearest and dearest relationships — family members and close friends — but the weak ties can be fruitful too.

💡 That's according to a new study published in Science in which researchers dug into troves of LinkedIn data — the connections of 20 million people over five years.

  • They found that people were more successful in landing new jobs and moving up in their careers through connections with weak ties rather than strong ones.
  • That means your casual acquaintance might be more helpful in advancing your career than your best friend.

"People with whom you have weaker ties are more likely to have information or connections that are useful and relevant," Erik Brynjolfsson, a Stanford professor and one of the study authors, notes.

  • We broaden our horizons when we reach out to those we don't know as well. Their social and professional networks are different from ours. And they might have information on job openings or new fields we hadn't even considered. 

🧠 Reality check: The rise of remote and hybrid work is making it more difficult for us to meet new acquaintances — at least in the workplace.

  • Companies will need to work even harder to enable employees to foster these bonds, either virtually or at in-person retreats.

The bottom line: Never underestimate the power of sparking up a conversation with your desk-mate or accepting a random Zoom invitation to meet a new colleague.

  • Those ties could one day be hugely influential in changing the course of your career.
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