Bojan Tunguz's Reviews > The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman
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Feb 20, 12

The basic premise of thesis book is the following: the entrepreneurial mindset and attitude are essential for anyone's career in today's economy. Thinking like an entrepreneur is not any more reserved just for the ultra-ambitious, well-funded Silicon Valley types; in order to succeed in today's job market everyone has to adopt many of the practices that successful entrepreneurs have been employing for decades. This, in and of itself, seems like a great piece of advice. Unfortunately, this book falls far short of delivering on how to implement such an approach in most ordinarily career paths.

I have for years in fact been adopting the kind of attitude that this book promotes: I've networked like crazy, created substantial online presence, tried to be in tune with the latest technological and professional trends, etc. However, in order to have a career, or even get a job, a lot more is required. It is these other much more crucial steps that I was hoping to learn more about from reading this book. Its authors, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, seemed to have exactly the kinds of credentials that would lend itself to revealing interesting and fact-based insights that are otherwise hard to find. My expectations were particularly high since Hoffman is one of the cofounders of LinkedIn. I was hoping that we'd find out some interesting data culled from millions of LinkedIn job searches and professional connections. Unfortunately, all my expectations have fallen way short, and "The Start-up of You" is just another indistinguishable, fluffy career "advice" book, of which there are already way too many on the market.

The book is filled with motivational-speak, with an incessant deluge of phrases that sound meaningful and profound (at least to some people), but are in fact quite vacuous ("Once you catch curiosity, it is (luckily) hard to shake." "Everyone is looking for an opportunity, even if they don't know it."). It is hard to figure out how these pieces of "advice" can in fact contribute to advancing anyone's career. Granted, the book is written with the greatest possible audience in mind, but even so it could have used a lot more concrete actionable advice.

The only examples that are used in this book are those of people who have been very successful entrepreneurs. These kinds of examples are good motivational stories, but are almost useless to the millions of job seekers out there hoping to get their own career off the ground. In the entire book there are virtually no attempts to show how the insights from the career paths of top-dog entrepreneurs translate into the concrete, actionable advice for the rest of us.

Furthermore, almost all of the examples and insights in this book are in one way or another linked with Silicon Valley. That is indeed a wonderful and exciting place, and I have been fortunate enough that I had spent many years working and studying over there. However, Silicon Valley is exceptional in many ways, and the insights gained there do not translate well to the rest of the country, and you are even worse off if you live overseas. Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial spirit has tricked down to the lower professional and social circles. This, however, has not been the case with the rest of the world, and it's unlikely that it will happen any time soon. I still think that the entrepreneurial attitude is worthwhile having; just don't expect any dramatic impact on your career any time soon.

If you are in a tight situation right now when it comes to your career, then reading this book will be a near total waste of time. As already mentioned, it contains almost no concrete, actionable information. If you are relatively secure in your job and just want to gain a better perspective on managing your career, then this book might hold some overall value. Even under such circumstances, though, the information you get will almost certainly be very abstract and not readily applicable to your career path.
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Comments (showing 1-2)

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Vladimir Shamanov Hi Bojan!
Thank you for your engaging comment. I agree about the abundance of unsupported "motivational-speak" -- this is not something that I have expected from Reid Hoffman.

Yet I disagree with your point that "there are virtually no attempts to show how the insights from the career paths of top-dog entrepreneurs translate into the concrete, actionable advice".
Competitive advantage, ABZ planning, hypothesis-testing, pivoting, risk vs. uncertainty -- these frameworks that entrepreneurs use all the time and applying these ideas to career is something new. At least it's a great refreshment from the talks about 'life calling'... I just think that all the entrepreneur-speak used in the book is not a part of general knowledge and is not introduced well. The Lean Startup should really be a pre-requisite reading.


message 1: by Ben (new) - added it

Ben Casnocha Co-author of The Start-up of You here. This reviewer is entitled to his opinion, but I must take issue with his claim that the book contains "no concrete, actionable advice." In fact, we conclude every chapter with a half dozen to dozen action steps in a section called "Invest in Yourself." Readers have gotten a lot out of these specific action steps. To learn how, check out

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