Discrepancies in employment rates between people with disabilities and those without disabilities may be related to the strength of their professional networks according to research by Mark Lengnick-Hall, professor of management, doctoral student Christopher Langford, and doctoral alumnus Mukta Kulkarni, Ph.D. ’06.
The authors address their findings in a recent paper “How Do Social Networks Influence the Employment Prospects of People with Disabilities?” The paper is forthcoming in the Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal.
Researchers identified different types of professional contacts in an individual’s network. These contacts include strong ties (“close relationships”) and weak ties (“acquaintance relationships”). Although it is generally believed that strong professional ties have a greater impact on one’s job search, research shows that acquaintance relationships are more important. Since individuals with disabilities have a harder time establishing acquaintance relationships, their employment prospects may be reduced.
“By conducting this in-depth study regarding people with disabilities and their professional networks, we hope to have an impact on closing the employment gap between those with disabilities and those without,” said Lengnick-Hall.
The team of researchers suggests that a closer look at disabled individuals’ use of professional networks is necessary. In examining this issue, future researchers will need to identify training and development opportunities to assist disabled individuals during the job search.
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