Lean in. I have been hearing about Sheryl Sandberg and her concept and book since my sophomore year of college. To be honest my first impression of Sandberg was negative solely because the woman who introduced me to her disagreed with her beliefs. She felt that Sandberg could not possibly give advice to all women when she grew up so privileged, and that she couldn’t relate. I immediately felt the same, I watched her TED talk in class and I resonated with what she was saying but I still had a negative perception of her – that is until I picked up her book.
Had the woman who scolded me for recommending we post about Sheryl Sandberg actually read “Lean In” she would realize that Sandberg addresses her concerns immediately. She outright says she knows that she is/was privileged and she is thankful for her upbringing but that her advice can work for us all. Immediately I knew I had made the right decision by choosing to read this book because as a mixed-race woman there are some serious challenges I will face in the workplace but by leaning in I can further my career and pave the way for future woman.
“What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” is the title of the first chapter. I thought it was a pretty tough question to answer but was sure that by the time I finished the book I would have an answer. I appreciated Sandberg’s accounts of her life. Though very different from how I grew up she gives the reader a clear insight into who she is and how she got there. It is not very long until she gets into really giving advice. The name of her chapters say it all “Sit at the Table,” “Success and Likeability,” and “It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder.” The fourth chapter was the first time I took out my highlighter and noted a quote “careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” This quote resonated with me for the simple reason that as I am looking for my career when I talk to my parents or better yet my grandparents and explain how I could jump around in the public relations career and hopefully, eventually, become an SVP one day, they get nervous. Rightly so, considering they expected me to go to law school after undergrad. Sandberg helped me realize that indeed your career can take you anywhere as long as you keep moving forward nothing can hold you back.
Throughout the book Sandberg definitely hit home with some of her stories. Some of them gave me chills, some made me inherently sad but some of them were pretty funny. I was hysterical when Sandberg pointed out that Mark Zuckerberg was only seven years old when she graduated from college. In the same chapter Sandberg talks about long-term dreams writing “a long-term dream does not have to be realistic or even specific. It may reflect the desire to work in a particular field or to travel throughout the world. Maybe the dream is to have professional autonomy or a certain amount of free time.” Of course this made me consider a long-term dream and I think for me it’s to be financially stable. I want to be able to have no issues with my basic needs, have my student loans paid off, and be able to travel without having to save for a year. I don’t think this is my only long-term dream but as of right now it’s what I am looking forward too. And if I have learned anything from “Lean In” it’s that you have to look forward to something to get to where you want.
“Lean In” gave me a lot of insight while I am looking for my first job. One point is that looking for a job is a job. I also need to know myself and what I want. I think that this book is perfect for girls my age and also perfect for woman my mother’s age. While my mother is a successful accountant I found often while reading this book that she could use some of Sandberg’s advice. I think that reading this book gives you self-confidence that 1. You are awesome and amazing at what you do, 2. You deserve just as much, if not more, as the man next to you, 3. Speak up, sit at the table, lean in. In chapter 6 I learned that it is in fact OK to cry in the office. Not that you want to be balling your eyes out every time something goes wrong but that authentic emotions are better than bottling up what’s wrong.
The parts I hated about “Lean In” had to do with motherhood and marriage. I am someone who looks forward to neither of those in my future so I really wanted to skip through those chapters. However, as I read on I learned that a lot of what Sandberg was preaching were things that I have already done at my age. “Don’t be afraid to ask,” is something that I have practiced already in my career. It was comforting to realize that I am learning these traits so young that took other successful woman so long to adapt to.
To conclude what I have learned from this book I take away three quotes. The first is from Standford professor Deborah Gruenfeld, “We [woman] need to look out for one another, work together, and act more like a coalition. As individuals we have relatively low levels of power. Working together, we are fifty percent of the population and therefore have real power.” This solidified my want to work with women and inspire women and to learn from women. We are an incredible force to be reckoned with and we need to do things together. The second quote is from Sheryl Sandberg “In my opinion, it is always worth the battle to change an undesirable dynamic.” Sandberg is right. There is no reason to deal with something that weakens or upsets you. There is a little fight in everyone and everything you believe is worth the fight. Finally, the last quote is “proceed and be bold.” This quote is seriously so important to me. My high school senior quote was “love, live life, proceed, progress,” and this year as a senior in college I need yet another quote. I joked with my best friend saying that I would use my quote from high school since I still believe it and she said “4 years later don’t you think you would have progressed by now”? It kind of shocked me when she said that and I was totally unprepared to think of another quote when I started reading this book and found the quote. I’m happy I read this book and I think any woman going through a change (graduating college, changing jobs, having a child) should read it.