I’m Betting on “Weak Links” for My Next Career Move: You Should Too

How we explore next steps in our career paths has changed over the years. That shouldn’t come as a surprise — but it still catches me off guard at times. I’ve just had a break-neck, jam-packed conversation with a very engaging family friend. As he works in Silicon Valley, I briefly regretted that I didn’t have a detailed cheat sheet handy. Careers can evolve quickly there — so I listened closely as he launched into a perfectly inspiring explanation about how he landed his latest role. It was a very interesting chat.

We discussed “weak links” and “progressive ambition” (more on these below) — topics which will likely impact most of our career paths going forward. As he aptly pointed out, “Your connections/followers that you engage with at LinkedIn are your weak links. They will likely help you see (and gain) your next opportunity.” He is absolutely right. I see that.

Social networks have affected my career in a manner that I never dreamed of, even 5 years ago. Your extended network will likely play a much stronger role than in the past. In this case, even though this individual is currently one of my “weak links” — as we communicate sporadically — we have the ability to support each other. We may never work together directly, however that matters little in the larger scheme. However, there is mutuality in the potential to enhance our paths, broaden our perspective and visualize the future.

Here are a few highlights of the conversation:

Progressive Ambition. To be frank, we need to stop viewing our career paths as set in stone. We should be open to viewing it as fluid — even a bit murky. We’ll only see what’s next as we move through the steps. As we stand on one step’s shoulders, only then will we see what might exist at the horizon.

The Power of Weak Links. We haven’t fully embraced the power of the weaker links or “nodes” within our social networks — and we must try to do so. These weak links can impact both how we work and our career paths. Here is what Gartner said about weak links and “work swarms” in this classic 2010 post:

In swarms, if individuals know each other at all, it may be just barely, via weak links. Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. They are indirect indicators and rely, in part, on the confidence others have in their knowledge of people. Navigating one’s own personal, professional and social networks helps people develop and exploit both strong and weak links and that, in turn, will be crucial to surviving and exploiting swarms for business benefit.

We can nurture organizations through weak links. We had an interesting discussion about Andreesson & Horowitz, a Silicon Valley based VC firm that embraces this basic. They seek to support and develop the companies with an emphasis on building extended networks. In terms of meeting the talent needs, they view themselves as a talent agency (Think of Hollywood’s CAA) — providing research concerning potential candidates for the start-ups they represent. Ultimately, they understand that when their portfolio of companies flourish, so do stakeholders.

How have your “weak links” pushed you forward? How do you nurture this part of your network?

A version of this was published on LinkedIn.

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