That’s what everyone advises you to do in order to advance your career.
Because it brings you social capital. It allows you to build interpersonal relationships, trust, and ultimately (you hope) reciprocity.
But when we’re talking in terms of society at large, what is “social capital”?
Stick with this post, and you’ll learn the general term along with three different types of social capital.
Social Capital, Defined
Oxford Languages defines social capital as:
“the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.”
Social capital is the net gain of human interaction and can be either tangible or intangible.
The outcome might include job opportunities (as described above via networking), favors, or new ideas.
When a group shares values or resources, they can work more effectively together toward a joint mission.
Three Types of Social Capital
There are three different types of social capital: bonding, bridging, and linking.
Bonding Social Capital – this social capital occurs between groups of people or individuals with shared characteristics – like age, hobbies, politics, etc.
This strongest type of social capital develops into close relationships based on shared bonds. Friends, family members, neighbors, church members – all of these groups may result in bonding social capital. These strong connections lead to helping between the individuals or groups, as one is more likely to go the extra mile for someone they know well and feel bonded with.
For example, who are you more likely to help move? A friend or a stranger? Even a friend of a friend is pushing it.
Bridging Social Capital – this social capital occurs horizontally between socioeconomic groups of the same level. The “bridge” in this instance is a person or acquaintance that might connect two groups or individuals.
For example, Snoop Dogg was asked to appear as a guest on Martha Stewart’s show in 2008. Though they share a similar level of celebrity socioeconomic status, the pair likely would never have met had an intermediary not “bridged” their initial contact. They became fast friends and remain so to this day.
Linking Social Capital– this social capital occurs vertically between varied socioeconomic groups. The “communities” of similar socioeconomic groups – or individuals in said groups – reach across socioeconomic barriers to build relationships and leverage resources. For example, a pop star may get involved in a music club in an underprivileged community.
Reaching across ‘social boundaries’ through linking benefits both parties, as new contacts and ties are developed. For instance, the CEO of a large company may be introduced to lower-level staff and, in getting to know them, they may better understand their day-to-day and develop more effective work practices. The lower-level staff may also make connections upward, providing them a vertical bridge.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring social capital and how it develops and differs across cultures.