Three months ago, my friend began searching for new employment due to a shake-up with his at-the-time employer. We met from time to time, and I would ask how his job search was going. Just when I stopped asking (because I didn’t want to bring up the frustration that accompanies the job search process), he shared that he had an exciting job offer. This offer came from an employer where he had a personal connection to a manager in a different department.
This story is quite common. Research has historically suggested that people often find jobs through their networks. In other words, our relationships have benefits during our job search. Yet, when you begin searching for a new job, it is difficult to know who you should reach out to and for what type of assistance. Here are a few evidence-based suggestions for who to ask:
Friends at work. In a recent study, my colleagues and I show that current job seekers tend to have more concrete job prospects when they have high-quality relationships with friends at work. Not only are work friends a source of information about professional norms, employers, and job leads in your occupation or industry, but they are also motivated to assist you due to your close personal bond.
Friends (or contacts) of friends. One of the most effective ways to identify job opportunities is to ask your friends to ask their contacts about job lead information or to connect you with their contacts whom you do not know. Doing so allows you to connect to people outside of your own network and leverage the goodwill your friend has with his/her connections. Indeed, a recent study based on LinkedIn networks and job postings illustrated that “moderately weak ties”—those ties with whom one has limited overlapping connections—tend to be one of the most effective sources for finding jobs.
Contacts in your industry. Maintaining involvement in professional or community groups creates serendipitous avenues for future employment opportunities. The longer you are part of a community, the more people you become acquainted with and the more likely it is that you will receive job lead information from acquaintances in your profession.
During your job search process, it is important to lean into your relationships, including people you are already close to as well as those who are more distant in your network.