LinkedIn Co-founder Reid Hoffman’s Entrepreneur’s Approach to Job Hunting

By Caleb Khoo   •   7 min read

As a big fan of technology, Reid Hoffman (and also his legendary Paypal Mafia mates) is a person that I massively respect. I have been following the things he talks about closely such as general trends and global issues. One of the more interesting things that I have seen this week is extremely applicable to millennial jobseekers, like myself, so I feel obliged to share this with everyone.

Hoffman calls it taking an Entrepreneur’s Approach to Job-hunting in his book — The Startup of You. Because simply put, it takes the behaviour of an entrepreneur and applies it to the traditional job-hunting process.

First off, we establish what the stereotypical entrepreneur is like. Well, at least the really good ones. They are scrappy, smart, and are suckers for punishment. They know they have a set of tasks and they will stop at nothing to achieve them. They are resilient and just can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. And if they finally do accept the ‘no’, they have to ask ‘why not’?

Looking at this set of behaviour, how can a youthful, energetic 22-year-old use it to get his or her ideal job?

Reid Hoffman has this answer:


Your Aspirations

This is the set of objectives that you wish to achieve. Every business has one which comes from their vision and mission. You can apply the same principle to yourself.

What are your career objectives? What do you aspire to be? What do you hope to achieve at the end of your working life?

Ask yourself what you are actually after — a good salary and employee benefits, a powerful brand name company, a strong mission to be working for, the list goes on. You need to be clear on this, if not you will end up miserable in the job you go after.

For instance, you may choose to pursue a good salary and enter investment banking but end up quitting after three years due to burnout. In fact, this is how the average fresh investment banker ends up. Many leave to do other work in non-profits or less stressful forms of consulting after making their money.

The other thing you should pay attention to here — which most people tend to forget when they hunt for jobs — is your own personality. This is subtle but it has a huge influence over your work life and by extension, your workplace happiness. Your own personal set of beliefs and attitude should not be a far throw from that of your aspirational workplace. If you have a creative, freedom-loving attitude and you can’t stand sitting at a desk for longer than two hours at one go, then it’s going to be very difficult for you to accomplish your dream of becoming the CFO at a Fortune500 company. You might have the discipline and willpower to force yourself to do it. But your happiness is drastically reduced and it makes you wonder if it’s worth it in the first place.

A simple exercise to do here would be to picture your Future Self. Do it in phases — short term (2–3 years’ time), medium term (5–7 years), long term (10–12 years) and finally, your endpoint. Going into detail and structuring the vision of your Future Self will be extremely useful because it will give you clarity and insight to your own career aspirations.

Your Assets

Your assets are basically resources that you can utilise in order to achieve your aspiration. Every business has these assets and they can take the form of funding, talent, proprietary intellectual property, strategic partnerships, brand, etc… As an individual, you will also have certain assets which are useful to you and can generate value to an organization. Take a look at yourself right now :

What are your current skills? How large is your network? What have you achieved with your present resources?

Record these assets meticulously. For example, keep a Skill Journal and regularly update it. Update it whenever you learnt something useful and managed to apply it to a real situation. Update it whenever you pull off something cool like organised a series of talks for your school or successfully executed a big event for your student club. Don’t leave it to the company or the school — it is your responsibility and yours alone.

I am not promoting LinkedIn here but LinkedIn is actually an amazing tool to record all your skills, experiences and connections. And not to mention, you can scout out the competition (covered below) with LinkedIn as well.

Use Google to search out career websites to ascertain the skills required for your future job. Reiterate your skill-set according to today’s job requirements so that you keep improving your chances of getting your ideal job.

Your Competition

The job market is like any other market. It is made up of demand and supply. You are arguably a commodity to be traded in this market. So treat this like a shopping exercise, and ask yourself what are the things you look out for when you buy stuff. There will be a list of items but at the top of the list will probably be just these two things: price and benefit.

Look at it from the employer’s point of view now.

You need some work to be done and you want to hire the most suitable person to do it. You are given a budget to hire this person and you have to get it done within the parameters given by your company. You go shopping for a list of applicants and you manage to find a few pretty cool people. You look at the price (asking salary) and consider the benefits (skills, connections, attitude, company-employee fit…) of hiring a particular person.

So what is it that makes you so special compared to other people? Look at your peers and seniors in the industry. How are you doing relative to them?

Be brutally honest. Believe in the strength of your competition and that they can defeat you the moment you slip up. If you work from this position of fear, you will accomplish amazing things. Don’t get complacent when you are good. Or even when you are the best. Complacency is the killer of growth.

Putting It All Together

From the above analysis, you come up with Plan A which is going for your supposed ideal career choice after evaluating your aspirations, assets and competition. You may find yourself unqualified for your ideal job currently. This is not a bad thing; it only means that you are ambitious.

But you must also be aware that higher expectations also lead to a higher chance of failing. So you have to come up with Plan B like all entrepreneurs do when shit happens. In the startup world, it is called ‘pivoting’. In the case of job-hunting, it simply means having alternatives.

You should try your best to go for your ideal choice and upgrade your skills, connections and street cred until you are qualified for it but if all else fails, try something else. You never know if your not-so-ideal second choice ends up being better than your first. Even Mark Zuckerberg put Facebook behind Wirehog on his list of priorities — until, well, shit got real.

To wrap up, these are the five things you should do to get going:

  1. Do the thought exercises mentioned above: reflect on your aspirations, assets and competition
  2. Keep track of yourself
  3. Hustle to get to where you want to be
  4. Do extraordinary things that differentiates you from others
  5. Don’t be afraid of rejection and keep trying
For more interesting reads, check out Reid Hoffman’s book here.

Caleb is a guest contributor at TalentTribe Asia. You can follow his Medium account for more original content by Caleb.

Caleb Khoo

TalentTribe Writer

Whisky lover, ramen eater. I may not know how to be successful (yet) but I sure as hell know how to fail (and can teach you to avoid it).