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Reid Hoffman: The 4 ways to build relationships. Only 1 is right

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

It seems strange coming from a Career Coach who co-leads programs in Job Search - and stresses building relationships, but I hate networking. In our Job Search Action Group program, we have an entire session on it. Everytime we bring it up, most of the group members look anxious. They and I are not alone in our anxiety.

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn has to be considered the best "networker" in the world. After all, LinkedIn is the ultimate networking community. As a recruiter, I am fortunate that more than 7,200 people trust me enough to connect with me. Yet I still feel butterflies everytime I reach out.

He outlined the right way to network - which is NOT to network. In a post Hoffman explains the four types of approaches, three should be avoided. They are:

  • I’ll do something for you, if you’ll do something for me.

  • I’ll do something for you, but I’m keeping track of what you owe me.

  • I’ll invest in this relationship, and I expect you to invest commensurately over time.

  • I’ll invest in this relationship because it is the right thing to do.

The first three share common traits: they are transactional, quid pro quo, and also involve scorekeeping. Typically these are the "usual" networking approaches. The last one is "risky" but transformative. Let's call it the "no expectations" relationship

Hoffman describes people who create these relationships:

These individuals have no explicit expectation of return. They are providing great value with only the knowledge that they are improving the relationship and the satisfaction of having helped another person as compensation.
These people seek out relationships with others who share their values and goals, and they believe that helping the other person will advance those values and goals.
Underlying these relationships is the assumption that when the right people are involved, an alliance is extremely valuable in its own right; .. This type of alliance can ensure a successful, long-term, satisfying outcome even if the personal rewards are limited or curtailed.

Big Returns on "No Expectations" Relationships

What lit me up about the post was recalling times I developed relationships without looking for a payout. Two relationships stand out.

The first relationship was a senior leader I recruited for a Marketing Leadership role. We bonded immediately, around shared geek experiences. He's worked with some legendary leaders - and on phenomenal products. Add to that, a truly nice guy. Unfortunately, we decided against filling the postion, but he and I stayed connected.

The second relationship goes back further: he was a Hiring Manager who never filled a position with me. I was an external recruiter who'd had good success with the rest of his organization. My team and I worked on his roles, only to have them pulled after a good amount of work. Several years later, we connected on Facebook and found how much our interests and senses of humor meshed.

Between these guys, I've had numerous meals, great conversations - and we've helped a lot of people. Both men value helping others, and balance that with decades of career success. Both are thought leaders in their world and highly respected. I really value my conversations with them, and also my opportunities to coach them.

Yup, they are also clients. But I never sought that out. Even more - they are rainmakers for my practice. Between them, they have referred more than a dozen coaching clients. An amazing benefit I never expected or asked for. Through these men, I have helped a lot of people.

Coaching Question: how will you build "no expectation" relationships?

You might have relationships like this already, but had never overtly planned them. If so, take a look at how you formed them and what has come out of them. You might be pleasantly surprised what you gained, even when you set out to simply contribute.

Think about this too, once you do this - it scales quickly. Each relationship makes it easier to create the next.

Be smart and somewhat selective when you do this. The other party has to be accepting and also not take advantage of your sharing and time.

These 2 relationships have made it easier for me to reach out. The rewards have been striking and I know we have helped each other - and others. I still get butterflies, but they are more based on curiousity than worry. I wish the same for you.


I'm a certified Career Coach, long time Silicon Valley Recruiting Leader and lead Job Search, Career Development and Career Success programs at the Wharton Executive MBA Program in San Francisco. I' ald the Director of Coaching at HireClub. If you’d like to discuss the ideas in this post or other areas where Coaching might help - I’d love to share. All initial sessions are free and we dive right in. There's never any pressure or push. My email is My calendar is


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