Career Advice from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg

Career Advice from Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook.  Prior to Facebook, she held several executive positions at Google and was the chief of staff at the United States Department of the Treasury.  In May 2012, Sandberg (HBS 1995) gave the 2012 commencement speech at Harvard Business School.  Below are the five areas of advice that Sanderg conveyed to the graduating class with “authenticity” being the overarching theme.

1 – Authenticity – Strength does not come from your place on the organization chart, but from earning the respect and trust of others.  Always speak and hear the truth. Always ask for honest feedback.  Good leaders know that most people do not feel comfortable challenging authority, so they must proactively encourage it.  Tip: Speak openly about your weaknesses.  It gives people permission to agree with you, which is easier than them having to bring it up.

2 – Career – When companies are growing quickly and they are having an impact, careers take care of themselves.  When companies are not growing quickly or their missions do not matter as much, that is when politics and stagnation come into play.  “Get on a rocket ship.” If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship (e.g., Facebook, Google, etc.), do not ask what seat, just get on.

3 – Equality – Women make up 15% of senior executives in the U.S., not 50% like it should be.  The trend is stagnate, not growing.  “The promise of equality is not the same as equality.”  There are not enough senior women in the workforce to impact the change, so senior men must help too.   We need more women to sit at the table and to take their rightful seat at the head of the table.

4 – Experience – Look for growth.  Look for impact.  Look for opportunities (e.g., What is your biggest problem and how can I solve it?).  Look for mission.  Move up.  Move down.  Move sideways.  Move on.  Move off.  Take an operations role.  Take a sales role.  Do not plan too much.  Do not expect a direct climb up the corporate ladder.  “Build your skills, not your resume.”  Evaluate what you can do, not the title that they are going to give you.

5 – Wholeness – Motivation comes from working on things we care about. Motivation also comes from people we care about. In order to care about someone, you have to know them; what they love and hate; what they feel, not just what they think. “If you want to win hearts and minds, you have to lead with your heart and your mind.”  You cannot be your professional-self at work and your personal-self outside of work. Always bring your whole-self to work.

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

One Response to Career Advice from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg

  1. Andrea Nott says:

    Pretty nice post.


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