How to expand your network

Your career is limited by your weak ties

It was so good to be in Beijing and Shanghai, visiting many family and friends over the past few weeks. Thank you to the many who embraced me with open arms. Here are a few photos from my trip.

I loved being with the exceptional talents at our GlobalRenCai blog parties, and remain inspired by your ambition, talent, and energy.  I was especially delighted by the fact that the events were abuzz with new friendships, not just between you all and me, but amongst all of you.

That’s because it’s these “weak ties” that will give you most of the professional opportunities in your life.

4 out of 5 Job Referrals Are From Weak Ties

The subject of weak ties is explored in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, the most influential American book on marketing and social epidemics. Gladwell writes:

In his classic 1974 study Getting a Job, Granovetter looked at several hundred professional and technical workers… He found that 56 percent of those he talked to found their job through a personal connection. Another 18.8 percent used formal means…This much is not surprising; the best way to get in the door is through a personal contact. But, curiously, Granovetter found that those personal connections, the majority were “weak ties.” Of those who used a contact to find a job, only 16.7 percent saw that contact “often”…People weren’t getting their jobs through their friends. They were getting them through their acquaintances. In other words, your next job will most likely come not from a close friend, but someone you don’t know well.

Joy and blog volunteer Li Jie showing off new pedicures

Since your professional opportunities are limited by your weak ties, make the time to expand your circle of contacts. Now you may say to yourself, “Easy for you to say. But I’m shy.” Well, I was shy too. But little by little I came out of my shell, and in fact, a recent Los Angeles Times profile refers to me simply as “The Networker.”

You can do it, too.

How to Develop Your Weak Ties

Many people spend all their time thinking about how to be strategic for their employers and no time thinking about how to be strategic for themselves. Get started by developing your network of weak ties. It’s easy and fun. Each week, commit to doing just one of the following:

  • Create new weak ties: Attend a networking event in your industry or in an industry you’d like to explore. Go to a party where you’ll meet new people. Get to know someone at your company with whom you don’t interact every day.  Attend a charity event or join a non-profit cause that you believe in. Join a sports team or a hobby group.
  • Reconnect with weak ties: Go through your calendar for the past year, review the events you attended and think about the interesting people you met. Invite someone to tea or to lunch. People like to be wanted! Return to a networking group, or a non-profit cause, where you met interesting people, and touch bases again with the people you met last time.

GlobalRenCai blog Beijing party

Throughout, keep in mind that networking is not about scattering your business cards upon the world. It’s about connecting on a personal level with other human beings. When you go to a party, really connect with two or three people, listen carefully and create a meaningful connection.

That way, when you later come across an interesting article, or job lead, which would interest one of your weak ties, you can send it his or her way. And he or she can do the same for you.

GlobalRenCai blog Shanghai party

As you meet new people, pay particular attention to those with whom you can grow with, learn from, and have fun with in the months and years ahead. You’ll be creating your own mutual-assistance networks.

The exceptional talents among your fellow GlobalRenCai blog readers are a great place to start. I’ve received so many notes saying how much you enjoyed our parties that I’m thinking about coordinating more events for you, even though I myself not be back in China until 2011. So stay tuned to this blog for news of future events.

For more on weak ties, and job-hunting tips in general, click on the image below to watch a TV show that I taped in China for the internet company QQ (Tencent).

Joy discussing weak ties on QQ (click to watch)

Comments in English and Chinese are welcome, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.