I was in a career seminar a while ago when the speaker highly recommended Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I finally got to read the book, and I have to say that it totally lives up to the hype!💃🏽💃🏽 The book is thought-provoking, educative, informational and at the same time, quite honest and vulnerable. Throughout the book, Sheryl manages to combine personal stories from her winding career journey, with research – based facts.
I loved it! 🔥
In this book, the writer advocates for women to take their place in the workplace and particularly in leadership positions. She applauds the ongoing fight against institutional and external barriers that prevent women from taking chances, advancing and leading at an equal pace with their male counterparts; the author however recommends that women must also tackle internal barriers to their progress – all the ways that we usually hold ourselves back.
It is a call to stop leaning back, but rather to lean in!
I do not agree with everything said in the book. For instance, I am not a fan of constantly and completely comparing women with men, when we know that both genders are physiologically, biologically and otherwise different. But I stand with the writer in saying that those differences should be the very reasons for us to stay compassionate and proactive in helping women overcome the barriers to their upward movement in the work environment, because we need them at the top!
Below are 8 career tips that I garnered from the book.
I mean, who better to take career advice from, other than a woman who was once the Chief of Staff at the US Secretary of the Treasury, a Vice President at Google and now the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook? 😮💃🏽🎊
Career choices: Sheryl recommends that one should prioritizes opportunities that afford potentials for growth above job titles one might prefer. For instance, when companies grow quickly, they tend to have opportunities that can expose one to more responsibilities as the company may not have enough hands to do the work. Also, staying too long in the same department or organization causes a form of inertia. In order to prepare for leadership, one must actively pursue different experiences.
“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” Ladders only allow vertically translational movement—it is either people are moving up or they are going down. With jungle gyms, there is a lot of room for “creative exploration”. This is great news especially for women who find themselves at different points starting or switching careers, tackling external barriers or rejoining the workforce after taking time off.
Growth: Our advancement requires both focus and flexibility and for this, the writer advises adopting two concurrent goals: a long-term dream (the big picture) and an eighteen-month plan. She shares that she tries to set more personal goals like learning new skills in the next few months.
Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success. Professional advancement relies on the value that people perceive that the employee delivers. She alludes that men generally feel more comfortably with claiming credit for what they do. But for women, sometimes, taking credit can be really costly yet it is necessary.
Mentorship: Although mentorship & sponsorship have been greatly emphasized in recent years, the writer informed that asking someone you rarely know to become your mentor is awkward. (Who else found this point quite table-shattering? 😁🤭) She opines that pursuing such connection with a near-stranger hardly ever succeeds. According to research, mentors choose protégés based on potential and performance. They select people intuitively, and will usually only continue as the mentees maximize the opportunity, keep up growth efforts and stay respectful of their time. Sometimes, this basic professional relationship progresses into friendship.
Criticism: Sheryl quoted Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, who stated that learning to withstand criticism is a necessity for women. Sheryl confided that she wishes I were strong enough to ignore what others say, but experience tells her that she often can’t. (I know what you mean, mamma! 😢) Allowing herself to feel upset or very upset, and then moving on is the best she can do. (Same here!)
Taking career breaks for maternity, the author states that she has observed that women sometimes refuse job opportunities or stall their career progress because they envisage that they may have a baby in the coming months or years. She argues that “the time to scale back is when a break is needed or when a child arrives… The months and years leading up to having children are not the time to lean back, but the critical time to lean in.”
Women must support and validate other women! “Mothers who work outside the home should regard mothers who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option.” I did not bother to rephrase the last 2 sentences because…they simply looked perfect and I couldn’t bring myself to alter those lines! A shout 🔊 out to all the men who support and encourage the women in their lives – you guys are the real deal!
Hey, do you all know what it means to be “relentlessly pleasant,” how to “combine niceness with insistence”? Apparently, it is yet another skill that female leaders need under their belt. I will let you read the book to get all the juice! 😜
Good news! The narrative is changing. I mean, there is still work to be done with supporting and promoting women in the workforce, but guess what? In the last several months, most of my bosses have been women. One time, my boss, my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss 😊…up to the highest level were women. Plus, I see several examples of successful women around including my very own mother 🥰 who built a successful business while raising her children in partnership with her husband. How inspiring! 🙌🏽
Until next time, this is me choosing to lean in, to show up, and to keep faith. We move!🚶🏾♀️✌🏽