Career Advice – Network with Weak Ties

Career advice on networking, young professional, weak ties,sending emails, linkedin, Black woman typing on macbook

If you’re anything like me, you aren’t a fan of networking. It is something you’ve worked at for years and had to push yourself to do. One of my favourite bloggers, Patrice, wrote a great post navigating face to face networking when you hate it. Instead of giving you tips on how to manage those nerves, why not put my interpersonal communication degree to good use and discuss how your can network from the comfort of your own home and maintaining weak ties.

 

You know, thanks to this little thing called the Internet, it is easier than you think. All you need is some device with Internet connection, a list of people you’re somewhat fond of, and few short sentences. We’re all capable of that, aren’t we? That’s all you need to do if you want to keep in touch with the TA you had freshman year of college, who now works as a Googler.

 

What are Weak Ties?

If you’ve read The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, PhD you’re familiar with this term, but for those who haven’t, weak ties are merely acquaintances or someone you happen to connect with thanks to cultural proximity. This may be the person you connected with a mixer because you were the only two women or the room or the only two people of colour at the event. Perhaps this is the person you introduced two by your second cousin’s wife because you both love making craft beer on the weekends or even your friend’s ex who works as a recruiter at your dream company. They don’t have much impact on your day to day life as a child, spouse, coworker or friend would, but they still can have a somewhat influential role in the trajectory of your professional or academic experience.

 

Why You Should Be Concerned about Having Strong and Many Weak Ties

I’m sure you’re wondering now, “How is Priya from the Young Professionals Mixer going to be influential in ways my boss Bob isn’t?” Well, my friend, that’s how networking can be at times. You see these weak ties can be how you get your foot in the door to new network opportunities. Some studies have found at least 60% of all jobs were found via networking. Bob may be the person to write you a stellar letter or recommendation, but Priya was the person to send your cover letter and CV to the head of HR because they went to grad school together.

 

For me, one of my most significant loose ties developed into my mentor. We both watched the same TV show and live-tweeted about it. When I went off to college, she just so happened to be completing her PhD at the same university, and we lived five minutes from one another. As the years when by she introduced to her cohort, the chair of chemistry, and a bunch of other fabulous people completing their masters and PhDs. Just like that, I was in this completely different network and considering different career paths I would have never thought about it; I hadn’t been chatting with Jen from Washington who was the prison to pipeline effects HIV status among African American women. That is a network I may have never been in, had I brushed on the person I live-tweeted with everything Thursday.

On the surface, we have vastly different lives and interests, but once you’re at a table chatting with a stranger, you realise you may have a thing or two in common. He may his days working with children, and yours are spent in a lab, but you both enjoy cooking and hosting dinner parties.

Having diversity in your network is crucial, especially when you are coming from a background where you’re socialised to interact with similar people. You may be a finance person, but it still may be valuable to know someone in music education, food public relations, local politics, and healthcare. It gives you more options and the more options you have, the greater chance you have at making rational decisions about your life without feeling like this may be your only chance to achieve a particular goal or dream.

 

How to Maintain Weak Ties

A great piece of advice I received in college as to pick one professor from each semester and routinely send them follow up emails once or twice a year on what’s going in your life. That way you know a little about you as the years go on and if you need to ask them for a letter of recommendation, they’ll have something authentic to draw from. A very clever way for an introvert to network. It is also a way to maintain weak ties.

This practice isn’t exclusive to an academic setting. Back in high school, I interned in corporate planning office of a well-known hospital. To this day, I email someone I met there at least once a year. That person also passes information along to others in the office. Just like that, people I met six years ago still know what’s going on in my life. Hell, as I write this, I’m reminded I need to send my former boss a new year/life update email. It may seem daunting, but taking five minutes to send a quick “Hi Jane, I’m doing x, and I hope your job at X is going well,”will go a long way.  If you don’t have their email, look them up on LinkedIn and craft a personal message before you hit that request button. You don’t know who that person might know in your field and what it could become.

As I’ve mentioned before it’s no longer who you know or what you know; it’s what you know, who you know, and how you use the knowledge and connections to your advantage. Be smart about the connections you make and maintain but be sure to bring a level of authenticity and care with it. This is not the time for complete navel-gazing. People like when others ask about their lives, so make sure you have the right balance of this is what I’m doing, but tell me about your life too. That way when Zach in marketing is for someone new to join this team, your weak ties buddy can say,”Hey, I know someone who might be interested. Let me reach out to her.” Yes, you mainly on chat once or twice a year, but you’ve developed a healthy relationship. This person thinks highly of your in some capacity, or they might have ignored your email altogether. All of that to say, don’t underestimate the power of kind human interaction.

All successful interpersonal relationship, on any level, require to bit of work to level each party feeling as if it’s mutually beneficial. So if you aren’t a coffee and chit chat type of person, take those five minutes to send a quick email. It might be the best thing you did for your career.

 

How to do you maintain your weak ties? Do you send out yearly emails to acquaintances? How do you network when you aren’t face to face with other people?

 

Until Next Time,

Aitza B

  • LEWAL

    The defining decade was a great book, and I forgot all about weak ties! Currently, I dont message anyone, but this was great advice !! I will be sure to start keeping in touch with people I’ve met through networking. What do you recommend to saying in the second email if you’re following a bi-annual methodology?

    • It all depends on the person. Sometimes I’ll ask about their family and let them know any side projects I have going on. If I see an article that might interest them that works too.

  • I love this! I always welcome any tips that I can get on networking!

    • Glad it was helpful, Grace.

  • Connecting with professors and just seeing someone every few months is how to develop those relationships

  • Kimberly @ Berly’s Kitchen

    Networking is so important! This is especially true in college and as you get older in life. I think it becomes vital if you work from home or have your own business and need to grow. Networking and building relationships is so important to getting your name out there! Great advice. Really enjoyed this post.

    • Yes to this! It can be so hard when you work remotely, have your own business or you’re removed from an academic setting.

  • Networking is so important, and I never really thought about those “weak” ties. Such a great explanation and tips to maintain them!

    • Glad this was a little informative, Cameron

  • Delaya Briscoe

    As an introvert, I don’t like networking but knownits something I have to do. While I don’t keep in contact with “weak” ties, I’ll be happy to recommend anyone I knew for an opportunity that comes up, of I think they’re capable of it. I think having a good work ethic and being memorable will do good for a “weak” ties connection, even if you aren’t in contact.

    • Awww, that’s awesome you still keep your weak ties in the back of your mind, even though you don’t converse with them on a regular bases. Really speaks to your character, Delaya!

  • Paula Tran

    This is great advice! I never thought about those “weak ties” until now. Very informative piece.

    • glad you found it informative, Paula

  • Censie ‘Mumby’ Sawyer

    Man, since I work at home now I am having to find the best ways to network and making scheduled phone calls and lunches are what really helped me. Get those meetings in the books! Thanks for the great post.

    • It can be such a struggle, especially if your home isn’t located in a central area where most offices are, but when there’s a will there’s a way.

  • Ah, this is so interesting and something I’ve never even considered! Great advice!

    • Glad it gave you something new to consider, Jennifer

  • I find networking so hard, especially trying to keep in contact with people you barely know. These are some great tips, going to have to give them a go!

    • It’s such a draining process for me but I always tell myself good things are worth a little sacrifice.

  • thesophiadiaries

    wow, thank you for sharing such a great piece! i never heard of the term before, but now that i think about it i have a lot of weak ties i never take advantage of. thanks for sharing!!

    • Put them to use at sometime You never know what you might get in return.

  • Anne Belo

    Great advice! I loved reading it.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Anne

  • This was a very interesting read and so many good points– definitely have to give another thought to my weak ties. Thanks for sharing!

    • Glad it was helpful, Amanda.

  • Yes yes yes, you never know where those connections will lead! Networking at its core is just relationship-building. Love this post!

    • Nothing but the truth. Glad you enjoyed, Nicole!

  • Yes, never know what connection will help land something amazing in the future! Solid advice girl, totally agree!

    • Glad you enjoyed this, Alexandra!

  • I love your tips about maintaining connections, that is the part I am the worst at and it is actually one of my goals to be better!

    • It takes a lost of practice. Heaven knows I’m still improving.

  • What a totally eye-opening artikel – in the way you kind of already knew this but actually reading it through just sets into the brain with more impact. I totally believe the power of weak ties – however I have to say the oder I get I am finding it more comforting just being with the more stronger ties. I come from a marketing background and networking was an important factor. Great read.

    • Sometimes you need a little fresher with things like this. Glad it was helpful to you, Meeta.

  • Gemille Sleweon

    Great post. I am a firm believer in “the company you keep” rhetoric and this applies not only in our friendships, but also in our professional relationships. Thanks for sharing!

    • That’s a great way to look at it actually, Gemille.

  • This is such a great post and an interesting way at looking at networking. I always keep business cards on me because you never know. 🙂

    • Yes, that is so useful too. I’ve found so many people on linkedin thanks to business cards they gave out.

  • Such a great post! It’s so hard to keep up with people sometimes – esp when you don’t live nearby or talk much but it’s so important to keep in touch with your connections! Great reminder that I need to check in with some of my old mentors!

  • I’ve never heard this concept before but it makes a ton of sense! My college has a pretty extensive alumni network but I’m never sure how to capitalize on those weak ties when the only thing I have in common with someone is that we have the same alma mater. I’m definitely going to be using this advice.

  • Oooh this was interesting to read! I definitely need to work on this!

  • I really need to work on strengthening my weak ties! Great post!

  • I’m terrible at networking – this is such a useful post!

    Tori

  • This advice is so smart! It is always a good idea to maintain ties with past mentors as you never know when they can help you!

  • I’ve never heard of weak ties before! Thanks for sharing this.

  • Pingback: Screenshot My Month - January 2018 | Petitely Packaged()

  • This was such an interesting reading. I am terrible at networking and I am always so nervous when I have to send follow up emails. I need to do it more often!

  • I love the concept of ‘weak ties.” A great read, thank you!

  • I’ve never heard of this concept, but after you shared more information about it, I definitely think it’s important to have weak ties in all parts of your life. I definitely have some weak ties with people I’ve met through my full-time job, and of course, I have plenty of weak ties with blogging. I never realized the importance of it, but any connection can turn into something significant.

  • This is so great! I agree, it’s important to have weak ties and strong ties.

  • This makes total sense actually! Great advice! I need to read that book!

  • This is something I definitely need to keep in mind and work on, especially within the next year since I’ll start looking for jobs around then!