A team of MIT, Harvard and Stanford scientists found weak relationships more beneficial for job seekers on LinkedIn Career Climbers / 20 September 2022
Employment is a critical issue affecting the economy, and it has gained even more attention during the pandemic, with millions of jobs being lost or changed around the world. As much of the economy becomes digital, it is important to consider the impact of social media and social networks on jobs. A team of researchers from Harvard, Stanford, MIT and LinkedIn, led by recent Stanford and MIT PhD graduates Karthik Rajkumar and Guillaume Saint-Jacques, and MIT Sloan School of Management Prof. Sinan Aral, Stanford Prof. Eric Brynjolfson and Harvard Business School. Pro. Ivor Bozinov recently conducted the largest experimental study ever conducted on the impact of social media on the labor market and found that weak social ties have a more beneficial effect on job mobility than strong ties.
One of the most influential social theories of the past hundred years, the ‘strength of weak ties’, maintains that shorter, arms-length relationships—known as weak ties—than strong ties lead to employment opportunities, promotions, and more. and are more profitable for wages. , Despite having more than 65,000 citations over the past 50 years, there has been no large-scale experimental causal test of this theory as it pertains to employment,” says Aral.
“In our recent paper, my colleagues and I presented the first large-scale, longitudinal, experimental evidence on causal effects of strong and weak relationships on job mobility,” says Rajkumar. Their paper, “A causal test of the strength of the weak relationship,” was just published by Science.
The strength of weak ties theory is based on the idea that weak ties allow distant groups of people to access new information that can lead to new opportunities, innovation, and increased productivity. The author of this theory, Mark Grenower, argued in 1973 that weak ties are particularly helpful in providing new employment opportunities because they present novel labor market information to a wider social network. Nevertheless, the largest empirical tests of this theory to date were the finding that scientists employed “a paradox of weak relationships”, in which stronger relationships, not weaker ones, were employable. Unfortunately, since these previous studies were not experimental, they could not reliably ascribe causal effects to weak and strong relationships on labor mobility.
In their study, the research team overcame these obstacles by conducting five years of experiments on LinkedIn with 20 million people worldwide, during which 600,000 new jobs were created. As noted by Saint-Jacques: “We used data from large-scale randomized experiments conducted on LinkedIn’s “People You May Know” (PYMK) algorithm to test the weak tie theory and its impact on the labor market.” did.”
By randomly assigning some LinkedIn users to receive more weak tie recommendations from the PYMK algorithm and other users to receive more strong tie recommendations, and then examining the labor dynamics of the two groups over five years, their analysis found Affirmed that weak ties likely increased job mobility the most. But the researchers also found an inverse U-shaped relationship between tie strength and job mobility, with moderately weak ties increasing job mobility the most and the strongest ties increasing job mobility the least.
“It’s not a matter of ‘weaker is better’ or ‘stronger is worse,'” Bozinov explains. “Our results suggest that the greatest job mobility comes from moderately weak relationships—the social relationship between the weakest relationships and average relationship strength relationships.”
In addition, the researchers looked at differences across industries and found that linking weak ties significantly increases labor market dynamics in digital and high-tech sectors of the economy. Weak ties led to more job applications than strong ties in industries more suited to IT intensity, software intensity, robotization and machine learning, artificial intelligence and remote working. “The strength of the weak relationship was true on average, but was even stronger for jobs in more digital industries,” Brynjolfsson says.
He points out that the traditional methods used by policymakers to analyze labor markets are incomplete and are quickly becoming obsolete. “Policy makers need to recognize that the labor market, like all aspects of the economy, is being digitised.” Brinzolfson emphasized the importance of understanding how digital platforms’ algorithms affect the labor market, employment rates, and the broader health of the global economy. “These digital platforms and the algorithms that drive them have become essential labor market drivers.”
In addition, Aral noted that social media companies can use this information in their platform design to increase economic value for employers and employees. “LinkedIn is ahead of the game in its scientific approach to platform design. They actively seek scientific answers to the most pressing questions about the health of their platform and its impact on employers, employees, and the economy as a whole.”
For employers and job applicants, this study highlights the importance of proactively managing social networks to ensure they are as broad as possible. “Weak ties on social networks can be an extremely useful part of managing your career, promotion, advancement, and even wages,” says Aral.