Reid Hoffman, the billionaire cofounder of LinkedIn, is one of the most successful and respected people in Silicon Valley.
But even Hoffman has regrets in his career and says he would have done one thing differently if he had a chance to go back: work at Netscape.
“I would have volunteered to work at Netscape,” Hoffman told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, referring to the now defunct internet company best known for its web broswer with the same name. “It was the center node of this new technology and the commercial ecosystem of the internet.”
Hoffman shared this story to illustrate his point on how to build a stronger professional network. He says he advises others to do whatever it takes to connect with important people in their respective industries because that could really help advance careers. Netscape was one of the pioneering internet companies in the 90s, and Hoffman says he would have “begged” for a position there to connect with the best in the business.
Hoffman says the same approach applies if you want to move up within the company. When he was at Apple early in his career, Hoffman thought he’d be better suited for a product manager position than his UX designing job, so he volunteered to work for the product manager group. He offered a few good ideas and went on to receive strong feedback on how to increase his chances of becoming a product manager.
“You go to the smartest people you know and say, ‘Who do you know who I might be able to meet or might be able to do something for, or build a relationship with?’ because part of how you build a relationship is you start by saying ‘I’m not just asking, I’m trying to build a relationship, I’m trying to give as well,'” Hoffman told Zakaria.
Although Hoffman never got a chance to work at Netscape, his approach to networking seems to have worked well for his career. He was able to join PayPal as one of its earliest members, and become part of the famous “PayPal Mafia,” the exclusive group of 13 early PayPal members. In 2003, Hoffman recruited old colleagues from PayPal and SocialNet to launch LinkedIn, which is now public and worth almost $18 billion.
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