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Social Capital Helps You Find a Better Job

Written by: Bill Sherman on Tuesday, 8 July 2008, 11:42 AM

Many people use their network to find a job. However, can you use your network to find a better job? Or if you just were let go from a company, how can you make yourself more competitive than other job seekers? That’s the question that Bonnie Erickson asked when she conducted research with security-industry employees (from high prestige jobs to low-prestige jobs).

Attention has been limited to hiring through networks not hiring for networks. Yet results . . . show that employers prefer to hire people with greater social capital for many upper-level jobs, and that employees with greater social capital get better jobs whether they were hired through personal contacts or not.

Let’s look at that line once again, because the significance is very important. If you have a stronger network, then employers perceive you as more eligible and attractive for higher-level jobs.

Many people are familiar with Mark Granovetter’s research on the “Strength of Weak Ties.” That classic research shows that people who find jobs through their network tend to locate them through acquaintances rather than close friends. Granovetter’s research presents a core, early finding about social capital.

However, Erickson’s research takes this conjecture one step further. When you go into an interview, you bring along your human capital–your past experience and your education. Yet, you also bring your social capital with you. That social capital offers value to the potential employer. It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know.

It doesn’t matter whether you get to the interview through a strong-relationship (immediate friend), a weak-tie relationship (acquaintance), a newspaper ad, or Monster.com. Your social capital is an asset that you bring with you to every interview. How can you make the most of it?

Eriskson, Bonnie H. “Good Networks and Good Jobs: The Value of Social Captial to Employees and Employers.” in Social Capital: Theory and Research. Lin, Burt, and Cook eds. 3rd ed. Transactions: New Brunswick, NJ 2007. 127-158.

One Response to “Social Capital Helps You Find a Better Job”

  1. David Crowley Says:

    thanks for highlighting & summarizing this research. I reference the Granovetter & similar studies a lot in talking about the importance of social capital; this study definitely puts an interesting spin on it.

    July 9th, 2008 7:50 am

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