Monday, May 27, 2013

The Start-Up of You - Good but not fresh advice

When I reserved this audio book, The Start-Up of You from my local library, I hadn't realized that one of the authors, Reid Hoffman, was also the co-founder of Linkedin. Had I known that, I would have readjusted my expectations for the book.

I use Linkedin (Here's my profile) and I advocate its use, but much of the dispensed advice is focused on expanding the user base of this social networking site. So reader beware. There's overt and covert shilling between the pages. If you can get beyond that, there are a few nuggets of useful career wisdom.

One great point the authors make is that all of us should see ourselves in permanent beta. Just like software companies (at least the good ones) are always improving their products which are dubbed beta versions when in these testing/trial phases, we should also always be learning and improving ourselves.

Some people erroneously believe that with four years of a college education you're set for a fruitful and meaningful life-time career. Not only does that assume a static economy with a static workforce--and you should never assume either--it also assumes that YOU will never change. That mindset has all the trappings of a mid-life crisis. People DO change and learning new things helps keep you open to other options that might not have occurred to your eighteen-year-old self when you thumbed or clicked through the college catalog to pick a college major.

Pivoting into a new career is called A to B to Z planning, and it's another one of the books take-away points. Plan A is what its name implies. This is the career that you believe you want to be in. Plan B is a similar career and one that you could pivot into if you simply reframed your thinking--say moving from accounting to finance or web page design to search engine optimization. Plan Z is your fallback plan. What can you do should all else fail? Move back in with parents? Draw down a 401k? Those answers vary depending on where you are in your career, but having a Plan Z gives you a hedge that allows you to take calculated risks.

Finally, a lot of emphasis, and rightfully so, is placed on building and growing a professional network. That is, after all, the purpose of Linkedin. Successful people know they must nurture their professional connections because they understand the value of helping others in order to help themselves.  You never know when you'll want or need to find another position, tap into someone's expertise, or seek advice. If you are willing to offer your assistance to others, they will be more willing to offer it to you. The Golden Rule applies to business too.

None of what's in this book is hardly the fresh advice that is conjured up with the word "Start-Up." I would hope that anyone who's at least mid-career would have already learned all of it. But for recent college graduates and/or twenty-somethings, it's definitely worth reading. It might save you ten years trying to figure this out on your own.

Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.


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