Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Interview with Jason Alba of

Jason Alba got laid off in 2006. With great credentials and in a job-seeker’s market, Jason could hardly get a job interview. Finally he decided to step back and pick apart the job search process, including understanding all of the available resources. Within a few months he had designed a personal job search CRM tool. His tool,, is designed to help professionals manage career and job search information the same way a salesman manages prospects and customer data.

Jason blogs at and recently finished “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???”.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Jason Alba: I would define business networking as building relationships that will help my company achieve its objectives. Sounds kind of vague but I don’t want to put a time frame on it (achieve its objectives within the next 3 – 6 months) or define who I should network with (develop relationships with certain types of people) because you never know who will eventually add value to your business goals, or who knows who.

I would caution you to think about your personal professional networking. During all of this “business networking” you’ll meet plenty of people who are going to be excellent contacts, or lead you to excellent contacts, for your company. But these are still interpersonal relationships that are yours.

In other words, just because you meet someone in the context of “business networking” and they provide significant value to your company (or you provide significant value to their company), don’t let that interpersonal, professional relationship whither away. When you are in your next transition, or in 15 years, after a number of transitions, they should still be someone that you feel comfortable reaching out to – make sense?

Josh: Can you share an idea or two that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Jason Alba: The most important thing that I had to do was to change my concept of networking. Toss out the idea of “just” sharing business cards, or having a drink in one hand and good stories or jokes, and focusing on value props. I want to get to know you at a more personal, deeper level. The initial meeting can only get so deep, but after that you need to do things to build that relationship, and not a lot of superficial things.

Locally, the best thing to do is a lunch. It’s critical to make sure you take those first initial meetings to the next level, and perhaps set up some regular communication.

The other thing is to really believe that giving is the way to get. Give with no agenda, or at least don’t wear an agenda on your sleeve. People want to genuinely feel you care more about them than their business at hand, especially in an age when you can’t associate yourself with a company for 40 years. Care about the person, and what you can give to and do for them, and you will begin to build a strong network of people who want to help you.

For specific ideas, techniques and tactics I strongly recommend Thom Singer’s Some Assembly Required, which has a ton of business networking ideas – it’s an excellent resource.

Josh: It’s been said, it’s not what you know, as much as who you know that counts — whether or not that’s true in every instance is certainly up for discussion, but based on your experiences how true do you think that is from a career or workplace perspective? Can you share some examples where you’ve seen networking play a part in a person successfully making the move into a new career?

Jason Alba: Or maybe “who knows you” or “who knows you and what you know.” There are some examples of bloggers who have established themselves as credible experts in their space and when they announced they were in transition, or looking at a transition, I’m sure they had people send them leads and offers. Two include Jeremiah Owyang and Chris Brogan (who recently announced he landed in the exact position he wanted).

On a local level, I’ve seen the people who have been active relationship builders not go through long job searches. Aside from knowing people these folks had to be competent, of course. But knowing who the decision makers and influencers were, and developing relationships with them before they were in transition, really had a lot to do with their job searches. Instead of being desperate, and being like every other job seeker, these well-connected people were able to weigh various opportunities and go with the ones that they really wanted to.

I think it’s critical to have these relationships before you need them, although it doesn’t mean that you can’t start now (if you are in transition). Get known by a lot of people, and have a strong, positive personal brand.

Josh: Jason, you’re the author of “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???” can you give us a brief overview of what the book is about, as well as share a couple of helpful ideas or tips from it?

Jason Alba: Many of my customers would see me blog about LinkedIn, get an account, and then wonder what in the world they should do next. Other LinkedIn veterans would ask me to check out their profile because, even though they had been using LinkedIn for a while, they still didn’t quite understand if there was much value to be found (and how much to participate). It’s that simple.

I suggest that you get a profile, flesh it out with phrases and words that may be searched for, and make it readable by humans so they can feel like they get a good understanding of who you are. Next, go play around with some of the features. Spend some time to do searches on people you know or want to know. Try searching on your job title in your city and see if there are people that you should get to know.

Also, make sure to go to the Answers section and participate there. LinkedIn has some hidden gems, but really, all you need to do is play around for a little while and get familiar with the features. Realize that there are professionals that spend hours each day on LinkedIn looking for future employers, business partners, clients, etc. and perhaps you can think of how you can get value out of it.

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