Every year at this time I love to mine commencement speeches for bits of wisdom and inspiration.
My latest discovery was the graduation speech that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave at the Harvard Business School last week. You can watch the entire address in the video below, but she offers a bit of career wisdom that I’ll highlight first. Here’s the story:
“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 kind of socially. And 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,’ she said, ‘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 Laurie’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 and has since been promoted and runs all of the people operations at Facebook and has done 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.”
If you have time, the whole speech is worth checking out: