‘The Start-Up of You’ is a book written by Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha on managing your career like a start-up. The book is based on the notion that there is a strong correlation between the way successful start-ups and successful individuals operate. The authors suggest that people should be in charge of their professional lives by continuously adapting themselves to market realities and by applying strategies embraced by accomplished professionals, entrepreneurs, and start-ups – the book per se is NOT about running start-ups.
Here are my learnings from the book:
1. Winning careers, like winning start-ups, are in permanent beta: always a work in progress.
As a professional, you need to keep on evolving – it could be by expanding your skill-set or acquiring skills that are in demand. There are no stops and starts, it’s an ongoing process. Do market trends like cloud computing, big data, mobile internet, etc. affect your profession directly or indirectly? If they do, familiarize yourself with them.
2. Your competitive advantage is built-up of three things – your assets, your aspirations, and market realities.
Assets are your core competencies or things that you are always good at (it could be your hobbies). What you want to be and where you see yourself in your profession are your aspirations. Market realities dictate whether your assets and aspirations are enough to pay the bills. The sweet spot is where the three overlap. Peter Belanger, a product photographer with clientele like Apple and Sony, talks about how he makes a living by doing what he loves here.
3. Work in a market with natural momentum. Ride the big waves.
As Wayne Gretzky famously once said, ”I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been’. Industries are always hit by waves of change in the form of innovation, disruptive start-ups, or some new discovery. Be open-minded and keep hunting for new opportunities.
4. Establish an identity independent.
If you’re a creative person, build your portfolio on sites like behance or if you’re a front-end hacker, write a blog about your best practices. Build your personal brand.
5. Plan to adapt. ABZ planning.
Make plans, not one but three. Plan A is about improving your skills and constantly iterating to reach your target. If it doesn’t work, apply your learnings from Plan A and pivot – that’s Plan B – it might mean switching to a different vertical, domain or even industry for that matter. In case everything else fails, where do you fall back? Plan Z is planning for the emergency like a lifeboat evacuation.
6. The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.
It could be as simple as following people you admire on Twitter or LinkedIn to attending meetups and conferences. Stay in touch with like-minded people and build an opportunity funnel for yourself. Try raising your good karma by genuinely helping others and empathizing with them.
7. Rather than avoiding risk, if you take intelligent risks, it will give you a competitive advantage.
While making a career choice, people often get gripped by the fear of failure or enter into a state of indecision – in such cases, always do a cost-benefit analysis. Trust your intuition and take a leap of faith – don’t shy away from taking calculated risks.
8. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose. – Bill Gates
Before you make an important decision or a judgement, get as much information and insight as you can. It could be digging in to find out more about your prospective employer, someone that you’re planning to recruit or a person you’re going to meet.Take smart actions by asking right questions to right people and leverage your network intelligence.
PS – This blog post is not intended to be a book review, rather my key takeaways or things that I would like to remember from the book. I hope it helps you in your endeavors. Looking forward to hear from you.