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






Using Gladwell To Create A Real (Social) Network

Last week I participated in panel discussion on the topic of social-ties and networking.  The inspiration for the talk was Malcolm Gladwell’s controversial article on the impact of social media.  The panel took a marketing view of the topic and the discussion was thought provoking and full of insights.

One of my favorite concepts the panel brought up was around the idea of network “repeaters”.  The thought being that if you want an idea to spread, it has to find enough repeaters in the network in order to boost the momentum of the message.  If your idea doesn’t reach the next repeater, it runs out of steam and doesn’t have the reach needed to make a major impact.

Overall, the panel discussion was a successful debate and a lot of fun in a relatively short period of time.  So, what did the panel audience think of the talk?

That’s the interesting part, there were no audience members.  The panel was organized just for the sake of discussion.

Jeremy Epstein, of the Never Stop Marketing company, put the panel together and here’s what I think made it such a success:

  • Relevant topic – Gladwell’s piece was not only a current topic but also full of many “meaty” points making for an interesting discussion.
  • No strings attached – there was no hidden agenda, just a request to bring a point of view and be ready to talk.
  • No chitchat – Jeremy set up a Facebook group so everyone could do a quick introduction before the call.
  • Ready to go – having a designated moderator with starter questions guaranteed a fast start.
  • Short and sweet – at twenty-five minutes, the panel had enough time to cover 3-4 solid topics and didn’t require a major time commitment.

The irony of the panel was that it was doing exactly what Gladwell wrote can’t happen – using social media to turn weak links into strong links.  Most of the members of the panel had never met face to face, so this was a chance to get to know each without having to wait for an event.  Relationship building can happen over time but Jeremy added kindle to the fire with this engaging discussion.

Social media may help you add to your contacts list but this doesn’t mean much if they are all weak links.  Major kudos to Jeremy for coming up with this smart idea.  I am hoping that this was just the start of many more such virtual meet-ups.

The next question is what can you do to help turn those friends and followers into a real network?

Image Source: Flickr