Book by Reid Hoffman & Ben Cashnocha
Review by: Melissa L. Johnson, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, University Honors Program
University of Florida

The start-up of you by Reid Hoffman and Ben Cashnocha aims to help its readers develop an entrepreneurial approach to career planning. With an eye towards the changing landscape of the job market, the authors advocate an “undoing of these traditional career assumptions” (p. 7) which include expectations of moving up the career ladder and participating in on-the-job training. With an entrepreneurial mindset, readers should be able to more readily adapt to their environments, to accept risks and uncertainties, and to tap into their networks.

Each chapter successively builds on the prior chapter’s work. After the introductory chapter about the need for developing this entrepreneurial focus, other chapter topics include developing a competitive advantage, planning to adapt, utilizing your network, pursuing opportunities, and taking risks, followed by a synthesizing conclusion. Chapters include examples from the authors’ own experiences, as well as the experiences of people in their networks.

“Invest in Yourself” is a series of tasks at the conclusion of each chapter to help the reader focus on what they could accomplish in the next day, the next week, and the next month. Networking suggestions are also included. These personal strategy tips are the biggest strength of the book. Academic advisors and their students can use these tips to develop concrete action plans for building their networks and developing their skillsets.

Another strength of the book is the chapter entitled “It takes a network.” Networking is often an abstract concept, but the authors detail the importance of forming and maintaining relationships, participating on a team, and understanding the strengths of having and using a network.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few weaknesses with this book. The authors litter each chapter with a who’s who of their friends and colleagues, as well as a steady stream of advertisements for LinkedIn, founded by Hoffman. Many of the examples provided from the authors’ networks are difficult to relate to considering the average reader is not working for Google, Facebook, Paypal, or other related companies.

Even in the strongest chapter on networking, the authors advocate for setting up an “interesting people” fund (p. 128), using the examples of friends jetting cross-country at the drop of a hat to participate in various activities. Such advice is simply impractical, especially in this economy. Finally, the majority of examples used in this book are from male colleagues of the authors, with very few females represented. Even the writing in many cases defers to male pronouns instead of using gender-neutral language. This lack of inclusion was a challenge as a reader.

While definitely not geared towards academic advisors, there are components that advisors could utilize in their work with students. As previously mentioned, the end caps to each chapter on personal investment tips are full of solid information that could be used in planning with students. The premise of each chapter also has merit – helping students think through building their networks, encouraging them to take risks, and building a competitive profile through seeking different opportunities all are topics advisors could discuss with their students.

The challenge with this book is trying to get to the meat of each topic through all of the examples and endorsements the authors provide. With that consideration, I do not recommend The start-up of you as a defining resource for advisors, but it may be helpful if an advisor has time to sort through the beneficial sections.

The start-up of you. (2012) Book by Reid Hoffman & Ben Cashnocha. Review by Melissa L. Johnson. Random House. 2160 pp., $26.00 (hardback), ISBN # 978-0-307-88890-7

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