Advice from one of the most influential women in the world

During one of my coaching sessions, a client indicated that it was her aim to have a director’s job at the multinational where she was working within 5 years.

A recruiter had advised her tochoose for a specific substantive direction around the age of 35, so that she could easily make steps on the career ladder.

In our sessions she showed a lot of ambition. At the same time, I noticed that the focus on this choice gave my client a lot of stress and blocked her in a certain way. She didn’t talk at all about what she really liked in a job.

Your career as a climbing frame

Together we looked at her career from different perspectives.

At one point I asked her if she knew the perspective of the ‘climbing frame’ from the book ‘Lean In’ written by Sheryl Sandberg.

This book discusses the idea that a career is not a ladder but a climbing frame. Ladders are too limited: you can only move up or down, on or off.

You can explore a climbing frame in a more creative way (up, side, down etc.). You can reach the top in many ways and the path doesn’t have to be fully defined.

How enriching is it to learn new skills instead of just staring at the bottom of the one above you?

Je carrière als klimrek

My client didn’t know the book and because she went on holiday a few days later, I advised her to take it with her.

In the coaching session after her holiday my client indicated that the perspective of the climbing frame had given her new insights. In the sessions that followed, I also noticed that she was open to explore other career paths. And more importantly, ‘I should make steps’ made way for ‘what do I like in a job’.

I myself, despite having a 1 1/2 year old toddler, devoured the book ‘Lean In’ during my summer holiday in 2013. Then I recommended it to many friends. I am a big fan.

We are now 5 years later, but the contents of the book are still current. As far as I am concerned, ‘Lean in’ is a must-read for every woman.

Because my client did not yet know the book, it seemed a nice idea to share ‘Lean In’ via my blog. So that even more women will take the book on holiday and get inspired to realize their own ambitions.

For every woman

Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook and in 2017 ranked number 4 on the Forbes-list of the world’s most powerful women.

In 2013 she wrote ‘Lean in’. In her introduction she says:

Lean in“Whatever this book is, I am writing it for any woman who wants to increase her chances of making it to the top of her field or pursue any goal vigorously. This includes women at all stages of their lives and careers, from those who are just starting out to those who are taking a break and may want to jump back in”.

‘Lean In’ in stead of ‘Lean Back’

The title of the book points to the view that, apart from cultural and social challenges, we women also obstruct ourselves. For example, because (often out of a certain uncertainty) we don’t make clear what we want.

While, in order to improve conditions for women, it is important that women pursue their own ambitions. Sandberg calls on all women to ask themselves the following question: What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

And then go do it. So ‘Lean in’ instead of ‘Lean back’.

Some other great advices

In addition to ‘the climbing frame’ Sandberg has more advice, such as:

  • In order to grow and challenge yourself, you have to raise your hand. Women are less inclined to do so, but try to believe in your own abilities and, in spite of all the uncertainties that go through your mind, keep your hand up.
  • For women, undermining their accomplishments is a kind of self-defence. We are afraid that we are not liked.To a large extent this fear is culturally explained, because we do not associate women with leadership but with caring qualities. We have to let go of this, because if you please everyone you won’t change everything.
  • Becoming a mother is a big moment for many women. Also, in relation to their career. Sandberg’s advice is ‘don’t leave before you leave’. So, don’t pull the brake before you actually need to. In this way you continue developing yourself and you keep a job that gives you satisfaction. And this makes it easier to go back to work after your maternity leave.

  • Make your partner a real partner who supports you in your choices and with whom you also share the care and household tasks. Besides that it helps you, it also has positive effects on the children. Research shows that children with involved fathers are psychologically healthier and have better cognitive skills than children with fathers who are less involved.
  • The best way for combining both your career and private life in a fulfilling way is making the best choices you can. So, don’t focus on the question “Can I do it all?” But focus on the question “Can I do what’s most important for me and my family?”.

More inspiration

If you are not going on holiday and can’t find any time at home to read a book (something that’s often my problem), then there is Sandberg’s great Ted Talk.

Sandberg also founded the LeanIn Community as a result of the success of the book. Its mission is to empower women to achieve their ambitions through Lean In circles, public awareness and education. It’s website is definitely worth a visit!