The Startup of You

The Startup of You


Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha



An interesting take on applying some startup thinking to your career. For a book that’s more than 10 years old, the advice is holding up well. A reminder that you’re neither fully in control of your career path, or completely unable to influence it. Even though the world is chaotic and unpredictable, you can move through it strategically.

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Key Takeaways

The 20% that gave me 80% of the value.

  • The job market is becoming more like a startup one.
    • Information poor, time-compressed, resource-constrained.
    • No guarantees, no safety nets, you have to take on risk
    • Competition is changing, the market is changing
    • Information is limited, resources tight, competition fierce
    • The amount of time you spend in any one job is shrinking
  • You need to be entrepreneurial to thrive (use their tools and tactics)
    • Train and invest in yourself
    • Constantly adapt
    • Take stock of assets, aspirations and market realities ... develop a competitive advantage
    • Be flexible and iterative with your plans
    • Build on network of relationships (in industry, transcend jobs and teams)
    • Seek and create new opportunities, take focused risk
    • Tap their network to navigate tough challenges
    • They are valuable throughout your career, urgent, do them now
  • For many people, 20 years of experience is the same year repeated 20 times. Stay learning to maximise value (new experiences, enriching challenges and opportunities)
  • A company hires me over other professionals because...
    • What are you offering thats rare and valuable???
  • You need to be the best at something. Whats your competitive advantage going to be? What do you need to invest in?
  • Find your direction and advantage by auditing:
    • 'Your assets', 'your aspirations and values' and 'market realities'
    • Supply and Demand of what you offer vs the competition
    • Make use of assets, pursue worthy aspirations while navigating market realities
  • Conventional career planning only works in stable times, and implies that you can accurately diagnose your passion upfront and could ignore the realities of the market
  • The vision should be stable, but the plan to get there must be flexible
  • Prioritise learning: Which plan offers the most learning potential
  • Learn by doing: Try the role or the industry to see if you like it
  • Make reversible, small bets: Minimise the cost of failure. Don't bet the farm. Iterate. Start with a trial period, keep your day job.
  • Think 2 steps ahead: Think and plan 2 steps ahead. If not sure, go for optionality (consulting)
  • Maintain an identity separate from specific employers: You're vulnerable to an identity crisis if you have to pivot. Start a personal blog. Public reputation and portfolio.
  • Pivot to an adjacent niche, something different but related
    • Start the plan B on the side. Learn a skill during evenings and weekends. Start building relationships with people who work in an adjacent industry. Apply for a part-time internship. Start a side consulting practice. Take a vocation vacation
  • The importance of a network
    • Even with a permanent-beta mindset you need a network
    • Always be investing in your network
    • To accelerate your career, you need the help and support of others.
    • Establish a diverse team of allies and advisors whom you can grow over time
    • People are the source of key resources, opportunities, information and the like.
  • Build genuine relationships:
    • Building a network doesn't have to be cringey
    • Don't be a 'transactional' networker
    • Be a relationship builder, try to help the other people first.
  • Your network is bigger and more powerful than you think
    • 6 degrees of separation, its a small world because its so interconnected
    • Reach out through introductions from friends
  • The best professional network is cohesive and diverse
  • Jump start the give and take
    • Kevin Rose made Jack Dorsey a promotional video for square for free... which got him into the Series A
  • Brim with curiosity. Even if you don’t have an immediate need. Always be looking.
  • Court serendipity and good randomness
    • Winning the lottery is luck, serendipity involves being alert to potential opportunity
    • Be doing, exploring, meeting, looking,
    • The best way to make sure lucky things happen is to make sure a lot of things happen
  • People view risk negatively, don’t, its a pre-requisite for opportunity
  • Pursue opportunities where others misperceive the risk
  • How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose
  • You need good intelligence to run your career, you need your network for this:
    • Assets, inspiration and market realities
    • Allies and connections
    • Track the risk of an opportunity
  • Develop network literacy: Who to go to for everything

Deep Summary

Longer form notes, typically condensed, reworded and de-duplicated.

Chapter 1: All entrepreneurs are humans

The job market is changing
The job market is more like a startup environment...
You need to be entrepreneurial to thrive (use their tools and tactics)
Why listen?
The right mindset: Stay learning, beta mode

Chapter 2: Develop a competitive advantage

Aspirations and values
Market Realities
Fit the pieces together:

Chapter 3: Plan to adapt

  • Conventional career planning only works in stable times, and implies that you can accurately diagnose your passion upfront and could ignore the realities of the market
  • The vision should be stable, but the plan to get there must be flexible
    • Flexibly persist!
    • Sheryl Sandburg asked Eric Schmidt for career advice. Go where there's fast growth, it creates all opportunities. Work in a market of natural momentum. Ride the big waves.
    • You can pivot without losing track of working on what matters to you.
ABZ Planning
Planning tips:
On timing:
  • Pivot to an adjacent niche, something different but related
How to pivot? Start it on the side
Plan Z - Jump on your lifeboat and regroup

Chapter 4: It takes a network

The importance of a network
Relationship building in professional life
Empathise and help first
The fun factor
The structure and strength of your existing network
How to strengthen and maintain your network

Chapter 5: Pursue breakout opportunities

Introduction: Make you opportunities
Mind on fire: be curious
Court serendipity and good randomness

Chapter 6: Take intelligent risks

  • People view risk negatively, don’t , its a pre-requisite for opportunity
  • More people would enjoy breakout opportunities if it were just about networking, serendipity and resourcefulness... BUT there's also risk involved
  • Inaction is the other type of risk!
How to think about risk

Chapter 7: Who you know is what you know

Information is vital, your network is a great source
How to pull intelligence from your network?
Synthesise information into actionable intelligence:


  • Take control and apply entrepreneurial skills to whatever you do
  • Remember that its you and your network (not just you)
Further Reading