By Davis Nguyen At first glance, The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age seems to be written for managers who want to improve employee retention. What does this have to do with 20somethings looking for a job—the true life after college?
Upon closer look, the book is really about how all of us can be more agile (and honest with each other) in the new world of work. And we have a lot to learn from it.
What if you knew what your employer was thinking when they were hiring people? It is like auditioning for a movie and knowing exactly what type of role the director wanted to cast. This is what The Alliance is: a manual for employers on hiring and keeping the best talent.
The term “alliance” comes from the partnership made between you and your employer. As with any alliance, it needs to be beneficial to both sides and has objectives laid out.
What is Your Tour of Duty?
At the center of the book is the idea that the alliance you form with an employer should depend on your goals: are you looking for a job that will give you broad exposure to different areas? A job that will develop a particular set of skills? A foundation for a career with the same company?
Authors Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn), Ben Casnocha (author of The Start-Up of You), and Chris Yeh (co-founder and General Partner of Wasabi Ventures) call each job or role you take as a “tour of duty.” Similar to serving in the armed services, you have goals that need to be accomplished and a clear vision of the type of person you will be at the end of your tour. At that point, you and your manager can talk about the best next move.
There are three types of tours for you to consider:
The Rotational Tour
This tour of duty allows you to rotate between different roles within a company. Rotational roles are ideal for people are still figuring out what they want to do and don’t want to quite settle for one role yet.
Examples of rotational programs include Google’s People Operations Rotational Program that allows you to try out three different roles in three, nine-month rotations and Box’s Rotational Program Associate that allows you to spend three six-months periods in various business rotations such as marketing, sales, client relations, and business development.
But rotational programs aren’t just limited to big tech companies like Google and Box, even negotiating to rotate roles at your local bookstore is a form of a rotational experience.
A rotational tour benefits the employer because they get to evaluate your fit to their culture, and it benefits you as you develop your skills in various areas and evaluate your fit to the company.
The Transformational Tour
Unlike the rotational tour, a transformational tour is personalized and has a specific outcome for you and the company. During your time in a transformational tour, you will transform yourself as well as your company.
In The Alliance, Reid Hoffman tells the story of Matt Cohler, then a McKinsey & Company Consultant, who wanted to be a Venture Capitalist. Reid convinced Matt that gaining operational experience at a successful startup was a better path to a career in VC than trying to join a firm straight out of consulting. Reid and Matt then created a unique tour of duty for Matt who served as Reid’s right-hand man. Reid got in Matt an ex-consultant who would work on various projects and Matt in exchange gained mentorship from Reid and a broad exposure to various functional and operational areas of LinkedIn.
After his a two year tour of duty Matt eventually left LinkedIn for another tour of duty at Facebook and became a General Partner at Benchmark, a venture capital firm that provided early stage funding for Twitter, Uber, Snapchat, and Instagram, four years later.
The Foundational Tour
The Foundational Tour is seen almost as a form of marriage where both you and employer are committed to each other for the long-term.
Because the foundational tour takes commitment, it usually begins with a rotational or transformational tour that evolves into a foundational one.
The authors write of Brad Smith who began his career at Inuit in 2003 as a general manager of the Intuit Developer Network on a transformational tour. Smith eventually chose to stay longer and is today Intuit's CEO.
Want to learn more about tours of duty and how to negotiate with your employers about beginning your tour of duty? We will be giving away three copies of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.
For a chance to win, answer the following question and leave your email in the comments by Friday, October 31. We will pick three winners with Random.org and email to let you know!
Comment to be Entered to Win:
What type of “tour of duty” are you most interested in at this point in your career?
Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.