Book review: The Startup of You.

All humans are entrepreneurs. Not because they should start companies, but because the will to create is encoded in our human DNA, and creation is the essence of entrepreneurship… Whether you’re a lawyer, doctor, teacher, engineer or even a business owner, you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur at the helm of one living, growing, start-up venture: your career.

That’s how Reid Hoffman, the co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn kicks off his book, the Start-up of You. Comparing your career to a company is an interesting thought. Do you want to be a Detroit, who stagnates into decline? Or do you want to be the innovative start-up which makes their own future? The Start-up of You will tell you how to be that way.

Although the book can come across as a bit of a sales pitch for LinkedIn, the book is crammed with fantastic ideas. What’s your competitive advantage? Why can’t they outsource your job? How do you adapt to your circumstances? How do you develop your network? How do you find “breakout opportunities” and promotions? It’s all in there.

Our network

In the pre-internet days, I doubt that people ever really thought about networks and the power of networks. I mean, people may have talked about things like the old boys club (former public schoolboys who’d get senior positions in politics and business). Salesmen and self-employed people, may have thought about it. But networking, and particularly social networking is now a subject which we all think about and can relate to.

Your professional network is worth more to you than anything else. It’s worth more than anything. As careers writer Penelope Trunk says your friends and professional network are your financial safety net.

I^we

One of the most interesting things which Hoffman and Ben Casnocha (his co-author) discuss is this idea of I to the power of we. That means, if you know lots but only have a very small network, you’re very limited.

Whereas, if you know very little, but know lots of people, you can criss-cross your connections and help them all out. Therefore your value is a lot higher.

We’ve probably all met people who are exceedingly clever but struggle in social situations. We’ve also met people don’t know that much, but are excellent with people and doing really well for themselves.

“I^we” is testament to that. It’s such a neat way of expressing that idea.

What I’ve already applied from the book

I got the book a few weeks ago and already I’ve been applying things in it. I have a friend, Greg who’s an assistant radio producer at the BBC and presents a community radio station on the side. I also know somebody who runs a different community radio station themselves and they were looking for new presenters. So I put them in touch and now he’s going to do a show there!

Equally, there was a guy from my old school, Chris, who I caught-up with on the bus. He was looking to go into some kind of aeronautical engineering. So I put him touch with another friend of mine, Tom, who’d done some work experience at BAE Systems. Tom is now having his degree subsidised by the company & will be fast-tracked for a good graduate job at the end. Now Chris has a contact at the company which may lead to work experience and potentially a job he loves.

It cost me nothing to draw those dots together. All those people have got huge value from me connecting them and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s why I’m very glad I bought the book!

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