The Start Up of You: A Holistic Approach to Successful Networking

The Start Up of YouThe Start Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career is the new book co-authored by Linked In co-founder/chairman Reid Hoffman and entreperneur Ben Casnocha. It takes a reflective view on networking today, making effective suggestions on how people can manage relationships successfully.  I picked up a free copy during Social Media Week in New York as part of Hoffman’s featured talk hosted at the Bloomberg building.  He has a great pulse on the entrepreneurial landscape that coincides with how people meet and work together.  The book displays a solid explanation of what makes that pulse flow.

Creative Ability Is in Our DNA

During his forum, Hoffman expressed that there may be too many products and services being offered, all in search for a customer.  That idea, while not stated in his exact words, still resonates through the book as it delves into what makes networking effective. All people are entrepreneurs because “the will to create is encoded in human DNA.” The authors go on further:

“Entrepreneurs succeed when they make stuff people will pay money for, which means understanding what’s going on in the head of customers. Discovering what people want in the words of start up investor Paul Graham, “deals with the most difficult problem in human experience: how to see things from other people’s point of view, instead of only thinking only of yourself”.”

The book’s elaboration on networking as creation, reaching its hallmark concept of  “I  to the we” power  – expressed with we as a superscript to I.  This creative math symbol  represents that individuals and a team is what make a network, well, work.  The efforts that create lasting relationships are a delicate balance of which we should be aware.  Moreover, that balance challenges widespread conventions.  Individual effort and teams are framed as extremes that are made better when combined.

“The self-made man is a myth, but the old saw is “There is no I in team” is wrong, too…A team is made up of individuals with different strengths and abilities….The nuanced version of the story of success is that both the individual and the team matter”

How We Invest In Ourselves

You will read with each page turn how Hoffman’s VC experience colors the book’s tone – analytical and balanced.  That tone keeps The Startup Of You a million miles above material that can be found on any ol’ LinkedIn group.  The authors could have very easily inserted a, “Hey join Linked In” pitch on every other page. Instead they display true grit and honesty in their phrases and examples.  Regarding their thoughts about a self made man, the authors note why such myths become common wisdom:

“Why do we rarely talk about the friends, allies, and colleagues who make us who we are?  In part it’s because the idea of a self-made man makes for a good story, and stories are how we process a messy, complex world.”

The material also offers actionable concepts to go along with the philosophical notions, such as asking good questions:

  • Converse, don’t interrogate – distinguishes how to exchange with a mentor vs a peer
  • Adjust the lens – ask wide questions for criteria, narrow to weigh the response
  • Frame and prime – construct the question in multiple ways  for high quality intelligence
  • Follow up and probe – to gain better intelligence beyond a single question

Each chapter ends with an Invest in Yourself segment, tips meant to put into action the next day, the next week, and the next month.  These tips are well suggested without deep complexity meant to hinder what they teach.

I thought including a chapter addressing risk was insightful given the uncertainty of networking, regardless of a relationship phase.  Hoffman and Casnocha explain how to take intelligent risks in determining choices, starting with the evaluating career choices to how to pivot on information as an entrepreneur.  The section is meant to temper early examples of managing a network amidst a volatile employment and economic landscape. A wonderful addendum is the exclusive content online, as well as the mention of additional books for further thought.

Distinguish Your Networking As You Start Up

In short, read this brief book, and manage the right steps to network.  It’s a great follow up to books like No You Can’t Pick My Brain and towers above many books on networking.

If you decide to invest in yourself online, you can join further discussions at the hashtag #startYOU, or follow on the Twitter feed @startupofyou.  Whatever you do, read The Start Up of You.

Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.