The Start Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself and Transform your Career
by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
ISBN: 9780 307 88890 7
Publisher: Crown Business (2012)
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*
You would expect the co-founder of LinkedIn to have a few insights into start-ups and a few more into how professionals launch and relaunch their careers in the internet age. This practical book gives some clear pointers for outpacing the competition even as it hots up. If you don't want to end up like the City of Detroit then this is a good place to start or re-start.
The company director's career is a career like no other; but it is still a career. As such, it can be managed and developed. This requires both a clear understanding of your assets (hard and soft) and a network that will bring you into contexts with opportunities to apply them. For many directors the prospect of networking is daunting and it is a task that few relish. However this book recommends the high-quality / low-quantity relationship based network building that is the natural mode of choice for director-level interactions.
The authors recommend extending a network carefully based upon trusted existing relationships and incorporating a high 'fun-factor'. Although fun is an 'f' word that few directors use professionally the examples of long term relationships based on shared values and interests perfectly illustrate the concepts behind building successful and enriching relationships. This is not to advocate false back-slapping bonhomie but genuine habitual reciprocation based on emotion.
The section on cohesive yet diverse relationships is a valuable contribution to the pseudo-science of business networking. For directors, with the group-based decision-making under a joint and several liability regime, networks are not composed of the 'hub and spoke' model espoused by most literature on the topic. This is a rare book which looks at the value of introductions and complex associations, advocating a far more complex pattern of engagements. I particularly loved the references to forming an 'interesting people fund'. It is something directors instinctively do but never, until now, had a name for.
Another refreshing and practical peculiarity is the head on and overt conversation about navigating status. The examples demonstrating how inappropriate assessment and management of power and status imbalances sound uncannily familiar; we have all seen and even (ouch!) done something similar at some stage in our careers.
Each chapter culminates in challenging yet simple tasks to assist the reader in putting the ideas into practice. These make the book either a slow read - something to take one chapter per month over a seven month period - or a deliberate act of discipline that directors will return to at various points to refresh commitment to implementing actions drawn at random from the many useful suggestions.
I was a little disappointed to find that there were fewer stories of LinkedIn in its earlier days but delighted with the wealth of anecdotes from the authors' own networks which was, for me, an unexpected bonus. The stories are mostly drawn from high technology start-up ventures and this will make the book less relevant to directors with older industry backgrounds but the application of start-up company thinking to director-level career development is a powerful organising concept and drives relevance through what might otherwise be a silicon charged text aimed at employees and entrepreneurs.
Overall; this is a delightful and useful book which will definitely help progress a career but that requires some effort to implement.
Available at amazon.com in both Kindle and hard copy.
* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors", Dilemmas, Dilemmas II: More Practical Case Studies for Company Directors (Volume 2), "The Director's Dilemma", "Presenting to Boards", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.