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Media Spotlight: The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

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I am a not a fan of self-help’ books. Whether they are about how to become rich or how to be happy, I find them unrealistic and patronising. But The Start-up of You is refreshingly different.

The book is written by American co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman with the help of author Ben Casnocha. It is a self-help book focused on how one can apply successful entrepreneurship strategies in to one’s career.

Hoffman began his career within business and entrepreneurship by working for Apple in 1994. It was only three years before he moved on to setting up his own business Socialnet.com, a networking site aimed at connecting people with similar interests. Just six years later in 2003, Hoffman created LinkedIn alongside some old work colleagues. The business networking site now has more than 187 million registered users in more than 200 countries.

Let’s face it. Most of us want to know how we can become more successful throughout our working life, and with Hoffman having set-up such a successful company with LinkedIn, I was interested as to what he had to say.

Hoffman kicks-off by telling some home truths. He argues that in this day and age, there is no such thing as on-the-job training.

There is an expectation from employers that you can do the job you have been hired to do from the start date, or be prepared to learn everything within a matter of weeks.

Therefore, he says we need to commit to training ourselves, not expect the company to do it for us.

This leads on to an interesting point about the development of technology and how this has largely automated jobs that used to require hard-earned skills and knowledge. Hoffman uses examples of radiologists and stockbrokers. He contends that the main skills these roles used to require have now been overtaken by developments in technology, meaning employees are now expected to have skills in other areas which is effectively making it is harder to stand out in the crowd.

Regardless of these setbacks, Hoffman says that all humans are entrepreneurs and that “entrepreneurship is a life idea, not strictly a business one”. By this, Hoffman means we need to embrace the ability to adapt within our lifestyles in order to embrace what we want within our careers.

He says in order to kick-start what we want to achieve in our career, we need to connect three puzzle pieces.

Hoffman says the first piece of the puzzle is identifying our assets and he categorises them into two types.

The first type are soft assets – those you can’t trade for money, such as knowledge and professional connections.

The second are hard assets, which is the amount of cash and physical possessions one has. Hoffman argues that hard assets matter. If you have more hard assets available, you can make more aggressive moves that could entail financial risk.

The second puzzle piece is one’s aspirations and values. These relate to one’s future goals, whether this is to be managing director of a financial firm, or just to earn lots of money. However, Hoffman warns the person who is passionate about what they are doing will outlast the one who is passionate about money, therefore it is important to work within a field you love.

The third piece of the puzzle is market realities. This is determining that your goals are realistic and suitable, or as Hoffman puts it, “if someone won’t pay for your services in the career marketplace, it’s going to be a very hard slog”.

He says all of these pieces together form one’s career plan, and we can now take action.

At this point in the book, the topic of LinkedIn comes up. Not surprisingly, Hoffman encourages one to use LinkedIn as a tool for developing relationships with other professionals. Although I agree this is important, the subject crops up in the book far too much for my liking.

A chapter which I found particularly interesting is Plan to Adapt. Here Hoffman discusses ABZ planning, which he describes as an adaptive approach to planning that promotes trial and error. Plan A is what you are doing right now in making a plan for your end achievements. Plan B shows what adjustments you could make on the path to your goal if problems were to arise. Plan Z is preparing for worst case scenario. In other words, your back-up plan in the event that everything goes wrong. Hoffman suggests that if you don’t have a plan Z, then your plan A and B will appear less achievable.

What I like about this book is it’s realism. Hoffman doesn’t assume that all people are career minded, have all the time in the world to re-train for a career and the spare cash to go with it.

Overall, it is an interesting read and even if you are already in your dream job, it is worth a look just for a quick boost of enthusiasm.

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