Book Review: The Start-Up Of You, By Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha

Although The Start-Up Of You is primarily directed towards those trying to advance in their career, I was interested in what Reid Hoffman, the co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn would have to say in a book. And even though I’m not looking to land a job with someone, there were still some really useful tips in here, as well as some very interesting stories from his Silicon Valley experiences. The authors try to draw parallels between start-up companies and you as an individual, and then show you what to focus on in order to succeed. There are also helpful suggestions at the end of each chapter on how to execute the points made. Here are the main things I took from the book:

  • Plan A, B, Z. Hoffman and Casnocha explain an approach to your career which is a good systematic way of looking at it. Once you’ve outlined your three plans you’ll feel more comfortable taking risks. So your “Plan A” would be whatever you’re currently doing. “Plan B” would be something you could pivot to in you wanted/needed a bigger changed. It’s something somewhat related but not the same, and “Plan Z” is the one you fall back onto if it all goes to hell, like crashing on your friends couch while trying to regroup. I think this idea of planning out the worst case scenario really puts in perspective what risk you’re taking, and I think it would also put you at ease since it’s normally not as bad as you think if you don’t explicitly define it.
  • How to properly use I’ve always liked LinkedIn and am far more active on there than on Facebook or Twitter I guess that’s what happens when you read business books  for pleasure when you’re on the beach. The authors talk about how to request introductions to people, and how to keep in touch with your network so that you can tap into it when you need it. I hadn’t really thought of using LinkedIn specifically to source people with certain expertise yet, I’ve always just built it up in case I needed it from some reason in the future, and I suppose that’s how I’d go about it if I did.
  • The importance of building and maintaining a network. I have to admit, as much as I’d like to be, I’m no maven. I’m not part of many groups, communities, or clubs. I’ve always just preferred to do things on my own. It’s not that I don’t like other people, (I’m very social!) I think I just like do things my way on my schedule without having to wait on others or listen to their doubts or critiques. I’m not claiming that this is the way to go, it’s just the way I’ve naturally been. The second half of this book however has convinced me of the importance of being plugged into a network. Even though it’s out of my comfort zone I’m signed up and participating in LinkedIn group discussions and I’m even signed up for some Meetups in my local area. They make a very compelling case for getting things done through networks, and so I’m going dive in and try to participate. The key here of course is to start this habit when you can contribute to a community and need nothing. Obviously, trying to tap into a network when you need something is not going to get you very far.

Overall the book was very entertaining if you’re fascinated by the Silicon Valley happenings, and it’s a practical guide for steps towards career advancement if you’re serious about taking steps towards improvement.