The story I’m about to share is very common. A job seeker recently came to me with a problem. They’d been looking everywhere for the right job. Finally, they found it. It was just what they were looking for, and their skills were a perfect match. Even better, a close friend should be able to be their advocate. It seemed to be a slam dunk opportunity, but then, something went wrong. The close friend didn’t follow through. They really let the job seeker down. It was terribly confusing and disheartening.
Have you ever had this happen? It can feel surprising how unhelpful people can be when they’re the ones you really count on.
In reality, the people who will help you to land a job are rarely the ones you’d expect. People who help out are very often random people you don’t think about very much. They’re what’s called a “weak tie” or a loose connection. These are people who are different than you. They’re tapped into different social networks than you are, and they know about different opportunities.
Tanya Menon describes the concept of weak ties in her TEDx Talk. In it, she states that, “weak ties are your ticket to a whole new social world.” And, it’s true. If you think of who your close friends are, they’re often people who are very similar to you. They may be the same nationality, the same gender, and they very likely have the same political and religious views that you do.
By opening yourself up to people who are different than you, you’re unlocking a world of possibilities. You’re creating a new network that may help you to tune into new opportunities, or may happen to have a connection to the job you’re most interested in. The impact of weak ties is truly exponential.
You may wonder how you can expand your network. In all honesty, it can be tricky at first. In her talk, Menon suggests taking a different route to do common things at work, such as getting coffee. Something like this can be very simple, but it can create a big impact.
I strongly believe in this idea. So much so that I have taken it to an extreme from time to time. I once took a salsa dancing class in Stockholm, Sweden. I also attended a hackathon in Sydney, Australia. It’s a weekend when technology professionals come together to create new products.
You would be amazed at how many new connections you can make when you do something so unusual. I’m certain I met no tourists in Stockholm or Sydney. The participants were all locals and I learned so much that I would have never been exposed to.
In this time of opposing views, take a moment to get to know someone who’s a bit different than you. You may find that you have more in common than you would have imagined.
Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.