I’ve just had a break-neck, jam-packed conversation with an engaging (and uber-clever) family friend. As he is steeped in the Silicon Valley sub-culture, I was regretting that I didn’t have a cheat sheet handy. I am as well-informed concerning Silicon Valley as the next organizational psychologist — and as a result of my current gig — even slightly ahead of the pack. However, I was regretting my medication for spring allergies, as he launched into a perfectly inspiring explanation about how he landed his latest role.
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 followers that you engage at LinkedIn are your weak links. They will likely help you see (and gain) your next opportunity.”
He was absolutely right. Social networks have affected my career in a manner I never dreamed possible.
Slowly, (through my antihistamine fog) I began to realize that we were speaking exactly the same language. Although he was currently one of my “weak links — as we communicate sporadically — we have the ability to support each other to facilitate reaching our goals. We may never work together directly, but that matters little in the larger scheme. There is mutuality in the potential to enhance our paths.
Here are a few highlights of the conversation:
- Progressive ambition. To be frank, we need to stop viewing our career path as set in stone. In fact, we should be open to viewing it as fluid — and 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 come next.
- 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 will impact both work and career. Here is what Gartner said about weak links 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 growing organizations through weak links. We had a great discussion about Andreesson & Horowitz, a Silicon Valley based VC firm that clearly understands this basic. They seek to support and develop the companies they back, with an emphasis on building their extended network. 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?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.