Sep 18, 2008

“Strength of Weak Ties”: Revisiting Granovetter

In his classic sociological article, “The Strength of Weak Ties,”(American Journal of Sociology 1973) Mark Granovetter demonstrates how social activity influences labor markets. In this and other work (including a follow up article in Sociological Theory in 1985 and his book, Getting a Job, from University of Chicago Press, 1995), Granovetter systematically explores how 282 men in the U.S. found their jobs.  His work has not only provides evidence for the truism that “it’s not what you know but who you know,” it also illustrates how social activity and labor markets overlap and interact with one another.    

Today, connections such as the “weak ties” Granovetter identified still matter.  Only now, these weak ties are mediated through the Internet, and in particular, through social networking sites, such as FacebookMySpace, and the much more buttoned-down LinkedIn.  These websites are increasingly becoming  platforms from which people network for job leads and forge professional contacts, Stephanie Rosenbloom notes in a recent piece in the New York Times.

In that article, Rosenbloom cites several examples of people who found their current jobs via a social networking site, and this trend is coming to higher education hiring as well.   Rosenbloom quotes Marilyn Mackes, the executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, about their 2008  survey of employers which found that whereas in the past they used social-networking sites “to check profiles of potential hires,” said  today “more than half will use the sites to network with potential candidates.”

While one blog refers to Rosenbloom’s article as “modernizing Granovetter’s hypothesis,” it doesn’t quite rise to that level of analysis.  

There are still lots of questions about how we should think about the “strength of weak ties” in the digital era.


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