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Strategy or Culture: Which Is More Important?
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” These words, often attributed to Peter Drucker, are frequently quoted by people who see culture at the heart of all great companies. Those same folks like to cite the likes of Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, and Zappos, whose leaders point to their companies’ cultures as the secret of their success.

The argument goes something like this: “Strategy is on paper whereas culture determines how things get done. Anyone can come up with a fancy strategy, but it’s much harder to build a winning culture. Moreover, a brilliant strategy without a great culture is ‘all hat and no cattle,’ while a company with a winning culture can succeed even if its strategy is mediocre. Plus, it’s much easier to change strategy than culture.” The argument’s inevitable conclusion is that strategy is mere ham and eggs for culture.

But this misses a big opportunity to enhance the power of both culture and strategy. As I see it, the two most fundamental strategy questions are:

1. For the company, what businesses should you be in?

2. And for each of those businesses, what value proposition should you go to market with?

A company’s specific cultural strengths must be central to answering that first question. For example, high-margin, premium-product companies that serve wealthy customers do not belong in businesses where penny-pinching is a source of great pride and celebrated behavior. Southwest has chosen not to enter a NetJets-like business, and that’s a sound decision.

Likewise, companies whose identity and worth are based on discovery and innovation do not belong in low-margin, price-competitive businesses. For example, pharmaceutical companies that traditionally compete by discovering novel, patentable drugs and therapies will struggle to add value to businesses competing in generics. The cultural requirements are just too different. This is why universal banks struggle to win in both commercial and investment banking. Whatever synergies they might enjoy (for instance, from common customers and complementary capital needs) are more than offset by the cultural chasm between these two businesses: the value commercial bankers put on containing risk and knowing the customer, versus the value investment bankers have for taking risk and selling innovative financial products.

Maintaining cultural coherence across a company’s portfolio should be an essential factor when determining a corporate strategy. No culture, however strong, can overcome poor choices when it comes to corporate strategy. For example, GE has one of the most productive cultures in the world, and its former leader, Jack Welch, concedes that his acquisition of Kidder Peabody was a failure because its cultural needs did not fit GE’s cultural strengths. The impact of culture on a company’s success is only as good as its strategy is sound.

No culture, however strong, can overcome poor choices when it comes to corporate strategy.

Culture also looms large in answering the second question above. In most businesses, customers consider more than concrete features and benefits when choosing between alternative providers; they also consider “the intangibles.” In fact, these often become the tiebreaker when tangible differences are difficult to discern. For example, most wealthy individuals choose financial advisors more for their personal chemistry or connections than their particular range of mutual funds. Virgin Airlines tries to attract passengers who like its offbeat, non-establishment attitude in how it operates. Culture experts are right to point out Southwest, Nordstrom, and Zappos because these companies have instilled norms of behavior that are essential features of their winning value propositions: from offering consistently low-price, high-quality service in Southwest’s case, to consistently delivering surprising staff service at Nordstrom and leading customer satisfaction at Zappos. What these companies really demonstrate is how culture is an essential variable—much like your product offering, pricing policy, and distribution channels—that should be considered when choosing strategies for your individual businesses. This is especially so when the behavior of your people, and particularly your frontline staff, can give you an edge with your customers.

Strategy must be rooted in the cultural strengths you have and the cultural needs of your businesses. If culture is hard to change, which it is, then strategy is too. Both take years to build; both take years to change. This is one of the many reasons that established companies struggle with big disruptions in their markets. For example, all the major credit card companies are seeking to transition from traditional payments to digital commerce. This shift in strategy will be difficult to pull off. It not only requires a cultural change, but also a change in companies’ target customer, value propositions, and essential capabilities—the three most fundamental choices a business strategy comprises!

Consigning strategy to just a morning meal for culture does injustice to both. Confining culture to the narrow role of “enabling” strategy prevents it from strengthening strategy by being part of it. It also weakens the power of strategy to turn your company’s cultural strengths into a source of enduring advantage.

Don’t let culture eat strategy for breakfast. Have them feed each other.
cultural_clash  cultural_change  intangibles  management  organizational_culture  Peter_Drucker  questions  quotes  strategy  synergies  value_propositions  via:enochko  unscalability 
march 2019 by jerryking
10,000 Hours with Reid Hoffman: What I Learned | Ben Casnocha
16 Lessons Learned (Among Many!)
1. People are complicated and flawed. Root for their better angels.
2. The best way to get a busy person’s attention: Help them.
3. Keep it simple and move fast w...
lessons_learned  advice  entrepreneurship  culture  psychology  productivity  self-deception  self-delusions  success  thought_experiments  networking  career  via:enochko  Reid_Hoffman  Ben_Casnocha 
august 2018 by jerryking
How Successful People Network with Each Other
JANUARY 21, 2016 | ???| Dorie Clark. Ms. Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. You can receive her free Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.

As you advance in your career, you have more experience and more connections to draw on for networking. But chances are you’ve also become a lot busier — as have the really successful people you’re now trying to meet. How do you get the attention of people who get dozens of invitations per week and hundreds of emails per day? And how do you find time to network with potential new clients or to recruit new employees when your calendar is packed?

The typical advice that’s given to entry-level employees — Invite people to coffee! Connect with them on LinkedIn! — simply doesn’t work for people at the top of their careers. Instead, you need to leverage an entirely different strategy, something I call “inbound networking.”

In the online world, “inbound marketing” is a term that was popularized about a decade ago by HubSpot cofounders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. It refers to the practice of creating valuable content, such as articles or podcasts, that draws customers to you directly (as opposed to spending a lot of time on cold calls or paying for advertising to lure them in).

Networking is facing a similar inflection point. Most professionals are constantly bombarded with Facebook and LinkedIn connection requests, not to mention endless requests to “pick their brain.” Trying to stand out in the midst of that noise is a losing battle, and you probably don’t have time to send a bunch of cold emails anyway.

Instead, you can successfully network with the most prominent people by doing something very different from everyone else: attracting them to you with inbound networking. In other words, make yourself interesting enough that they choose to seek you out. Here are three ways to do it.

(1) Identify what sets you apart. (What's your special sauce?). One of the fastest ways to build a connection with someone is to find a commonality you share with them (your alma mater, a love of dogs, a passion for clean tech). That’s table stakes. But the way to genuinely capture their interest is to share something that seems exotic to them. It will often vary by context: In a roomful of political operatives, the fact that I was a former presidential campaign spokesperson is nice but not very interesting. But at a political fundraiser populated by lawyers and financiers, that background would make me a very desirable conversation partner.

The more interesting you seem, the more that powerful people will want to seek you out. And yet it can be hard for us to identify what’s most interesting about ourselves; over time, even the coolest things can come to seem banal. Ask your friends to identify the most fascinating elements of your biography, your interests, or your experiences — then do the same for them. At one recent workshop I led, we discovered that one executive had been a ball boy for the U.S. Open tennis tournament in his youth, and one attorney is an avid and regular surfer in the waters of New York City. Both are intriguing enough to spark a great conversation.

(2) Become a connoisseur. Almost nothing elicits more interest than genuine expertise. If someone is drawn to a topic that you’re knowledgeable about, you’ll move to the top of their list. Since publishing my books, I’ve had innumerable colleagues seek me out to get advice about finding an agent or fine-tuning their manuscripts.

But sometimes it’s even better when your expertise is outside the fold of your profession. Richard, a financial journalist I profiled in my book Reinventing You, was able to build better and deeper relationships with his sources after he started to write part-time about food and wine. He discovered that his Wall Street contacts would proactively call him up to get information about hot new restaurants or the best places to entertain their clients.

You can also use nontraditional expertise to build multidimensional connections. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett could certainly have a decent conversation about business. But it’s their expert-level seriousness about the card game bridge that cemented their bond, eventually leading to Buffett’s decision to entrust billions to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

When you’re an expert in a given niche, you can often connect on a level playing field with people who, under other circumstances, might be out of reach. One friend of mine, a corporate executive who produces jazz records on the side, recently got invited to the home of an internationally famous rock star as Grammy campaign season heated up.

If you know a lot about wine, or nutrition, or salsa dancing, or email marketing, or any of a million other subjects, people who care about that topic are sure to be interested in what you have to say.

(3) Become the center of the network. It’s not easy to build a high-powered network if you’re not already powerful. But New York City resident Jon Levy took the position that the best way to get invited to the party is to host the party. Nearly six years ago, he started hosting twice-monthly “Influencers” dinner gatherings, featuring luminaries in different fields. Levy’s gatherings now attract a guest roster of Nobel laureates and Olympic athletes. But he certainly didn’t start there.

Begin by inviting the most interesting professionals you know and asking them to recommend the most interesting people they know, and over time you can build a substantial network. At a certain point you’ll gain enough momentum that professionals who have heard about the dinners will even reach out to ask for an invitation. As Levy joked to one publication, “One day, I hope to accomplish something worthy of an invite to my own dinner.” When you’re the host, pulling together a great event liberates you to invite successful people who you might not normally consider your peers but who embrace the chance to network with other high-quality professionals.

I’ve also hosted more than two dozen dinner parties to broaden my network and meet interesting people. But that’s certainly not the only way to connect. These days, any professional who makes the effort to start a Meetup or Facebook group that brings people together could accomplish something similar.

The world is competing for the attention of the most successful people. If you want to meet them — and break through and build a lasting connection — the best strategy is to make them come to you. Identifying what’s uniquely interesting about you and becoming a connoisseur and a hub are techniques that will ensure you’re sought after by the people you’d most like to know.
networking  via:enochko  Communicating_&_Connecting  connoisseurship  hubs  creating_valuable_content  idea_generation  content_creators  personal_branding  attention_spans  inbound_marketing  high-quality  expertise  think_threes  special_sauce  personal_accomplishments  inflection_points  insights 
april 2017 by jerryking
Ultra-rich man’s letter: “To My Fellow Filthy Rich Americans: The Pitchforks Are Coming” – TIP
Ultra-rich man’s letter: “To My Fellow Filthy Rich Americans: The Pitchforks Are Coming”

By NICK HANAUER | politico

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

_h3218_w4866_m2_bwhite(Image: news.msn)


Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.

What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let’s do it all over again. We’ve got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.

It’s when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines—and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.

Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.

On June 19, 2013, Bloomberg published an article I wrote called “The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage.” Forbes labeled it “Nick Hanauer’s near insane” proposal. And yet, just weeks after it was published, my friend David Rolf, a Service Employees International Union organizer, roused fast-food workers to go on strike around the country for a $15 living wage. Nearly a year later, the city of Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage. And just 350 days after my article was published, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed that ordinance into law. How could this happen, you ask?

It happened because we reminded the masses that they are the source of growth and prosperity, not us rich guys. We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers—and need more employees. We reminded them that if businesses paid workers a living wage rather than poverty wages, taxpayers wouldn’t have to make up the difference. And when we got done, 74 percent of likely Seattle voters in a recent poll agreed that a $15 minimum wage was a swell idea.

The standard response in the minimum-wage debate, made by Republicans and their business backers and plenty of Democrats as well, is that raising the minimum wage costs jobs. Businesses will have to lay off workers. This argument reflects the orthodox economics that most people had in college. If you took Econ 101, then you literally were taught that if wages go up, employment must go down. The law of supply and demand and all that. That’s why you’ve got John Boehner and other Republicans in Congress insisting that if you price employment higher, you get less of it. Really?

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor.

Because here’s an odd thing. During the past three decades, compensation for CEOs grew 127 times faster than it did for workers. Since 1950, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased 1,000 percent, and that is not a typo. CEOs used to earn 30 times the median wage; now they rake in 500 times. Yet no company I know of has eliminated its senior managers, or outsourced them to China or automated their jobs. Instead, we now have more CEOs and senior executives than ever before. So, too, for financial services workers and technology workers. These folks earn multiples of the median wage, yet we somehow have more and more of them.

140624_fatcats_grid_1160
The Art of the Fat Cat A century and a half of soaking the rich—with ink.
By MATT WUERKER – (politico)

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor. So for as long as there has been capitalism, capitalists have said the same thing about any effort to raise wages. We’ve had 75 years of complaints from big business—when the minimum wage was instituted, when women had to be paid equitable amounts, when child labor laws were created. Every time the capitalists said exactly the same thing in the same way: We’re all going to go bankrupt. I’ll have to close. I’ll have to lay everyone off. It hasn’t happened. In fact, the data show that when workers are better treated, business gets better. The naysayers are just wrong.

Most of you probably think that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle is an insane departure from rational policy that puts our … [more]
economics  feudalism  politics  wealth  via:enochko  middle_class  minimum_wage  income_inequality  the_one_percent  social_fabric  worldviews 
september 2016 by jerryking
Advice for Data Scientists on Where to Work | Stitch Fix Technology – Multithreaded
It's a good time to be a data scientist. If you have the skills, experience, curiosity and passion, there is a vast and receptive market of companies to choose from. Yet there is much to consider when evaluating a prospective firm as a place to apply your talents. Even veterans may not have had the opportunity to experience different organizations, stages of maturity, cultures, technologies, or domains. We are amalgamating our combined experience here to offer some advice - three things to look for in a company that could make it a great place to work.

Work for a Company that Leverages Data Science for its Strategic Differentiation

Companies employ various means of differentiation in order to gain a competitive advantage in the market. Some differentiate themselves using price, striving to be the low-price leader. Others differentiate by product, providing an offering that is superior in some way. Still others differentiate by their processes - for example providing faster shipping.

A Data Scientist should look for a company that actually uses data science to set themselves apart from the competition. Note that data science may be supportive of lower prices, better products, and faster shipping, however, it is not typically the direct enabler of these differentiators. More commonly, the enablers are other things - economies of scale in the case of lower prices, patents or branding in the case of product, and automation technology in the case of faster shipping. Data science can directly enable a strategic differentiator if the company's core competency depends on its data and analytic capabilities. When this happens, the company becomes supportive to data science instead of the other way around. It's willing to invest in acquiring the top talent, building the necessary infrastructure, pioneering the latest algorithmic and computational techniques, and building incredible engineering products to manifest the data science.

"Good enough" is not a phrase that is uttered in the context of a strategic differentiator. Rather, the company and the data scientist have every incentive to push the envelope, to innovate further, and to take more risks. The company's aspirations are squarely in-line with that of the data scientist's. It's an amazing intersection to be at – a place that gets you excited to wake up to every morning, a place that stretches you, a place that inspires you (and supports you) to be the best in the world at what you do.

Work for a Company with Great Data

In determining what will be a great company to work for, data-science-as-a-strategic-differentiator is a necessary criteria, but it is not sufficient. The company must also have world-class data to work with.

This starts with finding a company that really has data. Spotting the difference between data and aspirations of data can be especially important in evaluating early-stage companies. Ideally you'll find a company that already has enough data to do interesting things. Almost all companies will generate more data as they grow, but if you join a company that already has data your potential for impact and fulfillment will be much higher.

Next look for data that is both interesting and that has explanatory power. One of the most important aspects of your daily life will be the extent to which you find the data you work with compelling. Interesting data should require your creativity to frame problems, test your intuition and push you to develop new algorithms and applications. Explanatory power is just as important - great data enables great applications. There should be enough signal to support data science as a differentiating strength.

Finally, don't fixate on big data. The rising prominence of the data scientist has coincided with the rise of Big Data, but they are not the same thing. Sheer scale does not necessarily make data interesting, nor is it necessarily required. Look for data with high information density rather than high volume, and that supports applications you find interesting or surprising. This enables you to spend most of your mental energy on analysis and framing rather than on efficient data processing.

Work for a Company with Greenfield Opportunities

When evaluating opportunities, find a company that doesn't have it all figured out yet. Nearly all companies that fit the criteria in the sections above will already have some applications in place where the work of data scientists is essential. Look for those companies that have a strong direction and strongly established data science teams, but have an array of problems they are solving for the first time.

Often the most exciting and impactful opportunities for data scientists at a company are not being actively pursued. They probably have not even been conceived of yet. Work somewhere that encourages you to take risks, challenge basic assumptions, and imagine new possibilities.

Observing the relationship between engineering and data science teams is a quick way to determine if an organization adopts this mindset. Is engineering enthusiastic to partner with data science teams to experiment and integrate ideas back into the business? Is there an architecture in place that supports agile integration of new ideas and technologies? In fact, in companies that embody this mindset most effectively, it is likely difficult to locate the boundary between data science and engineering teams.

A greenfield can be intimidating in its lack of structure, but the amount of creativity and freedom available to you as a data scientist is never greater than when you're starting from scratch. The impact of putting something in place where nothing existed previously can be immeasurable. Look for chances to be involved in designing not just the math and science, but also the pipeline, the API, and the tech stack. Not only is creating something new often more challenging and rewarding, but there is no better opportunity for learning and growth than designing something from the ground up.

Incremental improvements have incremental impacts, but embrace the chance to operate on a greenfield. While it is extremely important to constantly iterate and improve on systems that already exist, the Version 1 of something new can fundamentally change the business.

Summary

Of course, there are other considerations: domain, the company's brand, the specific technology in use, the culture, the people, and so forth. All of those are equally important. We call out the three above since they are less frequently talked about, yet fundamental to a data scientist's growth, impact, and happiness. They are also less obvious. We learned these things from experience. At first glance, you would not expect to find these things in a women's apparel company. However, our very different business model places a huge emphasis on data science, enables some of the richest data in the world, and creates space for a whole new suite of innovative software.
career  strategy  via:enochko  economies_of_scale  data_scientists  job_search  Managing_Your_Career  greenfields  data  differentiation  good_enough  information_density  product_pipelines  think_threes 
september 2016 by jerryking
How to approach your own career like an entrepreneur - Fortune
1. Choose growth over profitability. Rather than focus on short-term gains, think long-term goals and what you need to get there.
2. Bet on who you want to work with, not on where. Job seekers should invest in people, not ideas. That means pick the place you’re going to work for the people you’re going to work with. They’re the ones who will train you and lead you to other opportunities when the time comes.
3. Find your special sauce. Fetishize your product-market fit. This may be one of the hardest challenges in the new economy.
4. Celebrate uncertainty. Iterate. Seek feedback and adapt. Pivot where necessary.
5. Be public. Be on Linkedin. Give away hard-won information and knowledge, you’ll get something back. Be more transparent.

Nitin Julka was 31 and working like a dog in Cleveland when he got the itch. For six years he’d been a VP of his family’s business, a $20 million company that sold IT to schools. He had moved home after getting an MBA, excited to grow the company and make a difference in educational technology. It had been a “wild ride,” but he was ready for change. “I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he says. “I just knew I wanted to do something different.”

The jobs that interested him most were in tech. He started calling friends, friends of friends, business school classmates, and even distant contacts to talk about Bay Area companies and about what professional roles he might actually qualify for. After 30 or so conversations, he made up his mind: He wanted to be a product manager at a fast-growing Silicon Valley–based startup.

This struck few as a logical or even feasible next step for Julka: “I was changing job functions, industries, and geographies. People told me you can do one of those things—not all three at once.”

But Julka is more self-aware than most. On a quarterly basis, he conducts a life assessment and reviews what he considers to be his professional competitive advantage. Among his “most unique” attributes he lists his receptiveness to feedback. Indeed, in his quest for continual improvement, he has recorded personal and professional feedback in a single, running Google doc since 2010. He reads it once a week, when prompted by a recurring calendar invite.

And so began what Julka considers the “abnormal part” of his job search: He drew up a spreadsheet of 60 target companies, a few of which he researched for 60 to 80 hours (he admits he “overinvested”). He read 10-Ks and 10-Qs and a hundred CrunchBase articles; he mined his personal and virtual connections; he enlisted a friend, a former Google programmer, to tutor him in code; and he found free online videos from which he learned UX/UI design. With his wife’s support, he gave himself five weeks in Silicon Valley—no mean feat given that he had an 18-month-old baby at home. He met with three or more people a day, prepared a 48-page set of interview notes, and rode the highs and lows of pitching himself for a job that many thought he was an odd fit for.

It ended on a high. In September 2013 he got several job offers—including one, through a contact of his business school professor, at Bizo, a startup that has since been acquired by LinkedIn LNKD .

Julka may sound like a case study in craziness, a modern-day Ben Franklin whose entrepreneurial energy and efforts cannot be easily matched. But while he exists at one extreme, he’s the prototype for what it takes to navigate one’s career these days.

The truth is, wherever you are on the corporate ladder, whatever you do for a living, you’ve got to think like you’re launching a business from the ground up.

As LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha wrote in their zeitgeist-tapping book from 2012, The Start-Up of You, “All humans are entrepreneurs.” To accelerate your career in today’s economy, you’ve got to embrace that spirit and apply the Silicon Valley formula—“adapt to the future” and “invest in yourself”—no matter how comfortable in your job you might be.

Imagine you’re a founder. You’ve been working for days—years, really. (You can’t remember the last time you took a day off.) You’ve networked like crazy. And now, at last, you’ve landed one of those much-coveted meetings with a high-profile venture capital firm on Sand Hill Road.

the start up of you bookIt feels as though you’ve been waiting your whole life for this: You’ve prepared your slide deck, rehearsed your pitch, and honed your talking points. You’re ready to be grilled about even the finest details of your marketing and monetization strategies. You’ve gone so far as to research your VC’s hobbies. But the product you’re selling isn’t some whiz-bang app or the latest and greatest cloud-computing platform; the product is you.

Here’s where your potential backer steps in: What’s your competitive advantage, she asks? The questions come rapid-fire: What’s your addressable market? The opportunities for growth? Your five-year plan? Your 10-year plan?

You may not be used to thinking about your career in such calculating terms, but old standards like “follow your passion” get you only so far. You won’t get Series A funding, but the analogy is apt: If you are the startup, you’d better start answering to your inner VC.

“You’ve got to have a sense of purpose, authenticity, self-awareness, intellectual honesty, and the ability to navigate ambiguity,” says Hemant Taneja, managing director at General Catalyst Partners, a venture capital firm. That’s what he looks for in companies—and people—he invests in. Alan Braverman, an entrepreneur and angel investor who co-heads the Giant Pixel, a tech startup studio, speaks more bluntly: “What most people consider a safe career path, I consider falling behind.”

You don’t have to be a TaskRabbit (or a VC) to know that the world of work has changed. Technology, globalization, and one long recession—in which nearly one in six Americans reported losing a job, according to Princeton economist Henry Farber—have all disrupted old-fashioned employment. Corporations have downsized, outsourced, and rightsized. They slashed training budgets during the recession, and though that spending is coming back—up 15% in 2013, according to a Deloitte survey—corporate talent development is thought to be a dying art. “As companies see it, the incentives are just so perverse,” says Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at Wharton Business School. “Typically you train someone, and once they become useful, they’re hired away from you.” Meanwhile, the slow march of automation continues: Robots now fly planes, perform surgeries, and in some cases write news. That leaves you, dear worker, in a tight spot—whether or not you’ve got your dream job now, you’ve got to stay relevant and evolve.

That’s not as easy as it once was. The half-life of desirable skills has shortened with the hastening pace of technological change. (A Python programmer now eats the once-hot Java programmer for lunch.) Fabio Rosati, CEO of the online freelancing platform Elance-oDesk, says these dynamics are moving us from the era of employment to one of newfangled “employability.” Professionals, like the 9.3 million who find work on his site, are now being viewed as mobile, independent bundles of skills. In this universe the most adaptable talent rules the day. Increasingly, learning agility is an attribute sought in corporate leadership, says Vicki Swisher, a senior director at Korn Ferry, an executive search firm. What’s more, she says, it’s what employers are looking for in all new hires.

That agility is also mission critical for your personal enterprise (formerly known as your career path). Rather than climb a single corporate ladder like the company man of yore, you’re more likely to spend your career scaling a professional jungle gym, maneuvering between projects, jobs, companies, industries, and locales. By the reckoning of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest job-tenure survey, you’ll pivot every 4.6 years (make that three if you’re a millennial, a demographic that will dominate the workforce in 2015). To do this well requires imagination, initiative, and some guts. Much like a startup, you’re forging your way ahead in a dynamic world where there is no conventional path.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” advises Mike Abbott, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who knows as an entrepreneur and as someone whose career zigged to Microsoft, Palm, and Twitter before it zagged to venture capital. In his case, he sought discomfort. “That’s how you learn the most.”

While the ideas of a free-agent nation and personal brand building have been with us for a couple of decades, DIY-career building has gotten a big push from the digital (and old-fashioned sharing) infrastructure that fosters this independence. There’s the rise in communal workspaces like WeWork and educational alternatives like Coursera, which offers college courses online, and General Assembly, which trains workers in the most in-demand tech skills. (As Julka’s case shows, YouTube and Google can also be empowering resources.)

A slew of online platforms has made it simpler to drum up employment, from one-off gigs to full-time jobs. Professionals can peddle their services, whether it be supply-chain management or legal advice, more easily and independently too, through sites like Elance-oDesk and TrustedPeer, which sometimes cater to big companies.

The data are messy on the size and shape of this new, more independent workforce. The BLS, whose classification system dates back to 1948, counted 14.4 million self-employed Americans in April 2014. That’s a far cry from the results of a study commissioned this year by the Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk, which put the number of freelancers—a broader category that includes temps, part-timers, and moonlighters—at 53 million, or one in three American workers. (A report on freelancers … [more]
value_propositions  personal_branding  via:enochko  it's_up_to_me  pitches  self-assessment  self-awareness  Silicon_Valley  gig_economy  start_ups  Managing_Your_Career  Reid_Hoffman  Ben_Casnocha  slight_edge  job_search  discomforts  uncertainty  learning_agility  transparency  customer_growth  self-employment  Elance-oDesk  TrustedPeer  large_companies  non-routine  skills  special_sauce  free-agents  WeWork  product-market_fit  preparation  readiness  torchbearers 
july 2016 by jerryking
What a Year of Job Rejections Taught Me About Pitching Myself
SEPTEMBER 09, 2015 | HBR | Nina Mufleh.
[send to Nick Patel]
After sending out hundreds of copies of my résumé to dozens of companies over the last year, I realized that I was getting nowhere because my approach was wrong....How could a career that ranged from working with royalty to Fortune 500 brands and startups not pique the curiosity of any hiring managers?

As a marketer, I decided to re-frame the challenge. Instead of thinking as a job applicant, I had to think of myself as a product and identify ways to create demand around hiring me. I applied everything I knew about marketing and storytelling to build a campaign that would show Silicon Valley companies the kind of value I would bring to their teams.

The experiment was a report that I created for Airbnb that highlighted the promise and potential of expanding to the Middle East, a market that I am extremely familiar with and until recently they had not focused on. I spent a couple of days gathering data about the tourism industry and the company’s current footprint in the market, and identified strategic opportunities for them there.

I released the report on Twitter and copied Airbnb’s founders and leadership team. Behind the scenes, I also shared it by email with many personal and professional contacts and encouraged them to share it if they thought it was interesting — most did, as did some of the top VCs, entrepreneurs and many peers around the world....What I realize in hindsight is probably one of the most important lessons of my career so far. The project highlighted the qualities I wanted to show to recruiters; more importantly, it also addressed one of the main weaknesses they saw in me....What the report helped me do was show, not tell, my value beyond their doubts. It refocused my perceived weakness into a strength: an international perspective with the promise of understanding and entering new markets. And though none of the roles that I interviewed for in the last two months focused on expansion, by addressing and challenging the weakness, I was able to re-frame the conversation around my strengths....asking yourself a different version of that question is going to make you better prepared for any conversation with a recruiter, a potential client, or even a potential investor....not “What is my weakness?” but rather “What do they perceive as a weakness in my background?”
Airbnb  campaigns  career_paths  creating_demand  Fortune_500  founders  HBR  hindsight  inbound_marketing  job_search  Managing_Your_Career  Middle_East  networking  personal_branding  pitches  problem_framing  reframing  rejections  self-promotion  social_media  strengths  value_propositions  via:enochko  weaknesses 
september 2015 by jerryking

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