Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Do you view your career as a startup?

I first met Reid Hoffman, nearly six years ago (Thanks, Kay!) as I was being interviewed by the then executive team at LinkedIn for my role as social media guy. Since then, what has always struck me the most about Reid is his simplicity coupled with his enthusiasm in debating complex topics, whether it’s a philosophical discussion on social media to something as simple as the importance of adding commenting to our blog.

 One of my favorite pics from the old days – Reid Hoffman (center) with Jean-Luc Vaillant (left) and Allen Blue (right) at our old Palo Alto office

Working at LinkedIn during those early days was a great opportunity to watch, discuss and learn from him on a slew of topics and it’s great to see that Reid’s now shared many of his learnings into his recent book – “Startup of You“.

There are tons of valuable insights that Reid and co-author, Ben Casnocha, have assembled in the new book. Insights that are simple on the face of it, but you’d be surprised at how unheeded some of them are. Here are some:

  • How to establish close professional alliances who can help you and whom you can help in turn.
  • Why the most powerful networks include a mix of both allies and looser acquaintances.
  • Why you should set up an “interesting people” fund to guarantee that you spend time investing in your network.

The other parts of the book that I also found fascinating include the anecdotes, like this one:

I [Reid] first met Mark Pincus while at PayPal in 2002. I was giving him advice on a startup he was working on. From our first conversation, I felt inspired by Mark’s wild creativity and how he seems to bounce off the walls with energy. I’m more restrained, preferring to fit ideas into strategic frameworks instead of unleashing them fire-hose-style. But it’s our similar interests and vision that have made our collaborations so successful.

We invested in Friendster together in 2002. In 2003 the two of us bought the Six Degrees patent, which covers some of the foundational technology of social networking. Mark then started his own social network, Tribe; I started LinkedIn (LNKD). When Peter Thiel and I were set to put the first money into Facebook in 2004, I suggested that Mark take half of my investment allocation. I wanted to involve Mark in any opportunity that seemed intriguing, especially one that played to his social networking background. In 2007, Mark called me to talk about his idea for Zynga (ZNGA), the social gaming company he co-founded and now leads. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to invest and join the board, which I did.

An alliance is always an exchange, but not a transactional one.

Now, some folks may think that these alliances are an exception:

All of which prompts a question: in a winner-takes-all world, do the networks of the rich and powerful become self-reinforcing? For all Hoffman’s claims that the lives of successful Silicon Valley zillionaires are a useful model, one cannot escape the sense that he moves in a rarefied world in which a you-scratch-my-back chumminess excludes the less fortunate.

I beg to differ. These mutual alliances model is one that all successful professionals follow. These alliances can be found everywhere in our careers. And, we do it all the time.

Now, some professionals may have an old-school way of thinking where they stop looking at professional enrichment once at a job. Though this may have worked in the past, I couldn’t agree more that in today’s economy it’s imperative that we not only keep our skill sets updated constantly but more importantly, that we also actively nurture our relationships that matter so much. As Reid shared with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times last year:

The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone. No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach your career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.

I highly recommend this book if you believe the world of work is undergoing a dramatic change and if you’d like to learn some of the basic lessons to equip you to deal with those paradigm changes successfully. So, I wanted to share some reasons why I think it may be worth your while to take a read. Tweet me your reactions to the book.

I look forward to your stories.

Follow me @mariosundar

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Colleagues, ,

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