Book Review: The Start-Up of You (Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha)

This book, in a word, rocks.  In fact, I might even say it’s the most interesting and important business book I’ve read in the last 10 years — which would be an appropriate characterization, given that its primary agenda seems to be to help people catch up to speed with how the whole notion of career success has evolved over the past decade.

Recognize the name of the first author, Reid Hoffman?  If so, it’s likely because he’s the founder of the revolutionary networking website LinkedIn.com, in addition to being a key investor and advisor to other successful Internet organizations such as Facebook, Zynga, and PayPal.  Needless to say, he’s got a pretty good pedigree when it comes to picking winners in today’s marketplace.  And after reading this book, I get the sense that his success was no accident.  This isn’t a trivial book that was pumped out for PR purposes or to quickly cash in on his name recognition.  It’s an incredibly rich collection of material — worthy of any MBA program in the country — that provides concrete concepts, models, and ideas to help the average professional take charge of his or her career future.

For example, one key philosophy espoused throughout the book is the notion that success-minded professionals today should have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan Z when it comes to their careers.  Plan A is the “ideal” goal you’re shooting for.  Plan B involves keeping your eyes peeled for the “pivot” ideas or opportunities (he gives tons of examples) that inevitably develop as you go after Plan A in aggressive fashion.  And Plan Z is your fallback strategy.  It’s the career path you’ll take to stay afloat and regroup, should your quest for Plan A or Plan B not pan out as successfully as hoped.  I’m not able to do this concept full justice in a few short sentences, but it’s an extremely elegant idea, once you hear the full explanation.

Additionally, The Start-Up of You outlines and popularizes some important concepts such as “search literacy” (the ability to find desired information on the web) and “network literacy” (the ability to tap into your interpersonal connections to uncover useful information).  While I’ve never assigned a formal name to these concepts, myself, it’s unquestionable that these two competencies play a huge role in an individual’s ability to compete in the market today.  The book also expands on some other great concepts I’d forgotten about, such as Dunbar’s Number, which suggests that the maximum number of close relationships an individual can maintain is approximately 150 — which seems bizarre, until you read through the hundreds of years of evidence that’s been gathered in support of this conclusion.

And the hits just keep on coming.  Mr. Hoffman even devotes a chapter or two to explaining the fundamental workings of LinkedIn in a way that, frankly, even had this self-styled LinkedIn expert on the edge of his seat — and appreciating the power of the LinkedIn system in a whole new way!  For those who still can’t quite grasp the usefulness of LinkedIn or what sets it apart from other networking or social media technologies, read this book.  All will become clear.

So in closing, to say that I’d recommend The Start-Up of You to any career-minded professional would be an understatement.  In fact, in a parallel universe where intellectual property laws didn’t apply, I’d love to reprint entire passages of the book for all of my job-seeking clients to read, since I think they’re instrumental in describing the approaches, attitudes, and behaviors that consistently lead to career and networking success today.

Thankfully, in lieu of this alternative, the authors provide a very detailed outline of the book that you can review on their own website, here. in addition to numerous supplemental materials and follow-up resources.  So give their material a quick test drive, and if you find it as engaging as I did, pick up a full copy!

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2 Responses to “Book Review: The Start-Up of You (Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha)”

  1. Really appreciate the review, Matt!

  2. I have not yet read the book but already impressed with their promotion and very “now” visuals.. Thanks for identifying it as an opportunity read.

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