How many friends do you have?
The answer is clearly dependent on how we define friends. But still, in your own definition of a friend, how many would you include on that list?
If we look up any social media platform, many of us have plenty of connections. So… how much of our social network is based on friendship?
North American culture does not have many words to quantify the different levels of friendship, varying from the person that you know from childhood and who you trust with your deep secrets, to the other that you occasionally reply to while reading social media postings. As an interesting fact: what we simply call snow, has tens of specific versions in the Eskimo language. Just look it up.
Let’s now say that you are thinking about changing your job. Who would I share that with first? It is very likely that your close friends will know about your intention before you start broadcasting it to the world.
But how much can they help you? Close friends provide much-needed emotional support, and encouragement, contributing to our well-being, but when it comes to actual job opportunities, the situation counterintuitively changes.
Mark Granovetter, the American sociologist, and professor at Stanford University looked at how people, social networks, and institutions interact. His publication The Strength of Weak Ties. is now recognized as one of the most influential sociology papers ever written.
While preparing his doctoral thesis at Harvard, Granovetter tried to understand how social networks influence the process of finding a job. He discovered that far more people get jobs using social connections that are not the closest to them, (which he called weak ties), compared to job opportunities from close friends, family, or colleagues which he coined as strong ties.
His conclusions state that these occasional acquaintances (people that we meet while attending kids’ sports events, those we meet in the cafeteria while taking lunch, those who walk their dog at the same time we do, the condo residents who we regularly talk to in the elevator, or people with similar cultural background…), are pivotal in new information channel flow.
This strong/weak ties paradox could be explained by the difference in accessing new opportunities. There is significantly more information flow via the weak ties route. This makes sense, as most of the information that our friends have is already shared with us.
Meanwhile, our weak ties, those who are not close friends but not exactly strangers to us, capitalize on an inherent desire to help others. Their reach is significantly greater than that of our trusted friends.
As an added bonus, Ganovetter showed that jobs found via the weak ties route come with higher satisfaction and even higher compensation, a situation especially true for those with higher education.
But the good news doesn’t stop there, as Facebook research confirms that the degrees of separation between a Facebook user and anyone else on Earth, continue to shrink: in 2011, the average connection between a Facebook member and any other person was 3.7 and by 2016 it moved down to 3.5.
Over 200 million job applications are submitted every month on LinkedIn alone. To put it in perspective, the total number of employed people in the entire US is about 158 million in September of 2022.
According to 2022 LinkedIn facts and statistics page, almost half of the social media traffic to a company’s website comes from LinkedIn.
Paul Erdős, the most prolific mathematician of all times by a number of publications, said that when a network is large enough, it behaves as if everything is interconnected. With Facebook getting close to 3 billion users, and Linkedin close to 800 million, we are more connected than ever.
In conclusion, while looking for a job, there is a chance that who you know might create more employment opportunities than what you know. Let’s not discount the value of networking and staying connected to each other.
Information is more valuable when shared.
- Granovetter, M.S. (1973). “The Strength of Weak Ties” (PDF). Am. J. Sociol. 78(6): . doi:10.1086/225469. JSTOR2776392.S2CID 59578641.
- Granovetter, M.S. (1970). Changing Jobs: Channels of Mobility Information in a Suburban Community (Doctoral dissertation). Harvard University. OCLC8156948.
- Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo (2003). Linked – How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life. Plume. ISBN 978-0-452-28439-5.
- Everett Harper, Weak ties matter, Tech Crunch 9 2016), https://techcrunch.com/2016/04/26/weak-ties-matter/, accessed October 30, 2022
- Erdős number – Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erd%C5%91s_number , accessed October 30, 2022
- LinkedIn Facts and Statistics 2022 Edition https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/linkedin-facts-statistics-2022-edition-/, accessed October 30, 2022
- Total Employment: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/emp/graphics/total-employment.htm, accessed October 30, 2022
- Three and a half degrees of separation – Meta Research,https://research.facebook.com/blog/2016/02/three-and-a-half-degrees-of-separation/, accessed October 30, 2022
Mihai Csaki, MD (EU), MCATD
Mihai practiced Emergency Medicine in a busy academic hospital In Romania, and held executive positions in Clinical Research, Sales, Marketing, Pharma distribution, and Occupational medicine, both in Europe and North America.
Mihai also worked in recruitment, career counseling, training, and development, mostly in the pain and oncology-hematology space.
Mihai co-founded and owned several pharmaceutical distribution centers in Romania, a pharmacy, and a dental store and co-founded a Romanian pharmacy and medical software, later acquired by the world leader in life sciences, Cegedim.
For the past 12 years, Mihai helped hundreds of Internationally Educated Healthcare Professionals navigate the complex healthcare landscape for newcomers to Canada.
Today, Mihai is an MSL, located in Canada.