Friday, November 21, 2008

Turn to your friends

Drawing inspiration from Tropic Thunder, Career Diva has a post on turning to your friends in a workplace crisis. Her thoughts are pop-y and timely, but this is a really old career idea: the strength of weak ties.

In 1973, Marc Granovetter wrote an article, The Strength of Weak Ties, where he explored how a group of people found work in Boston. Based on his research, which he later turned into a book called Getting a Job, he suggested that people can use their social ties for different results when finding a new job. First, the type of tie you use is important:
  • A strong tie, like a family member or person who has a deep connection to you, can help you find work, but sometimes in a different industry (mainly because they are in a different industry, and hear about different opportunities and because they might not know what librarians, for example, do for a living) and they are highly motivated, because of their close connection to you, to help you find work. 
  • Weak ties, on the other hand, are your acquaintances, people who you have a looser connection to, maybe even friends of friends, who are usually in the same industry, and who hear about more relevant job opportunities, but who have less incentive to help you because they are more distant to you personally.
So close=more love, but less relevance, and weak=less interest, but more relevance.

Now other people have explored the weak tie theory--especially when examining social networks--and they have drawn some conclusions, such as college students aren't so good at activating weak ties because they don't have a broad network of industry contacts, and they tend to turn to family and friends for assistance. Others suggest that activating a weak tie can keep you within your industry, whereas relying on a strong tie can help you transition into a new industry.

But the one thing research agrees on is that no matter how weak or strong the tie, you have be vocal. You must say: I'm looking for a job, do you know of any openings?

Here is how you can start activating your ties:

  • We are not all in competition with one another. You may be surrounded by library students who are all going into the job market at the same time, but you are not all competing for the same positions. Some of you want to be children's librarians, archivists, media specialists, corporate librarians, so you are all part of the industry of knowledge work, but not all competing in the same sectors. But you need to start an exchange of postings and job information. To do that you...
  • Need to speak up. This is time to talk about careers and how to find them. It is also the time to get in touch with former co-workers and supervisors and go to coffee. The holidays can offer great opportunities to mix and mingle, but you have to talk.
  • It's time to bring in the experts with exposure to industry, and a variety of sectors. If there was ever a time to form a job club in your library school, get in guest speakers who can talk about resume writing, interview skills and finding internships, it's now. Panelists, speakers and librarians invited to parties should represent all types of library work, and should also include a generous helping of self-employed librarians. These guests should include new and established librarians, since new librarians can talk about how they recently found their jobs and established librarians can open the channels of communication to their library contacts.
 If this sounds suspiciously like networking, you're right. But what do you do if you aren't good at networking?

1 comment:

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