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The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career [Hardcover]

Reid Hoffman , Ben Casnocha
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com "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.


Review

"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

"Everyone, women and men alike, needs to think big to succeed. This is a practical book that shows you how to take control and build a career that will enable you to have real impact."
-Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
 
"Forging a fulfilling career is one of the most important--and often, most difficult--challenges in building a happy life. The Start-Up of You is crammed with insights and strategies to help each of us create the work life we want."
-Gretchen Rubin, author of the #1 bestseller, The Happiness Project
 
 "The Startup of You" describes how to take the Silicon Valley approach to building a life: start with an idea, and work over your entire career to turn it something remarkable. In the world today, I think that the startup approach to life is necessary. This book distills the key techniques needed to succeed." 
-Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, co-founder of Square
 
"This great book shows that entrepreneurship is really about taking control of your life, and you don’t need a big startup to be an entrepreneur – you need personal responsibility and intellectual exploration."
- Penelope Trunk, author, Brazen Careerist

“Silicon Valley revolutionizes entire industries through the way we work. It is now time to export our playbook to the rest of the world. The Startup of You is that key playbook: it will help you revolutionize yourself and achieve your own career breakout.”
-Marc Andreessen, co-founder Netscape; director at HP, Facebook, and eBay
 
"A profound book about self-determination and self-realization. By capturing and universalizing the wisdom of successful start-up businesses, the authors provide an exciting blueprint for building a fulfilling career. Invaluable for any person who wants to be a successful entrepreneur ­ not in a particular company ­ but in the most important enterprise of all: one's own life."
-Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark
 
""The Internet has fundamentally changed the architecture of business and society. This terrific book shows you how to live, learn, and thrive in a networked world."
-Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab

 “Hoffman and Casnocha make a number of astute observations about shifts in the world of work…. As well as explaining network intelligence, or why your contacts’ contacts 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.
 -The Economist

“If you are starting a career, it is an excellent book for thinking through the practical issues you will face in branding yourself in what is becoming a more volatile and very different labor market”
-Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution.

"The same extraordinary vision and timing that enabled Reid to found LinkedIn is once again on display with his book "the start-up of YOU."  His central thesis, that every individual can benefit from acting as the entrepreneur of their own life and career, has never been more important than it is in today's increasingly globalized, competitive, and networked world." 
-Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn    
 
“LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has pulled off something extraordinary in his book-writing debut. He has challenged a well-worn idea….and replaced it with something better.”
– Fortune

About the Author

REID HOFFMAN is a world-renowned entrepreneur and investor. He is cofounder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, the biggest professional network in the world with 100+ million members. Previously he was executive vice president and on the founding board of directors of PayPal. He is also a partner at Greylock, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm. He is an early investor in over 100 technology companies, including Facebook and Zynga.
 
BEN CASNOCHA is an award-winning entrepreneur and author. He has written for Newsweek and appeared on CNN, the CBS Early Show, and Fox News. BusinessWeek named him one of "America's best young entrepreneurs.” He has spoken to more than ten thousand students and businesspeople in countries around the world.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

All Humans Are Entrepreneurs

All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed... finding our food, feeding ourselves. That's where human history began. As civilization came, we suppressed it. We became "labor" because they stamped us, "You are labor." We forgot that we are entrepreneurs.

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and microfinance pioneer

You were born an entrepreneur.

This doesn't mean you were born to start companies. In fact, most people shouldn't start companies. The long odds of success, combined with the constant emotional whiplash, makes starting a business the right path for only a small group of people.

All humans are entrepreneurs not because they should start companies but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA, and creation is the essence of entrepreneurship. As Yunus says, our ancestors in the caves had to feed themselves; they had to invent rules of living. They were founders of their own lives. In the centuries since then we forgot that we are entrepreneurs. We've been acting like labor.

To adapt to the challenges of professional life today, we need to rediscover our entrepreneurial instincts and use them to forge new sorts of careers. Whether you're a lawyer or doctor or teacher or engineer or even a business owner, today you need to also think of yourself as an entrepreneur at the helm of at least one living, growing start-up venture: your career.

This book is not a job-hunting manual. You won't find tips and tricks on how to format your résumé or how to prepare for a job interview. What you will find are the start-up mind-sets and skill sets you need to adapt to the future. You'll find strategies that will help you expand the reach of your network, gain a competitive edge, and land better professional opportunities.

Your future success depends on understanding and developing these entrepreneurial strategies. More broadly, society flourishes when people think entrepreneurially. More world problems will be solved-and solved faster-if people practice the values laid out in the pages ahead. This is a book about you, and it's also about improving the society around you. That starts with each individual.

THE NEW WORLD OF WORK

Centuries of immigrants risked everything to come to America with the conviction that if they worked hard, they would enjoy a better life than their parents had.1 Since our country's birth, each generation of Americans has generally made more money, been better educated, and enjoyed a higher standard of living than the generation that came before it. An expectation of lockstep increases in prosperity became part of the American Dream.

For the last sixty or so years, the job market for educated workers worked like an escalator.2 After graduating from college, you landed an entry-level job at the bottom of the escalator at an IBM or a GE or a Goldman Sachs. There you were groomed and mentored, receiving training and professional development from your employer. As you gained experience, you were whisked up the organizational hierarchy, clearing room for the ambitious young graduates who followed to fill the same entry-level positions. So long as you played nice and well, you moved steadily up the escalator, and each step brought with it more power, income, and job security. Eventually, around age sixty-five, you stepped off the escalator, allowing those middle-ranked employees to fill the same senior positions you just vacated. You, meanwhile, coasted into a comfortable retirement financed by a company pension and government-funded Social Security.

People didn't assume all of this necessarily happened automatically. But there was a sense that if you were basically competent, put forth a good effort, and weren't unlucky, the strong winds at your back would eventually shoot you to a good high level. For the most part this was a justified expectation.

But now that escalator is jammed at every level. Many young people, even the most highly educated, are stuck at

the bottom, underemployed, or jobless, as Ronald Brownstein noted in the Atlantic.3 At the same time, men and women in their sixties and seventies, with empty pensions and a government safety net that looks like Swiss cheese, are staying in or rejoining the workforce in record numbers.4 At best, this keeps middle-aged workers stuck in promotionless limbo; at worst, it squeezes them out in order to make room for more-senior talent. Today, it's hard for the young to get on the escalator, it's hard for the middle-aged to ascend, and it's hard for anyone over sixty to get off. "Rather than advancing in smooth procession, everyone is stepping on everybody else," Brownstein says.

With the death of traditional career paths, so goes the kind of traditional professional development previous generations enjoyed. You can no longer count on employer-sponsored training to enhance your communication skills or expand your technical know-how. The expectation for even junior employees is that you can do the job you've been hired to do upon arrival or that you'll learn so quickly you'll be up to speed within weeks.5 Whether you want to learn a new skill or simply be better at the job you were hired to do, 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 years and years of your life to working there--you will have many different jobs in your lifetime. There used to be a long-term pact between employee and employer that guaranteed lifetime employment in exchange for lifelong loyalty; this pact has been replaced by a performance-based, short-term contract that's perpetually up for renewal by both sides. Professional loyalty now flows "horizontally" to and from your network rather than "vertically" to your boss, as Dan Pink has noted.

The undoing of these traditional career assumptions has to do with at least two interrelated macro forces: globalization and technology. These concepts may seem overhyped to you, but their long-term effects are actually underhyped. Technology automates jobs that used to require hard-earned knowledge and skills, including well-paid, white-collar jobs such as stockbrokers, paralegals, and radiologists.6 Technology also creates new jobs, but this creation tends to lag the displacement, and the new jobs usually require different, higher-level skills than did the ones they replaced.7 If technology doesn't eliminate or change the skills you need in many industries, it at least enables more people from around the world to compete for your job by allowing companies to offshore work more easily-knocking down your salary in the process. Trade and technology did not appear overnight and are not going away anytime soon. The labor market in which we all work has been permanently altered.

So forget what you thought you knew about the world of work. The rules have changed. "Ready, aim, fire" has been replaced by "Aim, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire." Searching for a job only when you're unemployed or unhappy at work has been replaced by the mandate to always be generating opportunities. Networking has been replaced by intelligent network building.

The gap is growing between those who know the new career rules and have the new skills of a global economy, and those who clutch to old ways of thinking and rely on commoditized skills. The question is, which are you?

WHY THE START-UP OF YOU

With change comes new opportunities as well as challenges. What's required now is an entrepreneurial mind-set. Whether you work for a ten-person company, a giant multinational corporation, a not-for-profit, a government agency, or any type of organization in between-if you want to seize the new opportunities and meet the challenges of today's fractured career landscape, you need to think and act like you're running a start-up: your career.

Why the start-up of you? When you start a company, you make decisions in an information-poor, time-compressed, resource-constrained environment. There are no guarantees or safety nets, so you take on a certain amount of risk. The competition is changing; the market is changing. The life cycle of the company is fairly short. The conditions in which entrepreneurs start and grow companies are the conditions we all now live in when fashioning a career. You never know what's going to happen next. Information is limited. Resources are tight. Competition is fierce. The world is changing. And the amount of time you spend at any one job is shrinking. This means you need to be adapting all the time. And if you fail to adapt, no one-not your employer, not the government-is going to catch you when you fall.

Entrepreneurs deal with these uncertainties, changes, and constraints head-on. They take stock of their assets, aspirations, and the market realities to develop a competitive advantage. They craft flexible, iterative plans. They build a network of relationships throughout their industy that outlive their start-up. They aggressively seek and create breakout opportunities that involve focused risk, and actively manage that risk. They tap their network for the business intelligence to navigate tough challenges. And, they do these things from the moment they hatch that nascent idea to every day after that-even as the companies go from being run out of a garage to occupying floors of office space. To succeed professionally in today's world, you need to adopt these same entrepreneurial strategies.

They are valuable no matter your career stage. They are urgent whether you're just out of college, a decade into the workforce and angling for that next big move, or launching a brand-new career later in life. Companies act small to retain an innovative edge no matter how large they grow. Steve Jobs called Apple the "biggest start-up on the planet." In the same way, you need to stay young and agile; you need to forever be a start-up.

WHY US?

I (Reid) cofounded LinkedIn in 2003 with the mission of connecting the world's professionals ...
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