Adopting Social Capital to Explain Personal Career Achievements

Abstract

Social capital has caused widespread concern in various academic circles during the past decades and is becoming a popular research field of organizational behavior. By integrating three existing famous theories of social capital with researches on career achievements, this study mainly examines the mechanisms through which social capital has impacts on individuals’ career outcomes. Social capital is conceptualized in terms of network structure and network resources on the basis of former researches. The two types of network structures, weak ties and structural holes have directly significant impacts on the access and occupation of valuable information and resources embedded within the network. Mediated by the access to information and resources, network structures also have indirectly impacts on individuals’ career achievement (income level, number of promotions and career satisfaction). Based on the comprehensive research model, a discussion would also be carried out on theoretical and practical implications. Suggestions would be provided for further researches in this field.

The detailed design of this research

Research Model

Conceptual Model

 

Hypotheses Development

According to weak tie theory, weak ties are bridges between densely interconnected social cliques and could provide individual with valuable information and resources. If a person owns only few weak ties, he or she will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social networks and will be limited to the local news and opinions of his or her close friends within the same social cliques (Granovetter 1983). So we can find that networks lacking in weak ties will be fragmented and incoherent which could make new information about job openings spread slowly and useful resources hard to reach. By contrast, people who pay more attention to investing in social capital and developing large amounts of weak ties in the networks would have the expectations of a future flow of benefits (Adler, P., & Kwon, S. 2002), such as having greater access to useful information and resources which could be advantages to their career. Based on that we put forward the following hypotheses:

H1a: The numbers of weak ties in the networks has a positive effect on the individual’s access to information embedded in the networks.

H1b: The numbers of weak ties in the networks has a positive effect on the individual’s access to real resources embedded in the networks.

 

According to Burt’s theory of structural holes, if a person belongs to a network with lots of structural holes, he or she could be provided with three advantages: (1) more unique and timely access to information (2) greater bargaining power and control over resources and outcomes (3) greater visibility and career opportunities throughout the social networks. The person making full use of structural holes could contribute added value to the organization and provide information and coordinate activities among people who are not connected to each other (Burt 1997; Galbraith 1977). Therefore if a person wants to maintain the advantages and success in the career, he or she should be connected to as much non-connected individuals and groups as possible. That is, network structures rich in structural holes could provide individual with much more network resources. Based on that we put forward the following hypotheses:

H2a: The numbers of structural holes in the networks has a positive effect on the individual’s access to information embedded in the networks.

H2b: The numbers of structural holes in the networks has a positive effect on the individual’s access to real resources embedded in the networks.

 

It is worth mentioning that in the dimension of network resources, having access to information also has a directly significant influence on access to real resources (Seibert, Kraimer, & Liden 2001). In fact, information is regarded as a fundamental basis of social power (French and Raven 1959). If a person in the network has a better control of information than others, he or she is more likely to know where and how to seek the useful real resources that could help achievement greater career outcomes. In addition, possessing relevant organizational information would provide individuals with more sources of accessing necessary real resources other than going through formal or official channels (Seibert, Kraimer, & Liden 2001). Based on that we put forward the following hypothesis:

H3: The individual’s access to information has a positive effect on the individual’s access to real resources embedded in the networks.

 

As mentioned above, it is widely recognized that social capital can provide individuals with access to work related information, real resources, and opportunities (Coleman 1988; Nahapiet and Ghoshal 1998; Lin 2001), which can then be transferred into positive career outcomes (Burt 1992; Podolny and Baron 1997). We could expect that people are more likely to receive greater career achievements by equipping them with timely access to information as well as high control of financial or material resources. Greater access to information and resources should enhance individuals’ work performance (Seibert, Kraimer, & Liden 2001) by empowering and energizing employees (Walton 1985), and provide employees with higher levels of motivation and productivity (Hackman & Oldham 1980; Spreitzer 1996). Therefore with better control and possession of network resources, the person is intended to own a higher social status and income level, as well as acquire more opportunities of being promoted. These all indicate high achievements of extrinsic career success. Besides, the person could also own a sense of self-determination and empowerment at a high level, making them feel more satisfied with their career progress. So that these factors have been found to be positively associated with career satisfaction (Spector 1986), which reveals high achievements of intrinsic career success. Based on that we put forward the following hypotheses:

H4a: The individual’s access to information has a positive effect on his or her income level.

H4b: The individual’s access to information has a positive effect on the number of his or her career promotions.

H4c: The individual’s access to information has a positive effect on his or her career satisfaction.

 

H5a: The individual’s access to real resources has a positive effect on his or her income level.

H5b: The individual’s access to real resources has a positive effect on the number of his or her career promotions.

H5c: The individual’s access to real resources has a positive effect on his or her career satisfaction.

 

Conclusion

(1) This study adopts the theories of social capital to explain the personal career achievements at the individual level.

(2) Though this is a theoretical research, it is possible to verify the model with empirical methods.

(3) Future studies should also include other outcome variables to help us better understand the impacts of social capital among individuals and groups. Therefore future studies could further investigate the features of social capital by examining both benefits and risks. The balanced view could be able to explain the influence of social capital to personal career achievements from a completely new dimension.

Post a comment