The co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman with co-author Ben Casnocha have recently produced a thought-provoking new book on how to apply the strategies of successful entrepreneurship to career development. In other words, how to approach your career as “the start up of you”.

Although The start-up of You is written for all ages, it comes across as particularly pertinent for helping older people understand what they need to do now in order to further their career in today’s radically altered world of work. To quote the authors, “there used to be a long-term pact between employee and employer that guaranteed life-time employment in exchange for lifetime loyalty; this pact has been replaced by a performance-based, short-term contract that’s perpetually up for renewal by both sides.”

As might be expected, the book focuses heavily on networking, but so it should. There is much evidence from the way jobs are gained today to reinforce the authors’ assertion that “Professional loyalty now flows horizontally to and from your network rather than vertically to your boss.”

Of course, to a degree it was always thus.  For many people professional success has always been more about who they know rather than what they know. However, the parameters within which that operated seemed in the past to be more constrained. Today, in the face of uncertainty the key to success in career terms increasingly seems to be adopting a persona that is nimble and self-reliant, being innovative and aiming to stand out from the crowd, i.e. thinking and acting like an entrepreneur.

The book contains plenty of good advice if you can disentangle it from the US context and case studies, with each chapter concluding with points for action. Whether or not you agree with its approach or its somewhat frenetic tone –  which is probably just a reflection of the more excitable US style – there’s nevertheless much to make any reader, whether they are an employee or HR professional (and after all, most people are both), think and reflect.

Ultimately there’s plenty to disagree with in what the authors say, but if the end result is that it inspires people to examine their position and approach, take greater responsibility for their own career and do things differently then it seems to me it will have done a good job.

The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha (2012)

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