What is a Connection?
We’ve talked a lot about making and maintaining connections in your professional network via LinkedIn, but we haven’t answered the most important question on the topic: what is a connection? To some, the answer may seem obvious, but the definition of a connection can be quite nebulous and hard to pin down due to the changing ways we communicate in our jobs and changing ways we define best practices in the sector.
A connection is someone you know professionally with whom you have (or have the potential for) a mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe the work in the same sector as you, maybe they do similar work to yours, or maybe you just liked each other’s projects and hope to collaborate someday. Your connection are made up of strong ties and weak ties and you can have varying level of contact with your connections, though it’s a good idea to reach out every once in a while to ensure you two are both benefiting from the relationship.
To further understand what a connection is, we need to break down our connections into 2 groups: strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are the kind of connections most people are familiar with. Your strong connections are your co-workers, your boss, your project partners, etc. They are people you see all the time and are regularly communicating with both digitally and in the real world. They are the people you form bonds with and grow to really trust in your professional life.
Weak ties are people you have connected with but don’t see or work with on any sort of regular basis. Weak ties can include former bosses or co-workers, people you met at a conference or networking event, people you have connected with on LinkedIn, etc. These are the people that know you a little bit but aren’t directly or consistently involved in your work.
Understanding the differences between these two types of connections is extremely important to effectively network. To quote careerpivot.com, “strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties serve as bridges.” Strong ties are great to bounce ideas off of and to partner with on projects. This is because of the high level of trust you have in them due to your frequent communication and co-working. Weak ties are the ideal people to ask about opportunities. Too many people think that because strong ties know them the best they are the people to ask about upcoming opportunities, which makes sense, but is actually untrue. Your network of weak ties is much larger than your network of strong ties. In fact, 11% more people heard about job opportunities through weak ties as opposed to those who heard about them through string ties. This is because when you ask your weak connections, for advice about upcoming opportunities, you get more information than you will from your strong connections, many of whom have very similar networks to you.
Your connections are your network and your network is the backbone to community work and employment work. That’s the point of The Community Employment Collaboration: to help keep people connecting and to help people use their networks to benefit the sector as a whole and, most importantly, our clients.
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