Listen up, job hunters…LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has pulled off something extraordinary in his book-writing debut. He has challenged a well-worn idea — the importance of letting your passions guide your job hunt — and replaced it with something better.
As far back as 1971, when the first edition of “What Color Is Your Parachute?” appeared, career coaches have been urging people to start by figuring out what they love to do most of all. Then, the conventional wisdom says, figure out a way to spend your life in that field, whether it’s being a pastry chef or a hedge-fund trader.
That’s fine advice in a world where we settle into one career for most of our working lives, Hoffman and co-author Ben Casnocha argue in the newly published “The Start-Up of You.” But, the authors point out, such a world doesn’t exist any more. Opportunities come and go at an astonishing speed.
For example, you might graduate from college and then head off to India to be a public-health specialist. If that didn’t sustain you, you could spend the next decade collecting an MBA and then giving management consulting and government service a try. Even those might not be your final destination — you might uproot yourself once more to become a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
Such zigzags shouldn’t be seen as fumbled attempts to solve the “passion question,” Hoffman and Casnocha argue. Instead, they say, bouncing around in the job market is healthy, normal — and maybe even optimal.
The most important virtue, in their eyes, is adaptability. You may have some early ideas about what looks most fulfilling, and you shouldn’t disregard those hunches entirely. But you won’t really know your passions until you discover what you’re really good at, and what pursuits are being rewarded — or at least tolerated — in the marketplace.
In short, the authors say, “you don’t know what the best plan is until you try.”
Building up LinkedIn, as a social network focused on people’s work identities, proved to be a perfect fit. But even that isn’t Hoffman’s final destination. He’s LinkedIn’s chairman but not CEO these days, and spends much of his time as a venture capitalist at Greylock Partners.
For people who aren’t going to soar that high (which happens to be 99.9% of the book’s likely readers), Hoffman and fellow entrepreneur Casnocha offer a series of down-to-earth maxims. Most of the advice is quite good, though a few pointers seem forced. Among the authors’ suggestions:
- Develop an ABZ plan, where A is what you’re doing now, B is a logical next step, and Z is your fallback plan in case nothing goes right. Keep that safe landing spot in mind, and you can take more risks without being one step away from calamity.
- Maintain an identity separate from specific employers. Hey, it’s 2012. Even the best jobs can come and go, as General Motors, Kodak and a host of other companies keep proving. Whether you’re in sales, strategy or pastry decoration, the authors urge you to “Develop a public portfolio of work that’s not tied to your employer.” That way, if one job becomes a cul de sac, you can still keep moving forward.
- Hang out with people who are already the way you want to be. This advice, of course, is tantamount to a plug to join LinkedIn and become an active networker, poster, etc. But it’s a valid idea anyway.
There’s a sunny quality to “The Start-Up of You” that comes from the authors’ decision to focus on the most successful examples of the principles they espouse. (That former World Bank staffer in India, by the way, turns out to be Sheryl Sandberg, now the chief operating officer of Facebook.) If some people have remade their professional identity too many times — like itchy drivers constantly switching lanes on the highway — we don’t hear about them.
But Hoffman and Casnocha finish strong. They point out that the adaptive, entrepreneurial spirit that they champion is found in some of the world’s most prosperous and harmonious countries. When immigrants uproot themselves to get to the U.S. or other places where the entrepreneurial spirit is strongest, they validate the power and the appeal of an adaptive path.
By G. Anders, Contributor
Posted to blog by Sunny K. Lurie, Fast Focus Careers (statements I strongly agree with I’ve put in bold face)