Professional Network with Weak Ties

TieWhether you’re a job seeker or new entrepreneur, you might be surprised at the hidden value that lies in your professional network. Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, found that weak ties — those folks you haven’t talked to in years — are the key to success. It’s counter intuitive, I know.

You’d think that strong personal relationships (with people who you have known or worked closely with over the years) would be likely to connect you with opportunities. The reality is that those close connections are likely run in the same circles as you. ¬†Grant’s research found that executives received more valuable solutions or referrals from those whom they hadn’t connected to in years.

Morale of the Story

I’ve got three pieces of advice for those who are looking for their next gig… whether its a new job or the new client:

1. Cultivate LinkedIn Network

Many 40+ somethings hold the attitude of “I only want to link with people I know.” They make a conscious decision to only accept or extend LinkedIn invitations to individuals they have met or had a conversation. While I’m not suggesting you become a LION — one who connects with everybody and anybody — I am going to challenge your thinking. Silicon Valley is notorious for networking with powerful connectors. Are you making it more difficult for yourself unnecessarily?

2. Get Clear on Your “Ask”

I’ve found that most people are very willing to help others… when they know what specifically is needed. Don’t waste opportunities by making unclear requests. Let me provide an example. I had a client who was looking for a mid-level marketing position. Rather than asking his network about any marketing openings in the San Jose area, the ask was this: “I’m looking for connections to marketing directors who are looking to expand their marketing automation capabilities through software like Marketo. While I have experience with manufacturing, I’m researching a fit in these industries…” See the difference?

3. Push Your Comfort Zone

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. If your current networking efforts aren’t getting the results you seek, do something different. There are literally hundreds of in-person networking events in the Bay Area a month. Check out Meetup.com or WorkIt.com to find events near your zip code. Lastly, you can also have meaningful discussions and connections via LinkedIn Groups. Strike up a dialogue by posting an intriguing question.

Where are your weak ties? Identify three people you haven’t connected with in at least a year. Give them a call. What do you have to lose?

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