A job seeker recently came to me with a problem. They’d been looking everywhere for the right job, and they had finally found it. It was just the role they were looking for, and their skills were a perfect match. Even better, a close friend had connections within the company and offered to advocate for the job seeker. It seemed to be a slam dunk opportunity — until something went wrong. The close friend didn’t follow through. The job seeker didn’t get the role.
Has something similar ever happened to you? This kind of story is, sadly, all too common. Even people we think we can count on can drop the ball and disappoint us.
Let me tell you a secret: The people who can really help you land a job are rarely the ones you’d expect. You’re likely to get the most assistance from fairly random connections — people whom organizational psychologist Tanya Menon calls “weak ties.”
Weak ties, according to Menon, are “your ticket to a whole new social world.” This is because our weak ties are usually people who are quite different from us, as opposed to our closest friends, who usually share much in common with us. While our closest friends run in the same circles we do, our weak connections are plugged into total different social networks.
By opening yourself up to people who are different from you, you’re unlocking a world of possibilities. You’re creating a new network that may help you find new opportunities you would never otherwise come across.
So, how do you expand your network and get more weak ties in there? It can be tricky at first. In her TED Talk, Menon suggests making unusual choices during your daily routine — such as taking a new route to the coffee machine. This simple change can bring you in contact with tons of new people.
I strongly believe in this idea, so much so that I occasionally take it to the extreme. For example, I once took a salsa dancing class in Stockholm. I also attended a hackathon in Sydney.
You would be amazed at how many new connections you can make when you do something unusual. I’m certain I met no tourists in Stockholm or Sydney. The participants in those events were all locals, and I learned so much to which I would never have otherwise been exposed.
A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.