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Book Review: “The Start-up of You”

January 1, 2013

“The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career” – by Reid Hoffman (cofounder of Linkedin)

Many useful anecdotes and examples are given to illustrate the point that careers, like startups, are alive: they grow, they change, they stagnate, and they can die if not tended properly. The examples definitely drew from Reid Hoffman’s personal life experiences, and always went back to how certain career issues can be handled with the aid of a tool like LinkedIn.

Intelligent risk taking and having a wide and diverse
career network are the recurring themes in this book. Quotations like
“find risk, before risk finds you”, and “when looking for
opportunities/chances, we’re really looking for people”. Like most
career books, they give example stories of people and their
unconventional career paths, and apparent vision and bold leading into
the future. The book puts this feat into more perspective by realizing
that it’s rarely part of a master plan, instead it’s the result of a
Plan A (with some wiggle room), followed by a Plan B (totally different
from A), and with a Plan Z safety net (think moving back in with your
parents).

Risk

Risk is a interesting thing. It seems that some people naturally
gravitate towards risky behavior, while others don’t. But evolutionary
science tells us we are all naturally risk averse (negativity biased)
just as good common sense: better to fear a potential predator in the
bushes and run, than to be wrong and be dinner. People generally think that an
uneventful/unsurprising career is a stable one, when in fact this book
demostrates repeatedly through history that it’s not the case. Those
that experience small ups and downs in life become somewhat immune to
them (think viral immunization), while those that
aren’t, suffer the most when there’s a bump in their life. Again
stressing the point of a reasoned risk and
reward calculation.

Career Network

The people we have in our lives influence us, that much should be clear
to everyone. Bringing a diversity to your network of
friends/acquaintences is valuable in many ways both personally and
professionally. The book goes into various examples and situations of
how the right people at the right time can provide career opportunities
far greater than any long term plan ever could.

But it isn’t just a “take” philosophy. It’s a friendship, a partnership, a network that is built on trust. And the best way to build trust is to offer help freely without keeping score or expecting anything in return.

Conclusions

The thing that resonated the most with me was “looking for opportunities is really just looking for people”. People don’t get jobs from corporations, they get them from people. So I’m gonna take the book’s advice about setting some time aside to focus on meeting other people in a professional setting, because you never know where you’re next opportunity will come from.

Interesting fact

“Dunbar’s number is 150 relationships maintained at once for humans. Based on size of neocortex in primates.” This is an interesting fact considering the number of direct, 1st degree, and 2nd degree relationships are possible for most people on social tools like Facebook and LinkedIn.

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From → Books

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