LinkedIn co-founder says you need more than a good network to succeed


“1,000,000 people overseas can do your job. What makes you so special?”

That sobering message ran on a Bay Area billboard in 2009. And that’s how chapter two of The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career opens.

Authors Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn co-founder) and Ben Casnocha (entrepreneur and author) might have a few readers looking for a tall building with a slippery ledge with that statement, but they don’t leave them there for long.

The Startup of You explains the cold hard fact that the business world is changing, and so must careers. To be successful in this new marketplace, the authors say you need to adapt the way you approach your career. To be successful today, your primary job must be to train and invest in yourself.

Drawing for free copy of The Startup of You

Do As I Do

They suggest that you do that by copying the strategies of successful entrepreneurs; start approaching your career like a startup business.

“With the death of traditional career paths, so goes the kind of traditional professional development previous generations enjoyed.”

Their thesis is solid. The obstacles we face in our careers are similar to the hurdles faced by startups; fierce competition, limited resources, limited information.

And, they suggest, the keys to a successful career today are just a similar; building on assets, taking the right risks, constantly improving (which they call staying in “Beta mode”).

But the over arching theme is simple – if you fail to adapt, you will fail, period. True for startups, true for your career.

Of course there’s emphasis on networking (would you expect anything less from the founder of the largest online networking vehicle?), but most of the book offers unique tips on how you can stay current, and get marketable.

Here are two of my favorites tips:

1. Accentuate the Positive

Successful startups understand their competitive advantage. For careers, this is different than knowing your skill set. This means understanding your personal unique selling proposition.

Example – Zappos. What did they sell that made the shoe website a phenomenon? Not shoes. They sold customer service. And along with it, enough shoes to warrant a company buyout price of almost a billion dollars. But first and foremost, they sold a customer experience.

The Startup of You walks you through ways to assess your competitive advantage by evaluating your assets, aspirations and values.

2. Court Serendipity

Successful startups, like successful careers, don’t follow the traditional path. “Most successful companies and careers, in fact go through many adaptations and iterations,” the book says. “They never really arrive at a fixed destination; it’s an endless journey.”

The book challenges the reader to seek out the unusual opportunities. This involves a lot of putting yourself out there, and hustling, and taking risks. Which may sound a bit zen-guru-ish at first. But it’s wrapped in great examples and ultimately is quite motivating.

Or, Don’t Do As I Do

In true entrepreneurial fashion, Hoffman and Casnocha end their book suggesting that you might want to break all the guidelines they’ve just outlined. Suggesting you “drive over the guiderails” and forge your own path. Because that’s what successful entrepreneurs do.

Another thing successful entrepreneurs do, is fully understand the framework of the box before they draw outside of it. When it comes to your career, The Startup of You wants to help you with that.

I’m giving away two copies of the book to be chosen by this random drawing generator. Winners will be drawn on April 1st.

To enter just:

  • Tweet this post (be sure to add hashtag #WonkaSwag)
  • Sign up below
  • Leave a comment

Each one will get you one entry. Do all three – you’ve got three chances to win. In case you needed help with that math 🙂

UPDATE: DRAWING IS CLOSED. Winners have been notified.


  • Eric

    Reply Reply March 1, 2012

    There’s a great message here: The blame game is over. Things don’t “happen for a reason.” We have to make them happen. But it doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job and going out on your own. You can reinvent yourself and make yourself more valuable to your employer. The smart employers are encouraging entrepreneurship within their organizations — else lose their best talent.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply March 1, 2012

      You’re exactly right Eric! Thanks for the comment — and the entry to win! 🙂

  • Evan

    Reply Reply March 1, 2012

    Hmm. I’m a bit sceptical to be frank.

    Most entrepreneurial ventures exist in a well known market and add a tweak. Zappos just did customer service better – not exactly a new market or even radical innovation.

    CEO’s get sacked, I don’t think employees further down the line are going to be spared. The Seth Godin line that it is possible to make yourself indispensable (we note that Seth is self-employed) seems unlikely to be true to me.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply March 4, 2012

      Interesting perspective Evan. I’m not sure I agree that most startups are just tweaks on well known markets since most innovation comes from startups, and is then acquired by larger companies. But I think point of the book is to be prepared for when CEOs get sacked so that you can get your next gig. (note taken about Seth though!!)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts –

  • jane krill

    Reply Reply March 2, 2012

    you hit the nail on the head there when you said “we never really arrive at a fixed destination; it’s an endless journey.” i think what`s important is what we learn along the way and our perception of things

  • lizzie

    Reply Reply March 2, 2012

    Evan – I do believe it’s possible to make yourself indispensable…and I also think it’s possible for business owners to make employees WANT to be indispensable AND stay loyal to the company.

    I work for a rad agency that markets human resource technology in the HCM space. Thrilling content, I know. But the company culture (beer friendly, unlimited PTO, 100% employer-paid benefits for you and your family), the people and the motivation to stay awesome keeps my loyal and working hard to stay valuable and wanted.

    Staying indispensable is an ongoing battle, though.

    That’s all I got, Kathy.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply March 4, 2012

      Great point Lizzie. The more you like your job (and culture can affect that 110%) the more likely you are to try to kick butt. Sounds like you’ve got a gem of a job. Congrats!


  • Avatar

    Reply Reply March 2, 2012

    Sometimes there are some strategies that wont apply to you and yet its effective to others. Its is very important knowing your box—in that way success will lead you. Its just like a professional driver, when he knows the place, he can take a short cut and both get the same result. When you know what you are doing, you can even break the regular guidelines and attain the specific goal. Learning to be creative and be unique in handling the situation will be the perfect partner in success.

  • Owen

    Reply Reply March 3, 2012

    It’s all in the mind. If you really want to achieve anything it’s possible. It takes desire to do something. Added to that small doses of the ability to learn and extend your knowledge, persistence(cos you will fail at different stages) and the biggie, which is taking Action. Got these qualities? Then you can achieve anything.
    I got laid off in July 2010. Today, I own my own e-commerce store and a business idea’s blog. My income is low but everyday it’s improving. I’m gonna make it!!! yes,yes yes

  • Kathy

    I’m not sure the work place/having a career has changed that much over the past few years. Working hard, being flexible, playing to your strengths, accepting change have always been the traits you need to have a successful career.

    But I’m sure the book is still a great read. I interviewed Ben a few years ago on the subject of ‘being successful’ and I gained numerous insights.


    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply March 5, 2012

      Yeah, Ben seems like a rock star. The book really is a good read, and I think for a lot of people could change the way they look at their careers. In particular people who have worked in large companies all of their lives.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Andrew –

  • Bryce Christiansen

    Reply Reply March 6, 2012

    Hi Kathy,

    Good to catch up again. This whole post was just fascinating and super relevant to me. We just launched our People Profiler web app which is actually all about adapting and networking. So you can see how this was a good fit for me.

    If you have the chance to check out our app I’d love to hear what you think of it.


    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply March 6, 2012

      Hey Bryce – yeah, dropped out for a while there. Good to be back.

      Okay, just checked out the profiler. Fascinating concept. Can’t wait to try it out!


  • Ryan Biddulph

    Reply Reply March 8, 2012

    Hi Kathy,

    #2 is what causes so many to fail. Looks great in writing, but when it happens, fear and panic set in when you actually have to travel the unbeaten path.

    I embrace it now. It excites me. As a newb, I was terrified, but over time you learn that you are doing something special by taking the rough path.

    The key is to keep going. Go with the flow, but make sure you move in the direction of your goals, no matter where it leads you.

    Thanks for sharing Kathy!


    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply March 14, 2012

      You’re absolutely right. The unknown is terrifying for most people. But that’s where most of the rewards are hidden. The biggest leaps take you the farthest. (I’m channeling Confucius.)

  • Keith

    Reply Reply March 13, 2012

    There is a logic behind thinking that working practices are changing, but I think that it is only part of the story and there will not be a major change from large corporations to start ups. Larger companies will not allow it to happen and they will change their practices before they find their workforces as competitors.

    It takes a certain mindset to go out on your own and the people who do and succeed are of a different make up to those who look for corporate security. People forging new trails are the exception, not the rule, and that is why people are reading this blog now, because they are exceptional, and good luck to you.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply March 14, 2012

      I don’t think the authors are implying that the workforce will become competitors of corporations. They’re saying employees will go farther if they start looking at their careers as businesses. Yes, it does take a ‘certain mindset’ to start a company, no doubt. But the book isn’t a guide for that, it’s showing how you can shape your career (even if that career is in corporate America) by utilizing entrepreneurial thinking.

      Good luck to you too, Keith

  • Alan

    Reply Reply March 14, 2012

    A very interesting topic to discuss. I would say yes and no. Networking does get many people jobs. I know people who have gotten great jobs without much education because they had social connections. However, you still have to do things yourself to give yourself opportunities.

  • Sean Owen

    Reply Reply April 1, 2012

    Very much agree with the article – especially serendipity and positiveness.

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