Here's How Many People You Should Know

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The best way to get a job — or anything you want, really — is to know the right people. That's the common wisdom, at least, and it's the driving basis behind networking sites like LinkedIn, not to mention every job-hunting advice you've ever heard. While on some level, networking is a numbers game, it's also deeply tied to how you've curated your networks. As it turns out, you can have too much of a good thing if you're not careful.


New research from the U.S. Army has confirmed a theory put forward in the early 1990s, that our ability to rely on large groups starts to break down past a certain threshold of people in those groups. The original study proposed that humans' social relations work really well within groups of 150 people, but beyond that, we start to get lost and break into smaller sub-groups that don't communicate as well.

Army researchers began studying these "cognitively efficient social groups," and found that subgroups tended to emerge. If your own close networks seem to break out in groups of five individuals, 15 people, or 50, that fits with the military's findings. Others have found that social media networks tend to incentivize the wrong kind of networking (not to mention the wrong kind of social attention-seeking). If you're trying to keep your own job networks healthy and ready to spring, make sure you're maintaining relationships the right way. Like dating, it is a numbers game, but it'll be more successful when you can play moneyball instead.