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February 2, 2012

News & Opinion: The Start-Up of You

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 5:36 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

It used to be that there were entrepreneurs, and then the rest of us who were happy to help others achieve their goals and somehow find our own in the process. That's changed. Many people are pursuing their own business ideas, and catching up on ideas and knowledge to help them run that business. For those that work for others, they too sense that stability is not what it used to be, and might be mentally preparing for the next step - whether they decide to take it, or it's decided for them.

Here's a book that can help people on either side of the fence. Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha's The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. It begins with the premise that there actually are not two sides of the fence, that all humans are entrepreneurs. Each of us have the will to create and survive.
Why the start up of you? When you start a company, you make decisions in an information-poor, time-compressed, resource-constrained environment. There are no guarantees or safety nets, so you take on a certain amount of risk. The competition is changing; the market is changing. The conditions in which entrepreneurs start and grow companies are the conditions we all now live in when fashioning a career. Whether you're working toward a promotion or simply trying to hold on to your job - you never know what's going to happen next. Information is limited. Resources are tight. Competition is fierce. The world is changing. This means you need to be adapting all the time. And if you fail to adapt, no one - not your employer, not the government - is going to catch you when you fall.

Some will recognize co-author Reid Hoffman as the co-founder of LinkedIn, a social network for professionals to share their work histories, skills, education, and career goals. It's clear that Hoffman knows of the world he speaks of, and understands the changes that have occurred as people try to position themselves and their skills within an increasingly competitive pool of opportunities.

And some might say that this has always been the case. It's always been challenging to get a job, to stand out in the crowd, to have one's unique and individual talent be seen as valuable. As true as that is, what this book clearly points out is what has changed, is the movement away from labor, the movement back toward ourselves as creative beings and survivors. When one focuses on these attributes, on themselves, they develop their skills and unique talents in a stronger way, rather than looking at which opportunities are available, and attempting to fit themselves within that. The result is more control over one's destiny, and the ability to discover opportunities based on their strengths and interests as opposed to taking the best option available.

This is a great book to help anyone on this path, currently employed, or not. It's filled with information on creating competitive advantage, strengthening your network, generating opportunities, better understanding risk, and becoming more successful on your own terms.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.