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Examining the strength of weak ties in the 21st century

A Harvard Business Review article released in 2017 entitled “‘A Friend of a Friend’ Is No Longer the Best Way to Find a Job” attempts to assert that workplace ties, as opposed to weak ties, are the best method to find a job. The author, Ilana Gershon, suggests that while Granovetter’s theory was revolutionary at the time, perhaps over the past several decades the way in which we receive information about jobs has changed. Her research showed that, of individuals who believed networking was helpful in finding their job, only 17% of 141 people said that a weak tie was helpful. Over 60%, however, reported that someone they used to work with helped them find their next jobs (including coworkers, bosses, and clients).

Gershon attributes this change to the difference in circumstances between 2017 and the 1970s, particularly in regard to media. In the 70s, the biggest hurdle in finding a new job was finding out that it existed, whereas now people can find jobs through recruiters, LinkedIn, corporate sites, etc. The accessibility of these listings has led to a drastic increase in the number of applicants, making it hard to stand out in a stack of hundreds of resumes. With this in mind, an employee referral often serves as the most effective way to do so and obtain a new job.

As we have discussed in lecture, Granovetter’s theory on weak ties has provided great insight on how networks function and how novel information travels to individuals. In reading the attached article, I found several of the author’s points to be interesting additions to Granovetter’s framework. After all, the evolution of technology and social media has redefined how we interact, making it easier than ever to preserve weak ties through electronic forms of communication. I do think, however, that this article takes a very narrow viewpoint, focusing only on the process of securing a job rather than finding out about a new job. I also would imagine that a coworker would typically move to a different job within the same industry, making a workplace tie a poor method to discover “novel information” or gain exposure to a new field. Overall though, the article is an interesting examination of “the strength of weak ties” in the modern day.


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September 2018