Reid was recently interviewed by Keith Ferrazzi, author of two notable books on relationships, Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back?
Keith asked Reid about pivoting as the entrepreneur of your own career:
“What do you think is more difficult in the pivoting process: Changing the nature of who you are, whether it’s a company or yourself, or changing the perception others have of who you used to be?”
Well, as you very well know, both are quite hard, and so it’s kind of a choice between hard facet number one and hard facet number two. I think that the key thing in both the substance of the reinvention and also the brand promise, and how people perceive you, is…. It just takes time.
“One of the things I sketched out very early days in LinkedIn was never have a bad experience. Try to minimize the bad experiences and then build up more and more positive experiences over time. So for example, there’s many users at LinkedIn that go, ‘Look, I think that it’s valuable for when I’m going to go look for a job, and so I leave it there for then and I don’t really use it very much on a day-to-day basis.’ And that’s because we focused on growth first, and then a baseline for revenue for outbound professionals or for people when they were looking for a job. Now we’re saying, ‘Okay, well, now here’s the set of features that could be useful to you on a daily basis.’
We essentially have the ability to win people’s trust as we do this because we worked really hard to make sure they never had negative experiences in getting to this point…. And now we’re essentially saying, ‘Well, here’s some great things for you.’… We’re building those up in order to cause people to re-engage over time.
“I think the same thing is true for individuals in their careers, because the notion maybe is like, ‘Look, I spent 10 to 20 years focused on building my career, being an executive, making this go, building my own business, and now I want to add in other things to it.’ It’s like, all right, that’s just like any other product or any other company. You need to begin to layer those things in over time, in terms of relationships that you build, in terms of the activities that you do, in terms of the projects that you succeed in. I think it’s the same challenge.”
Right now you can buy Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Who’s Got Your Back? and The Start-Up of You together on Amazon and get an extra 5% off.
Are you (or someone you know) a college student leader dedicated to improving yourself, your networks, and your communities?
Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha are pleased to announce The Start-Up of You Student Fellowship. This new program aims to accomplish two things: (1) recognize the most entrepreneurial student leaders in the world, and (2) empower them to do even more.
Student Fellows will join an exclusive online network of likeminded student leaders from around the world; access content, resources, and private webcasts with Reid and Ben to help with their career; work with our team to facilitate on-campus events about the future of work and careers, receive free copies of Reid and Ben’s bestselling book The Start-Up of You, and more.
The deadline for applications is July 31, 2012. To learn more, visit: http://thestartupofyou.com/fellowship.
In the book we write that a career competitive edge emerges when you build assets in pursuit of real aspirations that account for the market realities.
Single assets (skills, experiences, connections) in isolation don’t have much value. Consider Joi Ito, head of the MIT Media Lab. He was born in Japan but raised in Michigan. In his mid-twenties he moved back to Japan and set up one of the first commercial Internet service providers there. At the same time, he kept developing connections in the United States, investing in Silicon Valley start-ups like Flickr and Twitter, establishing the Japanese subsidiary for the early American blogging company Six Apart and more recently helping to establish LinkedIn Japan. Is Joi the only person with start-up experience who does angel investing in the Valley? No. Is he the only person with roots in both the United States and Japan? No. But combining these transpacific, bilingual, tech-industry assets gives him a competitive advantage over other investors and entrepreneurs. Suffice to say, if Joi were bilingual in an obscure African dialect as opposed to the language of the world’s third-largest economy (Japan), it wouldn’t contribute to a compelling advantage for working with technology companies.
Remember that your asset mix is not fixed. You can strengthen it by investing in yourself. So if you think you lack certain assets that would make you more competitive, don’t use it as an excuse. Resolve to start developing them. In the meantime, see how you can turn an asset weakness into a strength. For example, you may not see inexperience as an asset to highlight, but the flip side of inexperience tends to be energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to work and hustle in order to learn. Combine hustle with even an entry level skill, and you’ve got something valuable to offer the market.
We were delighted that Joi wrote the foreword to the Japanese edition of The Start-Up of You, published by Nikkei BP. Reid and Ben were in Japan last week for the book’s launch. Here’s a photo of Reid and Mikitani-San, CEO of Rakuten, on stage discussing the book.
Reid and Ben just wrote a long guest post at Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek blog about how to take intelligent career risk. We’re going to pick a winner from the person who leaves a comment on the post and answers these questions:
- What change do you want to make in your career in the next 30-60 days? (e.g. Change jobs, ask for a raise, find a new opportunity within your company)
- How are you thinking about the risk involved in this move?
We’ll feature the winner in the LinkedIn group! Check out the post: Four Hour Workweek Blog: How To Take Intelligent Career Risk!
Conventional wisdom among car companies used to be that you couldn’t talk about safety, because doing so might remind customers that you could die while driving. So the industry as a whole talked about anything else: styling details, new colors, faster engines, and so on. Except for one Swedish carmaker. Instead of shying away from safety, Volvo’s founders saw an opportunity to differentiate their start-up from the rest of the pack.
“Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety,” said Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson, at the founding of Volvo in 1927. Volvo didn’t just make cars in a slightly different color or produce somewhat nicer interior leather. They focused on making ultra-safe cars (pioneering three-point seatbelts, for example) and proudly advertised that fact. They massively differentiated themselves by focusing on something no other company did. This made them top choice with consumers who put safety first. Even today—with most manufacturers touting safety—if you ask most any potential car buyer which car stands for safety, you’ll get this answer: “Volvo.”
Volvo achieved differentiation by focusing on one thing no other company did. Every individual profesional — that means you! — needs to do the same. What skill, experience, or connection do you have that no one else has? How can you build that differentiating quality to stand out from other people who compete for similar sorts of opportunities? As an example, learning Portuguese or Spanish in anticipation of the rise of Brazil and Latin America would be a good contrarian career move when the prevailing wisdom on “getting ahead of the curve” is to learn Mandarin.
Every good entrepreneur has to hustle and be resourceful in order to get their business off the ground. For example, Pandora’s founder, Tim Westergren, pitched the company to over 300 VCs before receiving any funding and did all sorts of things to keep the company afloat in the meantime. In The Start-Up of You, we argue that the entrepreneur hustle is something everyone can and must do in their career.
Consider Chris Sacca. Today he is an investor in tech start-ups like Twitter. Previously he worked at Google. But before that, he was an out-of-work attorney in desperate need of income to help him pay off his student loans from law school. We profile his hustle in Chapter 5:
Sacca started sneaking in through the back door of networking and tech industry events, utilizing his Spanish-language skills to smooth-talk the workers in the kitchen to let him in. Once he was in the door, he realized that handing his new acquaintances a business card that listed only his name wasn’t impressing anyone. So he hatched a clever plan to boost his credibility at the events he attended: create a consulting firm and employ himself there. He made new business cards, hired a developer to build a website, and enlisted his fiancée to draw a corporate logo. Then he went to the same networking events with new business cards that read, “Chris Sacca, Principal, Salinger Group.” Suddenly, the people he met were interested in talking more. Through these connections he eventually landed an executive job at a wireless company, and his career took flight.
Unemployed but toting fancy business cards with a consulting firm logo at the top — awesome!
You can hear Chris tell this story in his interview with Kevin Rose.
In the first few weeks the book has been available, we’ve been thrilled with the reactions from everyday people for whom The Start-Up of You has made a difference in their lives and careers.
On our LinkedIn Group, readers have been introducing themselves to the community and posting their thoughts on the book. Individuals from around the country and around the world have also been posting about the actions they’ve taken and the successes they’ve had as a result of implementing the strategies from the book.
For example, Adrian Sferle, who works in PR in San Francisco, says that the “book is a life-changer.” He was able to use the strategies from Chapter 4: It Takes A Network to win “more clients than ever before” at his job and on a personal level, provided a clear structure to reach his personal goals in a logical and pragmatic way.
He calls it “one of the most useful books I’ve ever read.”
Michelle Murphy, of Liverpool in the UK, was able to apply the concepts from the book even before she finished reading the whole thing. She has impressed the owner of her the company she works for by securing meetings with key clients for the firm she works for. ”I am quite simply over the moon with the reaction and the feedback I have had from persons in my industry.”
It also inspired Nitin Julka, an IT executive, to start a meet up for local entrepreneurs in Cleveland and for Dan Brody, who works in the fashion industry in New York and was a contestant on the hit show, The Apprentice, to rekindle the relationships he created during that time.
We’ve been simply overwhelmed with the positive reaction from readers – so much so, that we’ve set up a special page on the book website to feature the stories we’ve heard. Also, if you have a story to share, you can submit it here.
We were pleased to see a favorable review of the book in The Economist. Check it out:
“IF YOU start me up. If you start me up I’ll never stop”. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards probably did not have career advice in mind when they wrote these lyrics. But thinking like a start-up seems to be an excellent way for workers to prosper in a world in which the notion of a job for life has been consigned to the scrapheap. By being on the lookout for new opportunities all the time, changing course if markets shift and tapping professional contacts for advice and leads, people can avoid ending up on the slush pile themselves.
We are thrilled to let you know that Ogilvy Notes created a great illustration of Reid and Ben’s talk at SXSW 2012 (click on the image for a larger version).
Sacha Chua has also created a set of sketches based on the book (click for a larger version).
Reid recorded a series of Q&A videos over at the LinkedIn YouTube channel. Check them out. Here’s his welcome video kicking off the series: