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Start-Up of You Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career Paperback – February 7, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

Thomas Friedman Interviews Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

Thomas L. Friedman is a New York Times foreign affairs columnist, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of international best seller Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure your prospective employer is thinking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day--more than a worker in India, a robot, or a computer could? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today's hyper-connected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria. This is precisely why LinkedIn's founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley--besides cofounding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook, and sits on the board of Mozilla--has written The Start-up of You, coauthored with Ben Casnocha. Its subtitle could easily be: "Hey, recent graduates! Hey, thirty-five-year-old midcareer professional! Here's how you can build your career today." Here is our brief chat about their book.

Tom: You're a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Why did you feel the need to offer this message?

Reid: As you write in That Used to Be Us, our country faces enormous challenges. The path to the American Dream has changed. We wanted to focus on what individual professionals can do to survive and thrive in a flat world. The premise of the book is that all of us are entrepreneurs of our own lives. We must act as CEO of our careers, take control of our professional future, and become globally competitive.

Tom: Really? Anyone can be an entrepreneur? Really? Even me?

Reid: Not only can anyone be an entrepreneur, but they must be. Even you, Tom! Not everyone should start companies, but everyone must be the entrepreneur of his or her own life. The skills people need to manage their careers are akin to the skills of entrepreneurs when they start and grow companies. For example, entrepreneurs can both be persistent on a plan and flexible when conditions change. They take intelligent risk. They build networks of allies and tap those networks for intelligence on what's happening in the world. Silicon Valley's most innovative entrepreneurs possess unique skills--you can learn them and apply them, no matter your profession.

Tom: Who is the target audience for this book?

Reid: Jeff Bezos says that at "it's always day one." This is a book for people just starting out, and it's equally for people midflight in their career who need to reinvent, restart, or reimagine their career as if it were day one, as if they were in permanent beta. We think that's most people, and eventually everyone.

Tom: What does it mean to be in "permanent beta?"

Reid and Ben: Technology companies sometimes keep the "beta" label on software for a time after the official launch to stress that the product is not finished, so much as ready for the next batch of improvements. For entrepreneurs, finished is an F-word. Great companies are always evolving. Finished ought to be an F-word for all of us. We are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more in our lives and careers. You will need to adapt and evolve forever--that's permanent beta.

Tom: Why the urgency of The Start-up of You?

Reid and Ben: A billboard that once ran along the 101 highway in Silicon Valley summed it up pithily: "A million people can do your job. What makes you so special?" We wanted to give people tools to take control of their lives, without having to wait around for the government or a company to rescue them.

Tom: Is China going to eat America's lunch?

Reid and Ben: National competitiveness is really a reflection of the individual competitiveness of its citizens. The question for each American is, "Is a professional in China going to eat your lunch?" Some will be competitive, and some will not. And the distinction is not set in stone. Just look at Detroit. All of us need to have a plan for investing in ourselves every day.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"The most compelling parts of this book are the ones that look at the importance of developing and exploiting professional networks. As well as explaining network intelligence, or why your contacts' contact may be the best source of leads about potential jobs, the book also gives numerous tips - including ones gleaned from the world of online dating - about how best to broker effective relationships" Economist "[An] extremely interesting and informative read" "Rather than containing the usual tranch of aphorisms and advice on how to create lists of things you want to achieve, The Start-up Of You suggests arranging your career like a business ... We challenge you not to be inspired" PA Life "It is the optimism of Silicon Valley that infuses this book: there is still hope for those striving to break into the charmed circle" -- Richard Waters Financial Times "Being an entrepreneur isn't really about starting a business. It's a way of looking at the world: seeing opportunity where others see obstacles, taking risks when others take refuge. Whatever career you're in - or want to be in -The Start-Up of You holds lessons for success." -- Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg, L.P. and Mayor, New York City

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Random House Business Books (February 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847940803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847940803
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

474 of 497 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Burnham VINE VOICE on February 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
No matter what you do, think of yourself as an entrepreneur. Be willing to take risks. Accept failure and learn from it. Keep trying, and you'll succeed.

If this all sounds familiar, then you'll be as disappointed as I was by The Start-Up of You, a generic career advice book churned out by two tech elites who could have done better. Rather than drawing directly on their experiences as founders and venture capitalists, Hoffman and Casnocha make a rote journey through modern Silicon Valley-themed business book territory. When they tell the stories of successes like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, PayPal, and Zappos, it feels like they're going through a checklist. There's far less original substance than in Casnocha's My Start-Up Life, which benefited enormously from his being a teenager who knew little beyond his own experiences. He could tell it like it is, rather than drawing on played-out archetypes. The older Casnocha has tailored his book to the broadest possible audience, with all the mediocrity that entails.

Simply put, I'm tired of hearing "They told him he was crazy..." stories. You know the type:

1. They [potential investors] told him [the entrepreneur] he was crazy.
2. He kept going. For years, he poured his heart and soul into his dream.
3. Today, [company he started] is valued at $x billion.

The problem with these stories is that there's only so much you can learn from them. The moral isn't "If they tell you that you're crazy, you're probably on to something"--to the contrary, if they tell you that you're crazy, you're probably crazy. "They" are often smart people like Hoffman and Casnocha.
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218 of 232 people found the following review helpful By Jack Spain on February 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Start-up of You" by Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha is an excellent book to motivate and inspire you to take charge and accountability of your professional career. The authors intertwine interesting historical references and extensive personal experiences to provide a roadmap to transforming your career.

The book begins with a reality check and reminder that the former paradigms we may have had of the "American Dream" and "traditional career" assumptions have been gradually shattered over the past several decades. The old adage about "ready, aim, fire" has been supplanted with "aim, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire, ..." to survive and sustain our professional careers. The authors state their case that we should define our "assets", "aspirations and values", and the "market realities" of the world we live in to identify your specific competitive advantage as you formulate your professional career.

Reid and Ben also provide dozens of illustrations throughout the book on why so many entrepreneurial businesses launched in the Silicon Valley in California have been success. The professional networking that occurs in that region is likely unsurpassed in any business community throughout the world.

I would recommend "The Start-up of You" to anyone who is at a crossroads in their professional career or any professional who is looking to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit that has been squelched and smothered inside you for far too long.

Disclosure: I was an early adopter and continue to be a fan of the professional networking site, LinkedIn. I found this platform to be an essential professional networking tool in the various businesses I have run over the past decade.
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107 of 116 people found the following review helpful By G70 VINE VOICE on February 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Let me gush a bit: "The Start-Up of You" is the best business book I have read in a long time. The premise is relatively simple on the one hand, and given that Mr. Hoffman is the chair of LinkedIn, the thesis is easy enough to guess. While generations of workers had a life-long career in a single company with a progressive path upward inside the company (as in Detroit automakers), the reality is that most of us do not have that option today, and that path is no longer even viable (as in Detroit automakers).

What follows is a guide not for what to <do> to chart a career path, but rather for how to <think> about what you do. For those of us who assumed the "old" rules, this re-thinking of professional assumptions helps make sense of sensible growth and risk management in the world of "new" work rules.

Implicit in the suggested strategies is the self-serving idea that you need to be on LinkedIn. The case for that position is presented very, very well, however.

I usually find that business books can be nearly skimmed to capture the essence of their arguments, and I don't have any interest in returning to them again. This is the exception: I actually bookmarked multiple pages, penciled notes in the margins, and will deliberately re-read it again as I think through the ideas suggested. For me, that's the best endorsement I can give!
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hoffman is the cofounder of LinkedIn, the online community of professionals and in this book there is some excellent advice for the modern professional. Some of it, such as the reality that there is no such thing as lifetime employment anymore, is well-known but still bears repeating. The best item of advice and one that I have never heard elsewhere, is the value of the weak link.
The authors split the connections that a person has into strong and weak links. A strong link is a person that you know very well and they know you and your skill set very well. People in this category also tend to have a skill set similar to yours. A weak link is someone that fits into the category of acquaintance, a person that knows of you and something about what you can do, but they do not have detailed knowledge and generally have skill sets distinct from yours.
Weak links are considered extremely valuable because they dramatically extend your reach into unfamiliar areas, which is essential in the modern world where your employable skill sets must be changed or improved on a regular basis. Furthermore, many new job descriptions are a synthesis of categories formerly considered distinct. They can provide the powerful peek into an area that you otherwise would not consider.
It is natural that there are many references to the LinkedIn model but they are well-embedded in the sense that they do not detract or overshadow the advice. The authors also are very positive in their discussions of the free-lance or itinerant worker. As a member of that category of workers that has encountered skepticism from people unfamiliar with such a work pattern, I appreciated the defense of that group of workers.
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