In December 2010, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO for Facebook, set off a media storm when she gave her now famous Ted Talk about on “Why we have too Few Women Leaders”. In her talk she discussed the challenges women face in wanting to grow in the work place while at the same time feeling a societal pressure to step away from a career to a more traditional family life. Sandberg explained that, in order to succeed, women need to “lean-in” and become more aggressive on voicing what they want in and out of the workplace. The popularity of the talk led to Sandberg publishing the now famous book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Lean-In has sparked numerous debates over the roles of women in the workplace, and has even inspired women in other countries to write their own stories for their cultures, such as CEO of Baidu Inc. Jennifer Li, and Joy Chen, the author of Leftover Women, both from China. All these books center on several key takeaways, which not only apply to women but men as well.
1. Take more risks
Sandberg states in Lean-In that women are less likely to take career risks than men. However, in the marketing world, our job is all about meeting challenges and taking risks to create the best new campaigns possible. One example of a marketing risk taker is Anna Bateson, the director-global marketing and communications for YouTube (to take this position she had to move her family from their native London to California). Not only has she helped to grow the branding of YouTube, but she was also responsible for launching the successful YouTube documentary “Life in a Day” – the first YouTube movie of its kind. By taking user generated content, creating a participatory campaign and movie, Bateson helped to further expand brand awareness of YouTube beyond its normal audience. It’s important in marketing roles that both women and men look not only for their next career step without fear, but also are not afraid to use new types of marketing channels and ideas in their current positions.
2. Stop pleasing everyone
What Chen, Li and Sandberg have all tried to communicate to women is that you must have the courage to gain confidence in yourself, and find the will to push through and lead. Being a leader does not mean that you can always please everyone, especially the higher a person climbs in a company. A prime example of this is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. When she entered her job in early 2013, her approval rating was high inside and outside Yahoo. However, when she began changing policies such as Yahoo’s work from home policy – her approval rating began to go down, even though studies have shown that working from home actually slows the progress of a work day. Mayer’s progress has been slow, and while Yahoo is yet to make financial gain, there have been some successes such as the purchase of Tumblr, boosted moral internally and the development of a popular weather app.
3. See a corporate jungle gym, not a ladder
Many of us come from parents who went to college, then graduated and took a job that they had until they retired. However, these are the career paths of the past and not the present. Those who are in the workforce must allow for themselves to take varied paths that will help them grow. Today, many people do not necessary have jobs in the major they studied in college, or stay in the same field for a career lifetime. Joy Chen, of Leftover Women, began her career as a Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, California, then became a global head hunter and finally has found success as an author. This is not an organic path, but one filled with new obstacles and challenges – they key makings of a fulfilled career.
4. Dare to dream of goals
Sandberg was quoted as saying in Lean In, “I believe everyone should have a long-term dream”. Having a “dream job” is a perfectly normal thing to want, but Lean-In does recommend to get a dream job that you set new career goals for yourself every 18 months. These goals will help you to have immediate career goals while still learning new skills. By setting these small goals it allows for you to get one step closer to your overall dream job.
When looking at your career, it is important that you know when to take a risk, follow the path that is right for you and with the support of others learn to reach your dream goals. Only then will you be able to have the ability to move from – “I’m not ready to do that” to “I want to do that.”