The impact of social networking and public transport on employability

Getting a new job can be something of an unwanted ordeal for many.  The ordeal has led to a surge in help and advise for those wishing to embark upon a new course in their careers.  A regular piece of advice is around the power of ones network, and sites such as LinkedIn have boomed in large part due to the belief that having lots of contacts can help your career.

A recent study in Management Science reveals that when it comes to our network, quality matters far more than quantity.  The researchers examined a few hundred LinkedIn users about their job searches, and indeed their wider networking activities both online and offline.

The analysis revealed that most job leads were still found via job boards, but LinkedIn was a close second.  Interestingly, on LinkedIn, most job leads came via weaker ties rather than strong ones, but the highest quality leads (in terms of interviews and job offers) came from stronger connections.  In quantitative terms, a 10% increase in the number of strong connections resulted in a 0.7% rise in the number of job offers.  By contrast, a 10% rise in the number of weak connections saw the number of job offers decline by 1.3%.

“We found that strong ties have a significant and positive effect on job interviews,” the authors say. “Weak ties, on the other hand, while they had a greater impact on job leads, have a statistically insignificant impact on job interviews.”

The authors suggest that this is probably due to the extra work required to convert a lead into a concrete offer, and that stronger connections are more likely to do that extra work.

The power of closeness

Such closeness is not only valuable in terms of our social network however.  A second study, conducted by a team from USC, found that the strength of the public transport network is also crucially important in terms of the jobs we go for.

The analysis found that car commuters in San Diego had 30 times greater job accessibility than those relying on public transport.  Of particular importance was what the researchers refer to as the ‘first and last mile access’, or the stops closest to both home and work.

“Transit providers think about the system they provide and focus more on headway reductions, and you really have to think about the entire trip for riders when it comes to getting from one point of, for example, affordable housing to another easily accessible point of income generation,” they say.

The study found that driving or biking to a public transport station doubled the number of jobs that were available to people, and the authors believe their findings provide a clear indication that new services such as Uber and Lyft can have a big impact on the employability prospects of people that might otherwise be restricted in the number of jobs available to them.

Whether it’s physical proximity to work therefore, or the strength of your social network, it appears that your career prospects are better the closer you are.

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