The quote above and the material below are from a speech given by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook at this year’s graduation ceremony at Harvard Business School (HBS). Sheryl herself is both engaging and authentic and her speech is spiced with entertaining and inspiring personal story-telling which successfully pushes home important truths about the world of work and its’ future.
The traditional metaphor for careers is a ladder, but I no longer think that metaphor holds. It just doesn’t make sense in a less hierarchical world. When I was first at Facebook, a woman named Lori Goler, a 1997 graduate of HBS, was working in marketing at eBay and I knew her a bit socially. She called me and said, “I want to talk with you about coming to work with you at Facebook. So I thought about calling you and telling you all the things I’m good at and all the things I like to do. But I figured that everyone is doing that. So instead I want to know what’s your biggest problem and how can I solve it?”
My jaw hit the floor. I’d hired thousands of people up to that point in my career, but no one had ever said anything like that. I had never said anything like that. Job searches are always about the job searcher, but not in Lori’s case. I said, “You’re hired. My biggest problem is recruiting and you can solve it.” So Lori changed fields into something she never thought she’d do, went down a level to start in a new field. She has since been promoted and runs all of People Operations at Facebook and is doing an extraordinary job.
Lori has a great metaphor for careers. She says they’re not a ladder, they’re a jungle gym.
As you start your post-HBS career, look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build your skills, not your resume. Evaluate what you can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work. Take a sales quota, a line role, an ops job. Don’t plan too much, and don’t expect a direct climb. If I had mapped out my career when I was sitting where you are, I would have missed my career.
Hear Sheryl’s entire speech on the link below. It’s excellent.