I used to think (and teach) that to grow a powerful professional network, you should focus on deep connections with people where the relationship is built on mutual trust and respect.
I’m talking about your social connections with those who know you best and want to see you succeed. I thought that circle of people would help the most in a job search or launching a business. The strength and value of your network are based on the quality of connections you have, not the number of connections.
I was so wrong.
A Massive LinkedIn Study Reveals Real Strength in Weak Connections
A team of researchers from Stanford, MIT, Harvard, and LinkedIn recently conducted a massive study about how people use social media to find jobs. They found that people with more weak connections — people they knew casually but didn’t consider close friends — were more successful at finding jobs.
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 2 million job seekers and discovered that having weak ties helped people land better jobs. Moderately weak ties (measured by mutual connections) and the weakest ties (measured by interaction intensity) created the most job mobility. While the strength of weak ties varies by industry, they increase job mobility most for technological industries.
In addition, people with many weak ties tended to have larger networks overall. So it makes sense that they’re able to connect with more people. If you want to improve your chances of landing a great job, you should focus on building stronger connections with people outside your immediate circle.
For finding job opportunities, a person’s network size matters much more than the quality of their relationships.
What if, like me, you built your online network thinking the opposite? What can you do?
Fortunately, making the shift is easy.
Make the Shift to Grow A Powerful Professional Network
Random connections with just anyone are not the helpful connections I’m talking about.
You need to add to your network a targeted set of connections with people who are essentially strangers. Keep your close connections, yes, but add connections with people you don’t know well. LinkedIn makes this easy.
I recommend a 2-part strategy for my clients, and you can adapt it for your own network.
Part 1: People in Your Industry
Use LinkedIn’s search feature to search for 2nd and 3rd connections with individuals in your industry at and above your level. I suggest keeping it simple by searching for job titles (e.g., CEO, CIO, CTO, and CPO are a good place to start.)
Take a look at their profile and send an invite to connect with a brief but personal message. Here is an example:
I came across your profile on LinkedIn recently while searching for tech leaders I’d like to add to my network.
I enjoy your posts on [subject]. OR I find your career path interesting.
I’d like to connect with you here on LinkedIn if you’re open to that.
Part 2: Executive Recruiters
Now, use LinkedIn’s search feature to search for individuals with the job title ‘executive recruiter.’
Look at their profile and send an invite to connect with a brief personal message, something like:
I’ve been enjoying your posts on LinkedIn. <— if it applies (or just use the paragraph below)
I’m looking to expand my network of executive recruiters who work in Tech and came across your profile. I’d like to connect with you here on LinkedIn if you’re open to that.
Depending on your current position, they might reply and ask if you are hiring. To that, you can reply with the following:
Not right now, I’m not. However, I am actively looking for my next opportunity. If you’d like to chat about that, I’d be happy to do so. Message me here, and we can set up a time to talk.
Tips for Executing This Strategy
LinkedIn limits you to 100 invitations per week. I recommend sending 5 invitations per day to get started. It won’t take long. Just invite and move on. If you have the time, send more.
As you progress with your job search, you will be able to reach out to your fresh 1st connections and ask for help. Find those connected to a company you’d like a referral or introduction to.
If you’re not actively looking for a job and an executive recruiter asks if you’re hiring, say ‘contemplating my next opportunity‘ instead of ‘actively looking for my next opportunity’ in your response.
Either way, it won’t take long to grow a powerful professional network. Best of all, your newly expanded list of weak connections will be the key to both your visibility and your success.