The Start-up of You

Book photo of The Start-Up Of You The Start-up of You wasn’t on my 2016 reading list, but during a trip to the library it caught my eye. Written by Reid Hoffman (Chairman and Co-Founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha I was intrigued by the tagline Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. I am passionate about professional development, careers and having a fulfilling work life so the book seemed right up my street.

From the beginning the book spoke to me.

You were born an entrepreneur. This doesn’t mean you were born to start companies. In fact, most people shouldn’t start companies.

Being an entrepreneur is very on-trend so it was great to hear from entrepreneurs who weren’t pushing for us all to be entrepreneurs. Instead, they think we should all think entrepreneurial.

They discuss how “the escalator is jammed at every level” and this is something I have definitely felt. With the retirement age getting older, people are hanging onto their jobs for longer, which is reduce the upwards movement all the way down the chain.

With the death of traditional career paths, so goes the kind of traditional professional development previous generations enjoyed… it’s now your job to train and invest in yourself. Companies don’t want to invest  in you, in part because you’re not likely to commit to years and years of your life working there”.

I couldn’t agree more. Companies know you will leave so too many are no longer interested in developing you. It is now down to the individual to ensure they continue to learn and develop. It is that ethos of self lifelong-learning that led me to create PropelHer. I wanted to create a development programme to support women who weren’t receiving development through their job, or because they weren’t employees at all.

The book’s chapters are:

  • All Humans are Entrepreneurs
  • Develop a competitive advantage
  • Plan to adapt
  • It takes a network
  • Pursue breakout opportunities
  • Take intelligent risks
  • Who you know is what you know

The plan to adapt chapter intrigued me. The idea that “it’s better to be infront of a big change than to be behind it” is powerful. The question is how can you spot when a change is coming. There is also the idea that you should “prepare for the unknown”. In essence, you need to be adaptive. You need to be ready to change. Thinking you have a job for life is actually dangerous. It is the individual who is living contract to contract, who knows how their skills are transferable and the value they can bring to a variety of companies that will survive in the long run. If you are ready to move then if you get made redundant it doesn’t matter

Obviously, since the book is co-authored by the chairman of LinkedIn there was going to be a strong emphasis on your network. They discuss the usual things: your network is crucial to your success and you become like the people you spend the most time with. However, The Start-up of You went further when discussing the strength of a network. They mentioned the importance of weak ties who “can pass on information or opportunities you have not heard about“. All too often your network will be in your industry or specialism. This will mean the opportunities will be limited and most likely all your network would tell you about similar things. Weak ties are in different industries, outside or core group and thus provide information and opportunities you wouldn’t have come across. It is those people who genuinely open doors you wouldn’t otherwise see.

A quote I particularly liked was “Unlike romantic relationships, with friendships there’s rarely a reason to have a full breakup”.  In the modern word of text, email and social media it is so easy to keep people informed. We are limited to the number of strong relationships we can maintain, but general relationships you can have as many as you choice.

Overall, there was so much about The Start-up of You that I loved. Throughout the book I found myself constantly agreeing. They are right that we need to be entrepreneurial. We need to think of ourselves as businesses and be open to opportunities, learn to manage risk and be adaptable. And yes, we need to develop our network to ensure we are fully supported for the future. A business is run by a great team who have strengths in different areas to ensure an overall success. That’s part of building a good personal network.

This book is a great choice for people at all stages of their career.Throughout the book their action points to encourage you to act on what has been said. I would particularly recommend it to those who are interesting building resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness. This book is for those who want to ensure they are equipped for the 21st Century and are ready to face the career challenges of the future.

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