Work, Women, and the Will to Lead: A Brief Look at Lean In

APRIL 09, 2014
I recently read Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In. I thought it was time to finally find out what America was reading—besides Fifty Shades of Grey or Game of Thrones, that is. I don't tend to gravitate to books like Sheryl's. In fact, without many physical bookstores around anymore, I wouldn't even know what category this book falls under, or where to appropriately place it on the bookshelf. Self-improvement? Career advice? Women's leadership? Biography? Non-Fiction?
 
As I was commuting home from work the other day and checking off errands, I reflected on some of the things Sheryl wrote about in her book. As a young female pharmacist who has proactively sought out various employment opportunities, I could easily relate to some of what she said. When I started out in pharmacy, there were more male pharmacists than female pharmacists. Today, there is greater balance. Yet, even with more female professionals or managers these days, have the tables really turned? Do the tables need to turn? The truth is, I am not sure. But Sheryl got me thinking not just about being a pharmacist but about being a professional. If you are interested, it never hurts to pick up a book that lots of other people are reading so you are ready for some water-cooler talk. Or, in the pharmacist’s case, behind-the-counter chatter. Consider yourself warned, however, this is not the best beach read. Sun and sand are best reserved for the series mentioned above!
 
Here are some of my takeaways from Lean In:
 
Be more open to taking career risks
  • Women tend to avoid assignments that require them to stretch themselves and meet new challenges on the job.
  • Women tend to worry too much about whether they have the skills needed to take on new, loftier roles.
  • When offered a new opportunity, women are more prone to fall back on the excuse that they're unfamiliar with that kind of work or their educational background hasn’t prepared them for it.
  • At a certain point, it’s your ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters.
  • Don't think, "I’m not ready to do that." Instead, think, "I want to do that—and I’ll learn by doing it.”
Skip people pleasing
  • The desire to be liked by everyone will hold you back. It comes down to stepping up and being willing to lead, gaining confidence, pushing back on obstacles, and challenging other people’s decisions and opinions.
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Visualize your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder
  • “Ladders are limiting,” Sandberg writes. “Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.”

  • In other words, be willing to make the right career moves for you, and don’t be hamstrung by your current employer or career trajectory. 

Daydream about your career
  • Have a long-term dream as well as an 18-month plan to pursue immediate workplace goals, such as learning new skills.
  • Constantly ask yourself, "What can I do to improve myself at work?"
What does Lean In leave out?
  • Sandberg writes about challenges facing working women with young children. But the experience of women without kids in the workplace is virtually ignored, even though many women choose not to have children.


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