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Analyzing Professional Networks on LinkedIn

In a society where technology dominates nearly every aspect of our lives, even professional networking has an online presence through the popular platform, LinkedIn. Once a person has a complete and up-to-date profile, he/she can use LinkedIn to establish connections with fellow students, alumni, faculty, employers, etc. This is done by sending and accepting connection requests. Building these professional connections leads to a network that can be very interesting to analyze.

In the immense network graph of LinkedIn, it is obvious that the nodes represent people, and the edges represent professional links. These edges, however, offer different forms of interpretation. On the LinkedIn platform, connections are categorized as 1st-degree (direct connection), 2nd-degree (people who are connected to your 1st-degree connections), and 3rd-degree (people who are connected to your 2nd-degree connections).

Thus, one way to interpret this network is to picture a graph where an edge is considered a strong tie if it is a 1st-degree connection, an edge is considered a weak tie if it is a 2nd-degree connection, and there are no edges for 3rd-degree connections and beyond. By constructing the graph this way, we can easily see that this entire network satisfies the Strong Triadic Closure Property, since all nodes satisfy it. For any node that has two strong ties (two 1st-degree connections), the two endpoints of that node have a weak tie since they are a 2nd-degree connection, by definition. What’s interesting is that because of the mutually strong ties, these two people are very likely to establish a direct connection themselves at some point in the future (because they go to the same school, work in the same company, etc.).

Another way to interpret this network is to picture a graph where there is no notion of strength, but merely the presence of an edge for 1st-degree connections and the lack of an edge otherwise. This is a notable interpretation of the network because on LinkedIn, only direct connections can message one another (for job inquiries or to express interest), receive updates about someone’s professional status, etc. In addition, there could be bridges/local bridges in the network (connecting components of the graph). The people represented by such nodes provide other people in separate components with a means to access parts of the network that would otherwise be unreachable. For instance, one component could be the subgraph representing a company network, and another component could be the subgraph representing a university network. Thus, the bridge provides a means for someone else from the university to join the company (first through an employee referral, then interview, and so on).




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