Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book Review - Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg

This week's post comes from Christine Gertz, Library and Information Specialist with CAPS.

Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg and Others. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.

Since its appearance in early 2013, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead has sparked debate and discussions, not only about the encouragement the book gives to women to devote energy to their careers, while also encouraging both men and women to treat women more fairly in the workplace and at home, but also about the privilege of the book’s superstar author, Sheryl Sandberg. (Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, was ranked number one on Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful Women in Business, and recently lost her status as a billionaire when Facebook’s stock decreased in value.) If you haven’t heard about Lean In, it is possible that you have seen Sandberg’s original talk on TED, which has now collected over 4 million viewers.

Lean In for Graduates includes the original Lean In content, with the addition of about one hundred new pages of content. These new chapters include personal stories about career and life setbacks, advice on job seeking for graduates, and two chapters on salary and negotiation skills. The whole book is highly accessible and well written, including autobiographical examples, as well as examples from research.

Sandberg uses a metaphor for careers and career development, a jungle gym, which is similar to the model developed by CAPS. For Sandberg, she didn’t plan her career path, and recommends that readers move up, laterally and down, if needed, to move toward the career you want.  Sandberg also recommends seizing opportunities, as well as developing focus and “leaning in”, as is the case when she describes the advice she was given when she hesitated over taking her initial position at Google: “If offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.” She also states that risk aversion, as well as underestimating one’s abilities, can hold a person back from career momentum, including this advice from research at Hewlett Packard which showed that men would apply for a position if they had 60% of the requirements of the posting, while women would only apply if they had 100%. However, when the discrepancy was revealed, women began applying more for positions where they had most of the criteria, but did not cut themselves out of the competition when they did not have it all.

For grads, the message of plans don’t always work out or that make a plan plus a contingency and reevaluate, as well as taking chances when the rewards are worth the risks, is good advice. Sandberg also suggests that coming together to discuss career and workplace issues, the Lean In Circles that were formed in the wake of the original book, are also a viable idea for grads who are looking for encouragement, support and advice. If you read the original Lean In and enjoyed it and if you were looking for a graduation gift for a career-minded grad, Lean In for Graduates includes plenty of good advice and encouragement for the graduate audience.

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