Reach out - further

August 26, 2022


If you’re on Brave Starts career coaching programme you’ll hear us encouraging you to reach out to your relationship network - for positive affirmation of your qualities and to find out more about job opportunities.

People we coach are often reluctant to contact people they haven’t spoken to for a long time or who they feel they barely know. Recently published research, and a classic paper by Mark Granovetter in 1973, emphasise the benefits of connecting with old acquaintances and making new ones. This should encourage you to reach out - further.

People frequently underestimate how much other people appreciate being reached out to. This was a robust finding from 13 experiments carried out and documented by Peggy Liu and others in the US, and with 1602 adult participants in one of those experiments. Thanks to the British Psychological Society for bringing this research to our attention in one of their recent digests.

The studies by Liu et al found that the amount people appreciated being reached out to was strongly linked to how surprised they were at being reached out to. This in turn tended to be a function of how socially distant people were from each other, and the people being reached out to being surprised at the context in which they were being reached out to.

Liu et al defined ‘reaching-out’ to involve minimum criteria of checking in with someone to show that they are being thought of – e.g. “Hi, I’m thinking of you”, or “I hope you are well.”

The effect of additional elements such as asking for help, offering compliments, or thanking someone for something done in the past were not examined. However, the signs that someone will appreciate you striking up a conversation after not having seen them for a while are strong – take it from there!

Liu et al’s work makes frequent reference to ‘weak ties’ as a way of describing people who may know each other to some extent but who are not close. The importance of weak ties was brought to prominence by American sociologist and Stanford University professor, Mark Granovetter.

‘The Strength of Weak Ties’, Granovetter’s highly influential and widely referenced work suggested that weak ties play an important role in job searches. This is because weak ties potentially offer better opportunities to learn information that might be new to you.

It’s likely that you already know what people close to you know. You might not necessarily know so much about what people more socially distant from you know.  

Couple the benefits of Granovetter’s proposition with the findings of Liu et al’s research and you have great reasons to reach out beyond your close network.

Go ahead. Make someone’s day and give your job search a boost. Reach out further!


Liu, P.J., Rim, S., Min, L., & Min, K.E. (2022). The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More Than We Think. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

Granovetter, M.S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), p.p.1360–1380.

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