Book Review: The Start Up of You - Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

The Start Up of YouLike most established bloggers I receive a seemingly endless stream of untargeted press releases, requests to take guest posts and evermore surreal suggestions for affiliate deals. I was therefore delighted to finally get something targeted and appropriate when a preview copy of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman's new book "The Start Up of You" metaphorically landed on the mat (I actually have a post box). So for once I thought I'd break my own rules about doing this kind of thing and attempt a book review! What is it about?

Written by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casonocha "The Start Up of You" attempts to show people how to "apply the strategies of successful entrepreneurship to your career" The blurb on the back also contains the bold claim, "Just as LinkedIn is the one online community that no professional can afford not to belong to, this book is the book that no professional can afford to be without"......quite some build up!

What I liked

The book covers quite a lot of ground but there are two stand out areas for me:

Firstly I'm very passionate in my belief that careers advice (via whatever channel it comes) needs to evolve significantly to match the present and future reality rather than preparing people for what work was like 15 years ago. I love the fact this book really challenges conventional wisdom on careers and specifically illustrates how some the entrenched thinking established by iconic books such as 'What Colour is Your Parachute" is way out of date. The world is crying out for books that address the new work realities and I think Hoffman and Casonocha do that very well here

Secondly it should be no surprise that I read this book because of my interest in LinkedIn and keenness to get some insight into the philosophy behind the site and here the book really delivers. There is some excellent content on network theory as well as some excellent insight into the power of engagement over unsolicited spamming (recruitment industry please take careful note!)

What I didn't like

As I said the book covers a lot of ground and this is actually one of its key failings. I was unsure whether it was trying to be an annotated history of Silicon Valley, Reid Hoffman's autobiography or a genuine self help book. Very often the practical tips it does include are there in a list format that feels like it was added as an editorial afterthought. This may not bother some readers but I suspect it might be slightly frustrating for those looking for a genuine career self help book

Overall

In summary the book is very readable with lots of interesting content. In my quest to make sense of the future world of work I must read 20-30 books like this a year so I'm very conscious that my criticisms could be the result of reading it through slightly jaded eyes! If you are coming at it with a somewhat fresher outlook you'll probably like it a lot. Perhaps most relevantly for this blog though, if you are a recruiter trying to get your head round what LinkedIn is really about and what works, there is some great content woven in throughout the book which will help you a lot

The Start Up of You is published on Thursday 16th February and you can order it here *

*Just to clarify I wasn't paid to write this review and that link isn't part of an affiliate deal!

Boiling Frogs - My Predictions for Recruitment in 2011

So here we are then the first week of the business year, the traditional time for predictions about what this coming year might bring for the recruitment industry. As this is a blog about futurology I obviously have to contribute something but this time I'm going to take a slightly different approach. Before I do anything though it is of course compulsory to have a quick review of the predictions I made last year. You can find them here

Feel free to judge for yourselves but I’d say that I got the recruitment market and social recruiting ones about right. The jury is very much still out on the newspaper one, we’d never heard of the iPad when I made these predictions and it might just change the dynamic but only time and successful mass adoption will tell.  The Job Board one looks likes it was way off unfortunately and to the detriment of the industry in my opinion. That said I do have a fairly well informed feeling that there were some back room conversations in 2010 that might see some innovative products being launched this year

So what of 2011? Well rather than putting down any specific predictions I wanted to share some overarching thoughts about change and how it will effect everyone.

I’ve been lucky enough to speak to a huge number of employers in the last few weeks, either via my work with MetaShift or through some of the great events I’ve attended or spoken at. Through some continuing work in the outplacement sector I’ve also been able to speak to and get the opinions of many job seekers across different sectors and at differing levels first hand.

The main thing that comes through in all of these conversations is a very noticeable groundswell of change. Whether it is the growth of direct resourcing, dissatisfaction with the current state of the online recruitment market or a huge shift in how and where people look for jobs there are changes taking place that really do put this industry at a crossroads.

My biggest continuing frustration is that large sectors of the recruitment industry are completely failing to notice and address these fundamental issues. The good news though is I think that finally, with the help of an often used business metaphor, I’ve worked out why.

You see most of the time, in our industry anyway, revolutions are imperceptible unless you are looking straight at them, particularly when some of their effects can be explained away by tough economic times. It’s just like boiling a frog, if you drop it into hot water the frog will jump out, if you put it in cold water and slowly heat it up the frog won’t notice the temperature increase and will boil to death.

If 2010 was the year when the water got a bit tepid, my prediction is that it’ll get a lot more than just lukewarm in 2011.

So whether you are:

- An employer needing to take a careful look at how your online recruitment offering is actually working and/or needing to investigate social media.

- A Job board thinking carefully about how your business needs to evolve in these “tough” times

- An ATS supplier trying to meet the demands of clients widening your portfolio when they also seem to be putting the needs of the candidate further and further down their list of priorities

- A recruitment agency thinking that direct resourcing and social media are fads that won’t effect you

- A recruitment advertising agency betting the farm on “strategic media partnerships” and/or claiming you get social when you’re not even doing social

I’d keep an eye on the temperature of the water this year because you are going to need to start planning change very soon. You should also get in touch with me, I’ve got some ideas that will help...

Happy New Year Everyone!



Why Job Boards need to innovate or die

First of all this isn’t another generic all job boards are doomed blog post. I wanted to put some recent thoughts I’ve had in writing that I truly believe represent the issues job boards are facing or about to face. My credentials to do this are 12 years experience of working with job boards in the UK market as opposed to mere speculative opinion! This post starts about 10 years ago. Back then I was one of the few professional buyers of job board space in the UK and my day was always a whirlwind of presentations from new job board launches. Some of sites don’t exist anymore; many more of them are now mainstays of the UK market. The one thing they all had in common though was innovation. Everyone was going to change recruitment for good, everyone had a new and interesting model, everyone was a disruptive force in a recruitment space that was over priced, old fashioned and out of touch with jobseeker and client needs.

Business models and market share were established and the job boards did indeed change recruitment, not as quickly or by as much as the initial optimism suggested but they were a truly disruptive force. However the dot com bubble bursting, a relatively small UK internet audience (back then anyway) and limitations in technology did take the edge off a lot of the promised innovation

Fast forward ten years and Job Boards are indeed a dominant force. With this though have come severe product commoditisation and a rather alarming establishment mindset that is personified by the frequently heard mantra - “but there will always be job boards”.

There in lies my issue because it’s not true; job boards have no more right to exist than the traditional publishers they have slowly been displacing. Don’t believe me? Then ask anyone over about 35 and if they think about it they’ll remember a significant period of their career when job boards just didn’t exist. The industry is far too young to have such a “you’ll never cope without us” attitude

Ten years later I’ve moved on as well,  I don’t buy job board space anymore but nevertheless as a consultant to the industry I’m getting a strange sense of déjà vu.  Once more a series of wide eyed keen young start ups are seeking me out for advice and presenting business models designed to disrupt the recruitment status quo. This time the perceived status quo aren’t traditional publishers it’s the job boards themselves.  Then there is LinkedIn probably the biggest potential disruptive force in our space that I’ve ever seen. Any job board owner who says it isn’t a threat to their business is either lying or hasn’t thought about it deeply enough.

Add in the embryonic force of social recruiting that is seeing progressive clients proactively undertaking activity with the aim of reducing or even eliminating their job board spend and you’ve got a heady mix of forces that should give job boards all the motivation they need to innovate and take their offerings to the next level.

What absolutely amazes me though is that with a few very notable exceptions (keen market observers will spot them!) this innovation isn’t happening. It seems to me that most job boards are expending all their energy either denying that there any threats to their model or doing whatever they can to maintain the status quo and in so doing are potentially taking their business models into a commoditised death spiral

I’m not writing all of this because I want to see job boards disappear in fact quite the opposite. I truly believe that they have a small but significant window of opportunity to innovate and thrive. Once the window closes though I’m afraid there will be no way back. So this is my challenge to the job board industry, put more of your energy into planning for the future and make me eat my words by creating some innovative disruptive business models that will drive the industry forward. I know you can do it because I still remember the year 2000 and how we’ve all been in the same position before. This time though the audience, technology and timing are all perfect……

The unthinkable today is reality tomorrow

Very interesting to see the lack of comment on, (or indeed in most places lack of any mention of) Personnel Today's recent announcement that it is shutting the print version of the publication and going online only. A few years ago I was brain storming with some of my then colleagues about what changes we might see in the industry. During the conversation I suggested that the printed version of Personnel Today would at some point, in the reasonably near future, cease to exist. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was scaremongering and being deliberately disruptive (I get accused of this a lot!). Received wisdom then was it would "never happen" not least because of the conservative approach of its target audience to technology. Interesting that is also the argument I'm still hearing today about the potential for social recruiting.

Anyway fast forward not very many years and the switch happens. Rather than being seen as a revolutionary or controversial bit of breaking news, it is treated as just an unfortunate but ultimately routine announcement about the loss of more jobs in the publishing industry

The lesson here is very much that today's unthinkable change can quickly become tomorrow predictable reality. With that in mind I wonder what changes the next five years are going to bring to our industry......