The Start-up of You [Review]

Mar 19, 2012

Table of contents:

  1. Personal skills and planning
  2. Networks
  3. Decision making and strategy
  4. In conclusion…

The Start-up of You bills itself as a guide to viewing your career like an Entrepreneur views a business start-up. From building a network to seizing breakout opportunities, authors Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha put great emphasis on how the traditional career path has changed in recent years, and how you can actively pursue and achieve the career you want in today’s corporate environment.

Whilst there is quite a big emphasis on using LinkedIn (Reid Hoffman is Co-Founder), the book does contain some strong and well worn advice about generating and making the most out of opportunities that can lead to success.

In the beginning of the book, the authors begin “All humans are entrepreneurs”. The point being, as cave men and women we needed to prioritise opportunities, manage supplies and create a strong networked community in order to survive. Much of this had been forgotten in the past 100 years as a traditional career length tenure at a company became the norm. Rising through the ranks of a company and retiring with a healthy pension was once the comfortable route the majority of people took. However today’s society of employees are much more likely to move frequently between jobs as job security is often an issue and greater opportunities for progression can be found in pastures new. Many of the innate skills we have forgotten and so The Start-up of You acts as a guide to viewing your career as a start-up. Whilst today’s job climate might seem a lot less secure than it was 10 or 20 years ago, career development actually puts you in a far better position. Through personal branding, building a network and taking the time to develop your own skills and progression, you ensure you have multiple avenues to explore should your current job come to an end.

The book focuses on 3 main areas. Your personal skills and planning, networking and decision making. Here is a quick overview of what is covered.

Personal skills and planning

The majority of your career will be based upon your skills, assets, aspirations and virtues and how you apply them. However being the most talented person at a particular skills is not enough as you must also find a market for that skill. This is often easier said then done. But by combining different or complementing skills together, you can start to find your “competitive advantage”.

The second main point of this section is that you should have more than one “career plan”. Things change, technology evolves and the situation in just a couple of years could be very different to what it is today. Hoffman and Casnocha call this the ABZ plan. The idea behind the ABZ plan is you must be able and ready to pivot into a different career path if the current one is not working out. Your plan A might go through a huge disruption, a Black Swan or a huge technological change that could end your career prematurely. Your plan B is what you pivot into. Your plan Z is your plan should the very worse case scenario plays out. This might mean living on savings or moving back in with your parents in order to regroup and start your plan A again. Plan Z is particularly important because planning for the worst allows you to take the calculated risks needed to enjoy a successful career.

In order to have a plan B you can transition in to, it is important to develop different and complimentary skills that allow you to pivot careers. The other key aspect is having a network of connections to tap into.


When looking for a new job, one of the best sources is within your current network of friends and connections. You are far more likely to be successful if you are recommended to the employer and your network can introduce you to opportunities that normally you would of missed. However, many of us only use our network when we are actively looking for a job, when really we should be constantly growing and nurturing it.

Hoffman and Casnocha explore why having a network is important, the type of connections you should have and how to grow and nurture those connections.

The book references LinkedIn frequently when talking about building and maintaining a network. Whilst I’m sure LinkedIn is a valuable tool for many, personally I haven’t found it particularly useful for anything other than seeing what my connections are up to. However much of the tools and features of LinkedIn have been specifically built upon the theory that Hoffman and Casnocha reference.

In my opinion, rather than using LinkedIn, you should be getting yourself out there as much as possible and meeting new people from all different walks of life. At business networking events, listen to other people’s problems and suggest a solution if it is in an area of your expertise. The things you take fro granted could be exactly what a new connection is looking for.

Decision making and strategy

The final main theme of this career guide book is decision making and strategy. An essential part is having the courage to pursue breakout opportunities and pivot career paths or leave a job if you are not progressing as you think you should. Many people get stuck in a rut with a job and find the longer they stay, the harder it is to leave. A successful career is all about taking intelligent risks.

Secondly, you need to nurture the serendipitus moments that can lead to breakout opportunities. Maintain your network of connections and actively look to build new strong connections and help others without expecting anything in return. It is not enought to only call on your network when you are in need, you need to provide value before asking for it.

And finally, you need to stay curious and never stop learning. If you don’t, your industry and your peers will pass you by. Develop your existing skills and learn new complimentary skills you can use to your competitive advantage. Tap your network for industry and opportunity intelligence and use that information to make informed decisions and take action.

In conclusion…

The Start-up of You is a good, light read for anyone looking to get the most out of their career and achieve their potential. It is a good introductory book, but it doesn’t really explore the finer details of some of the themes. The book does make numerous references to other, more specific books that you should read to really drill down into the objectives and visions of what is being discussed.

Overall, I would buy this book if you are just beginning to look at taking control of your career. This book is a great way to start as it is light enough to get through, but it does touch upon a number of key areas that you should explore in more detail with further reading.

Philip Brown


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