Who will help you advance on your career path?

Think of the people you hang out with on the weekend. How do you know them? Did you meet in college? Is one of them a best friend you’ve always done everything with?

Now think of someone from work who is on a different floor than you. Think of someone from a group or organization that you only see at meeting times. Remember the boss from a pass company? Remember that neighbor you’ve been meaning to meet up for drinks with?

Which one of these people do you think will most likely help you advance in your career?

If you picked someone from the second group, then you’re smarter than me.

In The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay explains how it is the people from the second group who help us the most in our careers.

The Urban Tribe vs. Weak Ties

This first group is called an urban tribe. An urban tribe is the mix of your closest friends, the ones you see the most during the week. They are the people you are closest with. They become your new family away from home; your comfort zone.

We find comfort with the urban tribe because it contains a group of like-minded people. These people serve their purpose, and I find very important in personal life, “but while the urban tribe helps us to survive, it does not help us to thrive… It is the people we hardly know – those people who never make it into our tribe – who will swiftly and dramatically change our lives for the better.”

Mark Granovetter conducted a study on social networks, no, not Facebook, the real live social human networks studied in sociology. Listen to the results shared in The Defining Decade,

“…more than three-quarters of new jobs had some from leads from contacts who were seen ‘occasionally’ or ‘rarely’.”

From this study Granovetter wrote a paper entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties” about the untapped potential of people we don’t know well.

I found this to be extremely valuable information. How many times have you neglected to reach out to someone for career advice or reference? I know when I started my job hunt I was extremely nervous and almost uncomfortable contacting people I barely knew. Reading this chapter from The Defining Decade really empowered me to not be afraid. For me, it reassured that this is someone that people do.

It is not irregular. It is not over stepping boundaries. It is not taking advantage of someone.

It is standard procedure. It is networking. It is a favor that gets paid forward.

This last part, a favor that gets paid forward, is what eases my nerves the most. It comforts me to know that my weak tie had a weak tie help him/her when he/she first started. Maybe one day I will be someone’s weak tie and I will be more than happy to help them.

Do you agree with the strength in weak ties? Have you seen examples of this?

*All quotes from this post and this post series come from The Defining Decade and should be accredited to Dr. Meg Jay.*

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