Reid Hoffman’s Career Advice – You Are The Start-up!

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Reid Hoffman is an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author and is best known as the co-founder of LinkedIn, a social network used primarily for business connections and job searching and currently valued at $19 billion. Last year, Hoffman and his friend Ben Casnocha, wrote a book together called “The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career.” To commemorate its first anniversary, Hoffman and Casnocha created a visual summary of the book and made it available on the Business Insider.

It is quite a long presentation, so we decided to give our busy aspiring and budding entrepreneurs a brief gist. Some of the key takeaways from the presentation:

1.     All humans are entrepreneurs

Every individual has the capacity to become an entrepreneur but only a few pursue it. Treat your life as a constant work-in-progress and invest in yourself each day to achieve your goals.

2.     Develop a competitive advantage

Companies need clear reasons to convince customers to choose their products over others. Similarly as an individual chart your career path that sets you apart from other professionals. It is either differentiate or die! You can do this by focussing on you assets (knowledge, skills, cash in the bank, etc.), aspirations & values and market realities. One without the other is of no use. So make sure you focus on all of them

3.     Plan to adapt

One of the most popular career planning advice is discover your passion and pursue it. But it suffers from one major drawback, it assumes a static world, but in reality when you change, the competition changes and the world changes. So rather than introspection, discover your identity through experimentation.

Be flexible to accommodate change and always think two steps ahead. Come up with a Plan ABZ.

  • Plan A – what you are doing now
  • Plan B – pivot to Plan B when your plan A is not working or you found a better solution
  • Plan Z – jump ship to Plan Z if all else fails. This is your lifeboat if your plans fail and you need to reload before getting back in the game.

4.     It takes a network

In a business, sometimes who you know matters more than what you know. People control resources, opportunities, resources and the people whom you spend time with, shape the person you are today and the person you aspire to be tomorrow. There are two types of professional relationships:

  • Allies – People you consult regularly for advice and trust their judgement. When an ally comes into a conflict, you defend him and stand up for his reputation. And he does the same for you when times get tough.
  • Weaker ties and acquaintances – People from different social circles and industries, who bring diversity to your network and can be useful in finding opportunities outside your inner circle.

5.     Pursue breakout opportunities

The trajectories of remarkable careers are NOT slow and steady moving up and to the right; rather they are marked by breakout opportunities – career experiences that lead to unusually rapid gains. Lookout for these by

  • Being in motion and treating the possibility that even random ideas, people and places will collide and form new combinations and opportunities.
  • Tap your network and grow it by joining conferences and clubs. Can’t find one that suits your passion, then start one!

6.     Take intelligent risks

We normally associate risk with bad things like losing money or riding a motorcycle without a helmet, but risk isn’t the enemy – it’s a permanent part of life. In fact, being proactively intelligent about risk is a prerequisite for seizing those breakout opportunities.  There will always be competition for good opportunities, so taking an intelligent risk enabled you to find opportunities that others miss. Assessing a risk is very important and sometimes tricky too. So here are a few rules of thumb to guide you better:

  • Overall, it’s probably not as risky as you think.
  • If you can tolerate the worst-case outcome, be open to it. If that means death, homelessness or permanent unemployment, then avoid it.
  • Don’t conflate uncertainty with risk – unknown does not mean risky!
  • You can never predict how or when ill-fortune will strike; so instead of anticipating it, build up your resilience to the unimaginable blow-up.
  • Introduce small risks regularly and work on this volatility to achieve stability

7.    Who you know is what you know

Stockpiling facts can get you through an exam but nowhere in the real life. What you need is access to information at the right time and you get this intelligence by talking to people in your network. Its people who can help you get introduced to possible allies and help you track the risk attached with an opportunity. To pull intelligence from your network, you need to map your network so you know who know what. Only then you can useful answers to your questions.

So start tapping into your network, improve your skills, forge your own career plan and never stop starting, for the start-up is YOU.

Image credit: Culttt