By Davis Nguyen

the allianceAt 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.

Giveaway Time!

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 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 Nguyen

About Davis

Davis Nguyen (@justdavisnguyen) has been a reader of Life After College since 2011 and is currently on a year-long quest connecting with 52 role models he has never met and learning how to form deep, meaningful relationship with strangers. Want to know how to connect with anyone? He will graduate from Yale University in May 2015.


Written by Melissa Anzman


Somehow we’re already in the fourth quarter busy planning our holiday vacations and realizing exactly how much we need to start doing to achieve our annual goals, which of course has us questioning “where did this year go?” The last two months of the year are probably the most important months for your career – it’s you last opportunity to make an impact, achieve milestones that seem light-years away, and continue to tell the story of who you are as an employee.

Unfortunately, it is also the time of year that we are soooo close to wanting to check out – vacation, take a break, slow things down a bit as much as possible. While there is definitely some room for that, you also need to set yourself up for year-end success.

Writing Your Own Story of Success

1. Start Gathering Your Successes

Even though you know at the beginning of each year that you should be accumulating your successes as they happen, work can be too busy to keep that practice up. Now is the time to start compiling and gathering – so you can start crafting your performance story.

Look back at the projects you’ve worked on, the milestones you’ve achieved, the feedback you’ve earned – and make a list. This will be the backbone of your story – think of it as an outline of sorts for your self-assessment or year-end review.

If you find pieces of your story missing, now is the time to reach out to your colleagues to get their feedback and gain their support. If you wait until January when most everyone else will be reaching out for their input, it will get lost in a sea of requests and not be as telling. Now, is better.

2. Review Your Milestones

Most of us have annual goals or milestones that we aim to meet – the goal is obviously to meet and exceed them as often as possible. Take out your goal sheet, ahem – the one buried at the bottom of your desk, and start scoring your progress.

Look at the goals you’ve accomplished and the items outstanding. Where can you add even more value to the goals you’ve achieved (superstar status) and where do you need to push yourself and team members to deliver?

Create a specific and actionable plan to reach these goals. Burying the goal sheet back in your desk doesn’t count… piece it all out so you know exactly the steps you need to achieve to accomplish your goals. If that’s not your thing, check out Make Sh*t Happen – Jenny will be sure you know what needs to happen.

3. Talk to Your Manager

Likely you already are interacting with your manager on a somewhat regular basis – but are you actually learning anything? Remember, your manager holds many of the keys to the kingdom in the valuation and progression of your career – so find out what they’re thinking before you have to read all about it in your review.

When you have your one-on-one meetings with them, come in with a focused agenda. Fill them in on the various things you’re working on, provide status updates on items that may be stalled out and ask them for specific guidance on your performance. Ask questions like:

  • I wanted to check in with you on this project X. How do you think it’s going? What can I do to make it a homerun?
  • Here’s an update on my annual goals – which items should take priority?
  • How do you think my performance is going (enter a specific area of focus here)?

Once your manager knows that you are not only interested in their opinion but also interested in your own career success, he/she will be a lot more inclusive in your overall standing – making it less likely for your year-end review to be a surprise.


Remember that year-end is always going to be a stressful time of year – especially at work. But it is also the most important time of year to create long-lasting “halo effects” of your performance and capabilities.

If you start building in these practices now in an ongoing basis, you will increase your success factors for career success – and help eliminate and manager any type of issues that come up before it’s too late. Getting started now, allows you to tell your own story – not waiting for someone else to write it for you.  

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
What’s one thing you will do today to start writing your year-end story of success?

melissa anzman

About Melissa

Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Yourself where she helps high performers launch their career, business + brand to the next level, make an impact in the lives of others, and earn more income. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job, and the host of the Launch Yourself Podcast. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.

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