How to Get a (Good) Job: Tie Strength and Formality in the Process of Social Capital Development for Ethnic Minority Job-Seekers.

Christopher Munn, Heather McGregor, Dimitrios Christopoulos, Kane Needham


To get a job, people benefit from building, maintaining, and utilizing networks with both weak and strong ties. While weak ties provide novel information and expanded opportunities, job seekers can leverage the mutual obligation of strong ties to utilize them more easily. Along with tie strength, the formality of social ties influences how they can be utilized – formal ties embedded in a particular social context are limited outside of that context while informal ties can have a more fluid use. Scholars argue that informal networks improve job seekers’ opportunities because the resources embedded within the group can be shared freely with members. People who have been historically disadvantaged in the job market rarely gain access to or are able to utilize such informal ties to access professional jobs. Most efforts to improve job opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities provide information about how to get jobs but typically ignore the importance of social capital in the process. Therefore, we analyze the ego networks of 97 black and ethnic minorities recent college graduates who participated in an intervention specifically targeted to increase their social capital. The participants primarily came from well-respected undergraduate institutions in the UK and were in the process of pursuing entry-level professional jobs. The research team collected ego network data using a position generator prior to and at the completion of the program and in-depth interviews regarding the perceived effectiveness of the intervention on the participants job opportunities. We examine the changes in participants’ networks over time and describe their social ties formed during the program. Our findings contribute to theory on how formal ties built during programs can be used to create new career pathways and develop long-term support for historically underrepresented job seekers in professional fields.

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