How far away is 6 steps?

Networking is quickly becoming synonymous with power in today’s employment landscape. As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, it becomes difficult for even the most intelligent people to find work appropriately suited for their level of expertise. This is an issue that I’m sure is at the back of everyone’s mind in this class; the looming possibility that we will graduate with a powerful degree just to end up in mindless work for which we are grossly overqualified.

Often, those we see avoiding this obstacle are the one’s with the best or strongest “connections.” Connections go a long way in placing people in better more sought-after positions in the workforce. I’m wondering just how much these connections matter, and how much they may matter more than qualifications. If we assume that they may, indeed, matter more, then how do we go about formulating connections that are the most useful.

In Net Smart: How to Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold, he says the average link between any person is as close as 6 steps away. 6 steps! The world seems much smaller before. However, I do not think I could call in a favor to a friend of a friend’s friend for a hiring opportunity. The chapter specifies that some links are going to be more powerful than others. Paradoxically, quality improves your network more than quantity. This is because you can call upon those in your network more easily.

Now I think social media has done a number on the quality of our networks. We have all the quantity and none of the quality. We treat social media as a method of auto-maintaining relationships without having to put in concentrated effort. I can occasionally ‘like’ a friend’s Instagram post and consider the friendship preserved, and then forgo the need to do any work to actually sustain the relationship. But, if I ever went to use that connection in the future, I would quickly realize that the relationship is no longer strong enough to call upon. And, the bigger our media-based network gets, the more we tend to need Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram etc. to do this work for us. I think we need to re-evaluate our networks; they may not be as powerful as we think. Now, 6 steps seems a lot further away…

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1 Response to How far away is 6 steps?

  1. Carla Aviles-Jimenez says:

    I share this fear of “connections” and how powerful they go towards landing a proper career for my qualifications. Networking is emphasized in our age as we loom closer and closer to the job market. If we do not have the proper connections, or “ties” according to Rheingold’s Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, then how as future job-seekers supposed to compete in a world where networking matters. I found Rheingold’s text unclear when it comes to the types of ties one needs to make. I see that, to you, quality seems to matter over quantity according to Rheingold. I definitely agree, and I also agree with your point regarding to the true quality of connections social media seems to be providing for us.

    It would seem that social media today seems to emphasize quantity over quality in terms of networking on the internet, and I wonder if this will hinder us in the future as well. It seems to me that Rheingold believes both quality and quantity matter as he quotes to different experts that say different things. However, social media today seems to promote a huge number “weak ties” as he says in chapter five of his book. It is just as you say, we “can occasionally ‘like’ a friend’s Instagram post and consider the friendship preserved, and then forgo the need to do any work to actually sustain the relationship.” But how on earth can we hope to network properly if we only have a surplus of weak connections as opposed to strong connections that could get us the jobs we want? I agree with you wholeheartedly that six steps seems quite far away indeed.

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