LinkedIn says your friends might not actually be helping you get a great new job

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(Image credit: / Monkey Business Images)

Your casual workplace or life acquiantances might be having more of an effect on your career than you might expect, new research has claimed.

LinkedIn has published the results of a five-year project involving data from 20 million of its users, analyzing two billion connections between members and the effect they had on 600,000 new jobs on the platform. 

Somewhat surprisingly, it found weak ties were found to increase job mobility in digital industries, while strong ties had the largest effects in less digital industries. Forming connections with people less known to the individual was also found to increase job mobility, though the effects were observed to diminish after a certain point.

LinkedIn People You May Know

The connections were split into two distinct categories: weak ties (merely acquaintances and friends of friends) and strong ties (close friends, family, and colleagues).

In order to understand the significance of networking, the study’s organizers - including representatives from LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, and MIT - applied “randomized experiments” using the social media platform’s “People You May Know” feature, which suggests new connections based on common interests, places of work and study, and other algorithms. In essence, some participants saw more weak ties, while others saw more strong ties in their recommendations. 

While we do not know the optimal level of weak ties, what this study tells us is that having a diverse network is likely to be most beneficial, which we can do by connecting with people in our own industry and people further afield. 

Despite its positive outcome (that is that we now have more data on who is helping us land that dream job), the study is not without its drawbacks. The Register exposes one ethical concern raised by Michael Zimmer, Center for Data, Ethics and Society director at Marquette University.

He says: “The findings suggest that some users had better access to job opportunities or a meaningful difference in access to job opportunities.” 

However, LinkedIn research scientist and one of this study’s authors, Karthik Rajkumar, claims that “no one was put at a disadvantage to find a job.” Ultimately, this data will serve to help LinkedIn and other networking platforms to suggest more relevant people in their algorithms.

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!