How big’s your network?

Looking through an older BU blog I came across an interesting post Revisiting Informal Group Power.  This post describes the connection between power and informal groups. Power in a formal group is structured; it is authority in a corporation, authority at a university and other positions of power of a formal organization. As for informal power, it is not established through a formal organization but instead created through an individual’s social standing or the number of ties a person may have. The benefit of informal power is it can lead to formal power, as certain people gain power in informal groups, this may cause them to utilize that power within a formal organization.   

This concept of informal power was very interesting to me because I think it has a direct relation to most seniors as well as any individual applying for a job. If your informal power is your network, the larger your network the more likely you are to get a job. As stated in the post from the BU blog, “Informal group power directly connects to the concept of networks as pipes and prisms. The concept of networks as prism builds off the idea that a person’s status or image helps to establish a sense of legitimacy.” If a person has a lot of informal power, an employer is more likely to pick them as an employee rather than another candidate, even if the other candidate may seem stronger on paper, the sense of legitimacy may be powerful enough to outweigh the other candidate.

I think this article is a good reminder of how important it is to establish informal power thus creating a large network. I also want to raise a couple questions on informal power. Is informal power only important for applying for jobs?  Can informal power be negative?

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3 Responses to How big’s your network?

  1. The need for informal group power when looking for work has a popular equivalent that is a commonplace, namely, “It helps to know someone when looking for a job.”

    As someone once put the matter, “Social science merely turns good sense into bad prose”!

  2. Slade says:

    I agree that informal power is important, especially for someone seeking a career in a very competitive field. I do not think that it is only important for job applications because, even if one already has a great job, informal power can make that person look even better if his/her network consists of respected individuals who can vouch for the person’s character, work ethic, etc. and allow them to pursue even higher goals or, as stated, lead to formal power. I also do think that informal power could be negative, just as almost any networking situation can, because someone can develop a reputation for not being the greatest person. Even though you know influential people within a company, it does not mean that they can say that they would hire you and perhaps if you were involved in something dishonorable with one person or company in your network, it could harm your relationship with the other people.

  3. awhigbee says:

    This is an interesting idea. I think that a lot of businesses that are emerging have much more of a informal power structure; many of the founders are the bosses and they all reference each others work and constructively criticize. In larger more established organizations the power structure is much more formal with the people below the top executives doing more of the work checking and acting as their support system instead of their peers. It is interesting to see how newer businesses are operating differently from more established ones.

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