Building on Weak Ties, a Chapter from the Third Edition of Repurpose Your Career [Podcast] – Career Pivot

Building on Weak Ties, a Chapter from the Third Edition of Repurpose Your Career [Podcast] - Career Pivot

Episode #134 – Marc Miller reads a chapter from the upcoming third edition of his book, Repurpose Your Career.


The chapter, “Building on Weak Ties,” from the upcoming third edition of Repurpose Your Career, introduces the principle of weak ties, or former colleagues and associates who are able to connect you to an expanded network of information and opportunities. Marc explains the theory of weak ties and gives practical advice on how to reintroduce yourself to your weak ties and enlist that help to find employment opportunities. Marc shares how a client, Steve was able to discover an invaluable network of his weak ties, and land a job, using only one-on-one contacting, starting with LinkedIn. Finally, Marc offers an action plan for cultivating your own weak ties. Listen in to learn how your weak ties can be your strongest assets.

Key Takeaways:

[1:14] Marc welcomes you to Episode 134 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot is the sponsor of this podcast; is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.

[1:44] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc reaches, the more people he can help.

[2:04] Marc has released four chapters of the next edition of Repurpose Your Career to the Repurpose Your Career review team. A fifth chapter will be released in the coming weeks. Sign up to be part of the review team at

[2:24] You will receive new chapters as they become available. Marc is looking for honest feedback and would love to get an honest review on after the book is released.

[2:35] Marc’s plan is to release the book in late-September and do both a virtual and a real book tour. He will be in Austin, the NYC Area, and D.C. during the months of September and October. Marc would love to meet his readers and listeners.

[2:52] Reach out to Marc at [email protected] if you’d be willing to give him some advice on venues or groups who would be interested in hosting an event.

[3:02] Next week, Marc will discuss online networking with his good friend and colleague, Hannah Morgan, a.k.a. Career Sherpa.

[3:15] This week, Marc reads the next preview chapter from Repurpose Your Career, “Building on Weak Ties.” This chapter was supposed to be in the last edition but it got dropped in editing. From early comments from the Repurpose Your Career Review Team, this is proving to be a very impactful chapter. Marc hopes you enjoy it.

Now on to the podcast…

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[3:43] “Building on Weak Ties.” People tend to make a very short list of who can help them in their job search; the same people they might ask to help them move — very close friends. That’s a big mistake.

[4:06] In 1973, Johns Hopkins sociologist, Mark Granovetter, wrote a paper called “The Strength of Weak Ties.” Malcolm Gladwell brought this paper to the world’s attention in his book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Granovetter was exploring the relationships we have with people we know slightly or by reputation.

[4:29] Granovetter postulated that we might be more influenced by people with whom we have weak ties than those with whom we have strong ties. If your best friend buys bright orange shoes, you might think that’s crazy. If you suddenly see people wearing bright orange shoes, your perspective might shift. You start to think it’s a trend.

[5:00] Granovetter was talking about the distribution of ideas but the same thing works with behavior. If your partner says your sense of humor is inappropriate, you might take offense. If someone you know slightly through business ties tells you the same thing, you will probably give the thought a lot more weight.

[5:29] When you talk to those with whom you have strong ties, you don’t give them your background. When you talk with those with you know less well, you are more explicit. You need to state exactly what you want and why. This can force you to articulate for yourself what you need.

[6:00] A great explanation from the Changing Minds website says “In the familiarity of strong ties, we use simple, restrictive codes where much is implicit and taken for granted. In communicating through weak ties, we need more explicit elaborated codes for meaning to be fully communicated.” Elaboration gives more scope for creativity.

[6:27] Elaboration stimulates thought. Innovation becomes a likely result. The more weak ties we have, the more connected to the world we are. We are more likely to receive important information about ideas, threats, and opportunities in time to respond to them.

[6:42] Our acquaintances’ networks and our networks have a very small intersection. Our weak ties know people that we don’t know. This makes them very valuable during a career move. Your weak ties are all the people you’ve ever worked with, volunteered with, belonged to organizations with, been neighbors with, or watched kids’ sports with.

[7:14] You might think you could never reach out to those people since they are virtual strangers. Marc was introduced to the concept of weak ties through the book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, by Adam Grant. Grant writes about Granovetter’s survey of professionals who had recently changed jobs.

[7:43] Granovetter wrote that about 17% heard about the job from a strong tie. Their friends and trusted colleagues gave them plenty of leads. Surprisingly, people were more likely to benefit from weak ties. Almost 28% heard about the job from a weak tie. Strong ties provide bonds but weak ties serve as efficient bridges to new information.

[8:10] Strong ties travel in the same circles and know the same opportunities as we do. Weak ties open new networks with new opportunities.

[8:27] Everyone you’ve ever worked with or known has gone on to new jobs, made new friends, and created new business contacts. By this calculation your network is huge! For a variety of reasons, it is tough to ask weak ties for help.

[8:58] Ask yourself, “What would I do if the shoe was on the other foot?” You can expect your weak ties to respond to you the way you would respond to them.

[9:20] Be a giver. In the workplace, there are givers, takers, and matchers. Givers do prosper and takers don’t. Givers look for opportunities to help. Marc explains how a giver is motivated.

[9:59] Takers are always self-interested. They look for what they can get out of a relationship or exchange. Marc talks about a taker’s motivation. These are not good sources of help.

[10:21] Matchers will give if they can see a personal benefit arising from it. They don’t want to give more than the other person or team. Marc explains the behavior of matchers. They will help you if they can see how you can help them back. They are the most common workplace type.

[10:57] The lines between these styles are not “hard and fast.’ You have probably worked with all three. You can spot the differences between these types at a networking event. Marc tells how to see it.

[11:34] If you recognize yourself as a taker, now is a good time to assess and change your behavior. What is your mindset when you interact with people? Is it to make a friend, see if you can help, or to quickly run through all the ways this person could help you? If that’s the way you’re thinking, you probably haven’t built many bridges.

[11:55] Your first order of business might be to start looking for places to give. Volunteer. Answer questions on social media threads if you have expertise. Offer to mentor or assist former colleagues or acquaintances who can benefit from your knowledge base.

[12:13] If you’re a giver, it may be even more challenging for you to ask others for anything. It’s actually easier to give than it is to be the one who needs help. You’d like people to respond to your giving. Many people are actually delighted to give back.

[12:39] Marc shares the example of working with Steve, an introverted account manager. He was a “farmer” who was very good at cultivating relationships. Then his job was cut and he was scared. Marc used the Birkman Assessment and the Career Pivot evaluation process with Steve to analyze his needs and personality.

[13:41] From the evaluation, they created a set of branding statements to work with. They reworked his LinkedIn profile focusing on the complex products he sold in his previous position.

[13:56] Marc developed a set of open-ended questions Steve could use in any interview. He was then prepared to explain why the right company should hire him.

[14:12] Using LinkedIn, Steve reached out to colleagues he had worked with over the past 20-plus years. It was incredibly difficult for him to admit he was unemployed at this stage. He learned that most of the people he reached out to had experienced unemployment in the last decade.

[14:32] We are long past the time when others assume that being unemployed means there is something wrong with you. The more Steve reached out, the easier it got. Steve is a really nice guy and a giver. He had built a lot of bridges and burned none of them. People remembered him and were willing to help.

[14:55] Marc tells how it works. Build a list of people you have worked with over the last 20 years. Divide the list into two: people who worked in the same function as you and people who worked in a different function. Find these weak ties using LinkedIn search. Use the current company or past company options to locate them.

[15:20] For people who worked in the same function as you, see where they currently work. Did they change functional areas? If so, reach out and ask them how they did it.

[15:36] For people who worked in a different function, what company or industry are they working in, now? If they changed industries, ask them how they did it.

[15:47] Weak ties are easy to approach. Send them a personalized LinkedIn connection request that reminds them of your connection and why you are reaching out to former colleagues. Ask if they are willing to schedule a short phone call to see how they are doing and ask them to accept this invitation to connect.

[16:14] This is the time to ask for AIR — Advice, Insights, and Recommendations. Marc shares sample questions. Ask if they will introduce you to someone at their company or another company.

[16:34] Steve was amazed at how many weak ties were delighted to hear from him. He was more amazed at how many were willing to assist him in his job search. This greatly expanded his network and his visibility to companies and jobs. His weak ties proved to be invaluable. He found companies that needed his account management expertise.

[16:58] Next, Steve started with his last employer and used the Similar Companies section on LinkedIn to find companies that were either direct competitors or in adjacent industries. After following this deliberate process, Steve found the perfect match through a weak tie at a company that supplied parts for his former employer.

[17:23] This company needed a national account manager. The “courting process” of the interviewing went pretty quickly. It was only six weeks from the time he was introduced to the company to the time he received an offer. As an introvert, Steve had not attended any networking events.

[17:45] Steve spent all his time reconnecting with weak ties and researching companies capable of hiring him. He did all his networking one-on-one via email and phone conversations. He leveraged his network to the fullest. His network was larger than he had believed.

[18:07] Once Steve realized that just about everyone was willing to help, the whole process became a lot more comfortable. Marc had told Steve early on that this next job would come through a relationship and that he had no control over the timing. That is exactly what happened.

[18:25] If you had a career of any duration, making use of weak ties, whether for ideas, encouragement, or connections, your extended network is probably a lot more powerful than you think. And when you talk to them, ask them if there is anything you can do to help them.

[18:44] When you cultivate your giving tendencies all along the way, you can develop a reputation in your extended network of being a giver. It’s also a nicer way to live.

[18:55] Action Steps. Build a list of people you’ve worked with over the last 20 years. Begin to reach out to them over LinkedIn. Make sure you approach your search as a giver. If you haven’t been a giver, look for opportunities to give. If you’ve been a giver, let someone else have the fun of giving, this time.

[19:16] Used LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search to find people in similar functions and similar companies to the one you’re interested in. Send these contacts a short note to see if they’re open to a call or coffee about positions in their company or industry. Ask for AIR.

[19:35] Marc hopes you enjoyed this episode. The concept of weak ties is so critical to most of our future success. Marc hopes you will implement it throughout your career.

[19:48] The Career Pivot Membership Community continues to help the approximately 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project to grow and thrive. The community has moved on to the next phase where community members who have experienced success share their successes and teach others.

[20:06] Gene is presenting on how he obtained his first consulting client through LinkedIn Sales Navigator and using the methods described in the book Getting Naked: A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty, by Patrick Lencioni. This is a great book on consultative selling, even for introverts.

[20:40] This is a community where everyone is there to help everyone else out. Marc is recruiting members for the next cohort.

[20:47] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.

[21:02] Those who are in these initial cohorts set the direction. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Please go to to learn more. They are starting a group for bloggers, writers, authors, and publishers.

[21:35] Marc invites you to connect with him on Just include in the connection request that you listen to this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.

[21:56 Please come back next week, when Marc will talk with Hannah Morgan on online networking.

[22:04] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.

[22:09] You will find the show notes for this episode at

[22:17] Please hop over to and subscribe to get updates on this podcast and all the other happenings at Career Pivot. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, the Google Podcasts app, Podbean, the Overcast app, or the Spotify app.

Marc Miller  

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