January/February is the time when final year students at universities start to seriously think about what to do when they’re “out”. It used to be so much more relaxed, but for the past couple of years the best grad schemes and interships have had very strict application deadlines early in the year. Which means right now is the time to sit down and figure out what’s next, in the “real world”.
I’d say if you have a friend or a relative who is about to graduate, this book can do a lot of good. I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg in 2013, a few weeks after it came out. I was just starting out in Marketing , and I needed something to reassure me that I didn’t have to get it right from Day 1 (the pressure many of us felt).
And it’s not just the lives of a few lucky readers this book has had impact on. Three years in, and there’s a global movement that changes company policies and inspires lawmakers across the world – just check out leanin.org to see amazing women (and men) giving honest and encouraging advice about life and work.
I’ve always been a big believer that an inspiring and truthful story is one of the most powerful tools to change perceptions. In Lean In, Sheryl’s managed to convince the world that women aren’t here to FIGHT men for positions and power, which is what we’ve been told to believe in all those previous feminist books.
She simply suggested we stop panicking and questioning ourselves. Instead, we should not be ashamed to offer our unique skills and expertise to businesses we choose to work for. A simple thought, really, but it’s caused quite a stir. And all because Sheryl has refused to “act like a man” (which is absurd for a beautiful young woman). Quite the opposite, she’s taught the companies she worked for (currently she’s the COO at Facebook) to use her talents and not compare her to other senior male executives. For example, she’s been quite firm about her right to leave work on time to pick up her children from school.
But most importantly, she’s proven that being kind and compassionate doesn’t make you a weaker leader. Again, a pretty banal thought that’s been told a thousand times before, but somehow, before Sheryl, we never quite managed to believe this is true (the book/movie Devil Wears Prada certainly didn’t help, either).
Unlike the first edition, this special book for graduates has a few additional chapters on things like CV writing, negotiating your salary and finding good mentors early on, which is a fantastic source of real life truths that you can trust.
I’ve just given this book to a very dear friend of mine, and I truly believe that she’ll find it useful (and entertaining, at times).
Here’s my favourite bit:
“The most common metaphor for careers is a ladder, but this concept no longer applies to most workers.[…] The days of joining an organization or corporation and staying there to climb that one ladder are long gone.[…] Younger colleagues and students frequently ask me how I planned my path. When I tell them that I didn’t, they usually react with surprise followed by relief. They seem encouraged to know that careers do not need to be mapped out from the start.[…] I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.”
So, there it is – don’t be afraid to take the job that you think is not “right”, whatever the reason you might have at the time. It doesn’t mean you’ll work there forever. Learn the skills that can be applied in any job, like collaboration and accountability, and try something different next.
Annoyingly, the book for graduates costs three times more than the “standard” one, which I think is appalling. I’ve included links to both, so you choose!
“Standard” edition can be found here (currently £6.85 for hardback)
Special “For graduates” edition is here (£17 for hardback)
Obviously, both are available in Kindle e-book format, but that is a lousy gift 🙂