Taking Risks With The Startup of You

The Startup of You is a book on career management authored by two successful startup entrepreneurs, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.

The theme of the book is that you need to take ownership of your career, much like an entrepreneur takes ownership of his/her business, and create a plan to adopt to a changing marketplace (see The End of Business as Usual). While this is not necessarily a new thought, their framework and advice does make sense and sounds very applicable to today’s technology related careers.

Here is some of the advice I noted while reading the book:

Professional loyalty now flows “horizontally” to and from your network rather than “vertically” to your boss.

Permanent beta is essentially a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth.

Imagine you got laid off from your job today. Who are the ten people you’d email to solicit their advice on what to do next? Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically.

Golden opportunities are not wrapped in pretty packaging with a clear label; killer job opportunities are rarely advertised on job boards.

Almost every case of serendipity and opportunity involves someone doing something.

The concept from the book that resonated with me the most was on risk taking. The Startup of You advocates that taking calculated risks with your career not only helps you reap the rewards of new opportunities but also better prepares you for future surprises. From the book,

Without frequent, contained risk taking, you are setting yourself up for a major dislocation at some point in the future. Inoculating yourself to big risks is like inoculating yourself against the flu virus. By injecting a small bit of flu into your body in the form of a vaccination, you make a big flu outbreak survivable. By introducing regular volatility into your career, you make surprise survivable. You gain the “ability to absorb shocks gracefully.”

Looking back at my career, I would point to a few startups during the dot.com days that I worked at that seemed highly risky at the time. The companies ended up being failures which is never what you hope to have happen.

However, if I would have passed on the roles, I would not have gotten to work with so many great people while trying build a business. Being asked to own something and take on new challenges gave me a firsthand experience on how to generate and execute ideas and what to do when things don’t turn out as planned.

While the risks didn’t have an immediate payoff, the return came over time as the expertise learned and networked gained helped me move on to bigger roles and other companies over the years.

Speaking of building a network, the Startup of You also introduced some interesting thoughts around the benefits of strong allies and weak ties that you need to help support your efforts.

Want to learn more about it? Read the book!


Image credit:  koalie






2 thoughts on “Taking Risks With The Startup of You

  1. Going forward, we will be defined in business by our networks more than where we work or what we do.  The power of the company will be subsumed by the power of your network so this is a timely book and commentary.  

    I started my current job search via my network and have landed several interviews.  My network is still working for me as another referral just came up this week for a pretty nifty job that takes me outside my pre-defined space.  I have yet to delve into my entire network but I am hoping I don’t have to.

    This goes well beyond the B to C component of Facebook that everyone is talking about these days.  The problem is, all the “social” networks where business people are congregated do not have any kind of a way to close the deal.  Where is the marketplace in LinkedIn? Would anyone ‘Click to Buy’ $400,000 worth of systems management software for their company via Groupon?  Most technical products still and will continue to need to be sold – where a human talks to a human.  And going forward, those networks are where those types of transactions are going to take place.  

    B to C has already changed in hugely significant ways.  Personal networking is going through that change.  B to B will also go through that change.  The smart people are adapting and will continue to have to adapt to new, social ways of doing business.

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