Book review: The Start-up of You

I constantly get asked what book on Networking I would recommend, and I always suggest The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.

Reid Hoffman is well known to many as the co-founder and executive chairman of Linkedin, the largest professional network in the world with over 800 million users. He is a world-renowned entrepreneur and an early investor in over 100 technology companies. Ben Casnocha is an award-winning entrepreneur and author.

They start the book by stating that the traditional escalator model of career progress, where you join a company and then gradually move up over decades before you finally retire, is over.

Here’s a picture of my Dad and me. 

Kingsley and his dadI’m the little one on the left! Dad joined a company when he left school aged 14, worked his way up to be CEO and retired at age 77. Just a quick 63 years in one company. Now the average length of a company is 20 years, and the average time of somebody in a C-suite position is seven years.

The writers point out that the old employer-employee pact based on lifetime loyalty in exchange for lifetime job security is a thing of the past. This pact is now been replaced by performance-based short-term contracts perpetually up for review by both sides.

The career escalator is jammed at every level. Creative disruption is shaking every industry. So what’s the answer? According to Reid and Ben, the key is to manage your career as if you were a start-up business, hence the book title, the Startup of You.



Become the CEO of your career

It doesn’t matter if you work for a giant multinational, a small local business or even when starting your own company. It comes down to the same things :

  • Be nimble and adaptable
  • Invest in yourself
  • Take intelligent risks
  • Build professional networks

Therefore this book is about empowering you to become the CEO of your career, creating your career playbook and taking control of your future. You can no longer rely purely on employer-sponsored training to expand your knowledge – it’s your job to train and invest in yourself.

Searching for a job when unemployed or unhappy is replaced by continuously looking for opportunities. VC companies invest in people as much as ideas – stellar founders with so-so ideas are preferable to mediocre founders with good ideas.

Another point that is made is that you can’t go it alone. If you are playing a solo game you will always lose out to a team.
So being a team player is important. A slightly less competent person who gets along with others and contributes to a team can be better for a company than someone who is 100% competent but isn’t a team player.

Relationships matter

Because the people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become. But business schools don’t teach relationship-building skills. Ben and Reid suggest that the fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.

In the book, Reid and Ben also bring up the concept of Network Intelligence. Based on the premise that there are more smart people outside your company than inside your company, you can use your network to find out what’s happening in your sector, segment or geography. A lot of information is not in writing. It’s in people’s heads, and the only way to get it out of there is to be curious and ask questions. Your network can be the source of what they call ‘pivotal intelligence’. People will tell you things that will never appear in print, and the transaction costs of finding out this information are low.

Key takeaways from this book:
  • Be an adaptable team player.
  • Create a soft skills investment plan to learn e.g. speaking, writing, languages, networking and put time aside for self-study.
  • Invest in yourself, invest in your network and invest in society.

In conclusion, I highly recommend you read the book The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.

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