SmartRecruiters Blog

The Startup of You – Book Review

It was with some regret that I received the news that Reid Hoffman with his co-author Ben Casnocha were releasing a book on this topic earlier this year. It’s not that I think they don’t have some great advice to provide rather it’s because I was thinking about writing a book along similar lines myself. But as with startups, you have to execute to be in position to win so … Less about me, let’s move onto the book itself.

I didn’t know much about Messrs Hoffman and Casnocha before I read this book but I have since read a lot about them and its pretty obvious that they have a lot to add to the subject of startups, hiring, managing your career and recruitment. So, let me get this out of the way then: I loved this book. To me, at its core it promotes the idea that job seekers or anyone in any sort of career (i.e. all of us) need to be much more pro-active and strategic about how we manage them. Check out Page 1 (courtesy of

Historically careers have tended to be managed for us (speaking for myself here as well) or we have allowed other people in our company or life to orchestrate our careers for us rather than us wrestling control over our future and deciding for ourselves what we’d like to do next. Typically those conversations have gone something like this:

Your manager’s manager or a person who knows of you says to someone else who knows you (perhaps your manager):

M1: “Do you think Mary/Johnny would be interested/capable of doing role X?”
M2: “Yes/No/Maybe …”

And this conversation is conducted without your input, your knowledge or consent.

This conversation then translates into a conversation with you along the lines of:

M2: “Hi Johnny/Mary, you may/may not be perfect for this role”

It’s as if you had nothing to say in determining the direction of your own career. The main reason I’m so supportive of this book is because it pushes the agenda that you should no longer be on the receiving end of that conversation, you should actually be driving it. Because you have analyzed your skills, looked at your career options and defined an adaptive path – you would have had a conversation with your boss or your boss’s boss about the next step for you within the company and you would have decided whether or not that fits with your short/medium/long terms goals. You have decided to take a much more pro-active role in your career!

My interest in this area was first informed by the well-known business author Charles Handy and his book The Elephant and the Flea where he proposed that the future of work would be much less about the large employers and much more about freelancers and independents. Going towards this model requires a radical shift (an on-going process) in how one needs to manage one’s career and hence why this book emphasizes the need to think like a startup and “Pivot” (a term popularized by Eric Ries and the approach he developed to Lean Startups) to the next role in your career path.

One of the recurring themes in “The StartUp of You” is to have an “ABZ” plan for your career. Where A is your preferred option, B is your next best option and Z is your fall back position – a role you know you can do and ensures you don’t over-extend yourself based on your personal risk profile (thus ensuring you still have a roof over your head, family still fed, etc.). To make their case the authors respectfully review very successful books in this vein, like “What Color Is Your Parachute?“, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, etc. but rightfully point out that these books lack an understanding of today’s realities: globalism, rate of technology change, increased competition that force change upon us all in our careers. Therefore in managing a career you have to able to adapt to that change and the authors suggest several approaches to be prepared for and manage that change.

If you decide to read this book (I hope you do) and adopt some of its recommendations, you are much less likely to be impacted by your career and much more likely to be able to adapt to the changes that are coming. And we all can benefit from a little bit of that.


the startup of youJarlath O’Carroll
is the founder of Jobspeaker, an online job seeker tool to help make job search more efficient and effective. Follow @JobSpeaker on Twitter.


Jarlath OCarroll

Jarlath O’Carroll is the founder of Jobspeaker, an online job seeker tool to help make job search more efficient and effective. Follow @JobSpeaker on Twitter.