Social Networks and Getting a Job: Mark Granovetter
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Social Networks and Getting a Job: Mark Granovetter


[MUSIC PLAYING] People think social networks
is a new idea, a new thing to study. And in fact
anthropologists started talking about social networks
probably in the 1930s. And mathematicians were talking
about them in the 1950s. And sociologists
started picking up on social networks in the 1960s. So I wanted to do
a dissertation that showed how interesting and
important social networks were. It seemed to me that one of the
biggest sources of inequality in our society, in almost any
modern industrial society, is differences in the rewards
to different jobs people have. So if you could show that
people found their jobs through social
networks, then that would mean that social networks
were a big part of where inequality is coming from. Instead of studying,
as I wanted to, men and women and blue-collar
and white-collar workers, I only studied male
professional, technical, and managerial workers,
because that was manageable. And it was already
as many people as I could possibly handle. Professional, technical,
and managerial workers are what we might call
higher white-collar workers — doctors and lawyers and teachers
and professors and managers and engineers and scientists and
people who do technical work. So I found directories
for the city of Newton. And from these
directories, I chose a sample of people who had
recently changed from one job to another. Almost every single person
either let me into their house and was interviewed right
on the spot or said well, we’re in the middle of
dinner or something, but come back on Saturday. So I ended up with
100 people who fit the sample criteria that
they changed jobs recently. And then once I had to
interviewed those people and had some sense
of what was going on, then I could write
a survey instrument that I mailed out to another
couple of hundred people. And I got 182 of those back. A lot of times when
people would tell me that they found their job
through someone they knew, I would say to them, oh, so you
found a job through a friend. And over and over again,
people would correct me and say, no, no,
no, not a friend, just an acquaintance,
just an acquaintance. When you hang around
with your best friends, they tend to know each other. And you form a clique with them. And their best friends are
kind of the same as your best friends. So if you want new
information, if you want to be clued in
on the latest styles or trends or
information, then you ought to go to your weak ties,
your seventh and eighth best friends. They’re in different
circles from your circle, and they connect you
to those other circles. In a sense, they are your
windows on the world. Most of the people who
change jobs, in my study, were changing them voluntarily. So that almost never
happens unless people think the new job is a better job. So if they really wanted
information about new jobs, about jobs they weren’t going
to hear about any other way, they were finding it through
acquaintances and not through their close friends. The majority of these
workers had found their jobs through personal contacts. It was 56%. And what was really interesting
to me was that more than 3/4, just a bit more than 75% of
those in the highest income categories, had found their
jobs through personal contacts. So this effect is much
stronger among people who are at the top of the
stratification hierarchy. So this meant to me that social
networks were particularly important in channeling
people into the best jobs that the economy had to offer. It turned out that
people who had been in one job for a
very long time in a place where other people had been
in a job for a very long time had a lot of trouble changing
jobs when they had to. Because they just didn’t know
people in other companies. People, on the other
hand, at the bottom end, who would change their
job every few months, they weren’t in those jobs
long enough to really make contacts that mattered. The people whose average job
tenures was two to five years were more likely to find
new jobs through weak ties than people whose average
job tenure was very long or very short. Employers prefer to hire
through social networks. They trust the information
better about people that they’re going to hire. And that’s why they go
through current employees. People use the internet for job
searches — we have LinkedIn, we have all kinds of services. And so people may wonder,
how can any of this still be relevant? People will still continue to
trust people they know better to find out about
places they might work and about employees
they might hire than they will some impersonal
source that is online. One of the
consequences of that is that if there is a group that
has very poor representation in an occupation or in some
sector of the labor market, then it’s going to be hard
for that group to break in. One way that social policy can
be efficient, as well as not just effective,
but even efficient, is if it makes use of
natural social network processes that people are
going to engage in anyway. So if white males can
use social networks to bring more white
males into their firms or into their industries,
into their professions, then they have an
unfair advantage. Because if there are no such
people who are black or Asian or some other ethnic or
racial group who are already in the company, then there
is a disadvantage there that has nothing to
do with qualifications and just has to do
with the history of why those people aren’t in
there in the first place. Affirmative action
can prime the pump by putting a small number,
however many people, into that segment of
the labor market who are in this underrepresented group. And once those people
are there, they can then do what comes
naturally to them, which is to bring
the people they know into the company in the
way that everyone else does. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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