Whether you’re looking for a change of work, or you had that change forced upon you by a layoff or firing, looking for a new job is a big endeavor. A job search is a job in and of itself. But unfortunately, it’s a job that a lot of people start in the wrong place.
When it’s time to find a new position, most people start in one of two places. Some start with close friends, family members, and maybe even colleagues they worked closely with. Sometimes, they start with a close circle of friends because those friends provide the social support they need to encourage and motivate them during the search. But if you’re looking for leads on new opportunities, close contacts are a poor place to start. Network science explains why with a phenomenon known as transitivity—a fancy term for the likelihood that two people who share a mutual connection are connected to each other. Networks and relationships tend to cluster, they move towards each other and over time, many people in that cluster think alike and are aware of the same opportunities of which close friends were aware. And all of them are likely aware of the same opportunities of which you were already aware.
Other job searchers start with the anonymity of the internet—maybe it’s to avoid the difficult conversations that telling our friends and connections involves. Or maybe it is to try and access a greater diversity of possible job leads. There are a few problems with moving right to websites like Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com though. There are obvious problems like that few opportunities are ever actually posted to job boards or that getting past whatever apps and algorithms screen out resumes is unlikely. But the biggest problem is how hard it is to know whether or not the new job and the new organization is a fit.
How do you judge company culture from a help wanted ad? How do you know whether you’ll work well with your new team based on an online job listing? Sure, you can judge during the interview process. But in some cases you may spend weeks pursuing a job only to find out in the final round just how little of a fit there is between you and the company.
That’s why the best place to start a job search is with former colleagues—either colleagues from past jobs or colleagues from the job you’re now leaving but who left before you. Former colleagues are a special from of connection called a dormant tie. In the network around you, dormant ties have been proven in research to have access to different information than your close contacts. And when you seek out multiple dormant ties, you tap into a wealth of new potential leads similar to that of online job websites.
BUT, dormant ties also know you. They remember what it was like to work with you and they have insight into what types of companies or teams would be a good fit for you. Dormant ties provide new information but also information that’s more likely to be useful. That combination between knowing you and also knowing where you should look is what makes them the best place to start.
Whether you’re looking for something new, or something new found you, look to dormant ties first to start your job search.