The start-up of you by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha is one of those books that a friend referred to me but I never got around to reading. Finally, last month my friend Jacob suggested the book for a business book club I’m part of and I finally got around to tackling it. (Plug: Amazon’s Whispersync saves your spot if you listen to the audiobook and kindle edition so you can get the book done way faster if you use both formats)
The premise of the book revolves around the idea that the key element to career success is to always be in a stage of “Permanent Beta”. For those of you who don’t know, entrepreneurs and start-ups use this term to describe a constant state of learning and pivoting. In essence, choosing a direction but always being open to opportunities, ideas and growth that you may not be able to see today.
But before I get into some of my favorite ideas in the book, I’ll fill you in on some information about one of the authors, Reid Hoffman. Reid started Linkedin back in the early 2000’s and is now the Chairman of the Board. He has been a mentor and investor to many start-ups from Silicon Valley and continues to be a prominent thought leader in entrepreneurship, technology and of course start-ups.
Back to the book.
The start-up of you is broken up into seven chapters, each one dealing with principles and practices that start-ups use that can be applied to developing career success. Below, I’ve listed the seven chapters with my key takeaway from each section.
Chapter 1: All Humans Are Entrepreneurs
- The old career rules are dead. We have to constantly pivot and find new types of jobs and value to bring to the employers or clients that hire us.
Chapter 2: Develop a Competitive Advantage
- Like every successful business, you need a competitive advantage that’s going to set you apart from the pack. You need a point of differentiation from everybody else who’s applying for the same job or pitching the same client as you. What’s your competitive advantage?
Chapter 3: Plan To Adapt
- The world is changing quickly and making plans too far into the future may not be effective. Plan for the future but be ready to change direction or have a backup plan just in case. Figure out what your Plan B and Plan Z. This reminds me of the adage “A failure to plan is a plan to fail”
Chapter 4: It Takes A Network
- This chapter boils down into the nitty gritty of how to build and maintain an effective network. Reid identifies two distinct groups in your network: 1) Allies 2) Weaker ties and acquaintances You should know which group to approach for career advice or for new opportunities. Another key point is that relationships are vital to maintainin a healthy and effective network.
Chapter 5: Pursue Breakout Opportunities
- Reid talks about how George Clooney found his breakout role in the hit TV series “ER”. Think about what your breakout opportunity could be and then do everything you can to get it.
Chapter 6: Take Intelligent Risks
- Learn how to size up risk appropriately but don’t be afraid to go after a risky opportunity. Exposing yourself to risk regularly helps you acclimatize to when unforseen circumstances hit.
Chapter 7: Who You Know Is What You Know
- Use your network as a highly sophisticated system of business intelligence. By tapping the right people for information, you may be able to avoid a crisis or gain insight into an opportunity your pursuing.
The book is loaded with lot’s of case studies and examples that can be applied right away either to help you find a new career, expand your network and just simply get you thinking about living your life in permanent beta.