“If you ever get the chance to meet Jeff Weiner, you should be prepared with a question you’d like him to answer.”
This was the advice of LinkedIn’s vice president of user experience Steve Johnson gave to a group of the company’s summer interns about the company’s CEO during a speaker series on making connections.
One intern, Phu Nguyen, proved he was listening.
Nguyen, finishing up triple degrees in Finance, Economics, and Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, decided he didn’t want to wait for the unlikely serendipitous chance that he’d meet Weiner during his time at LinkedIn. Instead, he approached Johnson following the talk, asking for his permission to cite the talk and Johnson’s advice in an email he planned to send to Weiner asking for a meeting. Johnson enthusiastically endorsed.
In a blog post for LinkedIn.com, Nguyen wrote:
By the next afternoon, I got confirmation from [Weiner] that we should find a time to meet. I realised that asking for an introduction from a mutual contact is probably the best way to reach out to someone, even when that person is an executive.
Weiner met with Nguyen, taking him on a walk around the LinkedIn campus, a practice he is known for, and Nguyen was able to discuss the question Johnson encouraged him to have at the ready — a time when Weiner was forced to make a difficult decision and the lessons he learned for it. “Advice,” Nguyen recognises, “I wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else.”
Following the meeting, Nguyen reflected on his decision to take a chance and email the company’s CEO.
Reaching out to another co-worker could be very uncomfortable for some people, let alone reaching out to a high-level executive. However, I have found that putting myself in situations where I actively seek to connect with other people helps me get more comfortable with networking and collaborating with other teammates. After all, if you’re not intimidated conversing with an executive, talking to your co-worker may not be that scary either.