Monday, September 30, 2013

Final Thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Book Lean-in

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Today I am sharing my final thoughts on this book. Previous discussions included What does "lean-in" mean for you?, When Taking a Pay-Cut is a Good Career Move, Sheryl Sandberg's Advice on How to Get Hired and Receiving a Job or Promotion Because You Are a Woman.

As you may recall I put-off reading this book because of the numerous negative reviews I'd read on-line; I thought it wouldn't be worth my time.  Was I wrong.  This book is the best career advice book I've read in years.  Here are a few additional career lessons from the book I didn't cover in previous posts:

Don't ever ask someone if they are your mentor:
This question is a total mood killer.  If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor it is obvious.  (Pgs. 65-66)

Also a note from my experience, don't hand your business card to someone immediately upon meeting them with no additional conversation.  I can guarantee that business card will end up in the garbage.

On negotiation:
The goal of successful negotiation is to achieve our objective and continue to have people like us.  Professor Riley Bowles believes that women can increase their chances of achieving a desired outcome by doing two things in combination.  First, women must come across as being nice, concerned about others, and "appropriately female."

Sheryl advises many women to negotiate rather than accept the original offer. By doing so, women position themselves as connected to a group and not just out for themselves; in effect they are negotiating for all women.  Whenever possible, women should substitute "we" for "I."

According to Bowles, the second thing women must do is provide a legitimate explanation for the negotiation.  Men don't need to do this.  (Pg. 47)

What can we do to change social norms:
Too many work standards remain inflexible and unfair, often penalizing women with children.  Too many talented women try their hardest to reach the top and bump up against systemic barriers.  So many others pull back because they do not think they have a choice.  All of this brings me back to Leymah Gbowee's insistence that we need more women in power.  When leadership insists that these policies change they will.  Google put in pregnancy parking when I asked for it and it remains there long after I left.  We must raise both the ceiling and the floor. (Pg. 169)

Bottom line:
I think Sheryl Sandberg 's book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead would make a great graduation gift in addition to being an excellent choice for any career centered book club.

If you read this book what did you think?

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Young Finances

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Receiving a Job or Promotion Because You are a WOMAN

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Today is the forth in a series of posts I am writing though out the month inspired by Lean in. Previous posts discussed What does "lean-in" mean for you?, When Taking a Pay-Cut is a Good Career Move and Sheryl Sandberg's Advice on How to Get Hired.

Today I would like to talk about receiving a job or promotion because you are a woman.

When Sheryl was named the Treasury Department's chief of Staff in 1999, several people remarked to her:
"It must have helped that you were a woman." (Pg. 144)
Note there was no affirmative action for woman at the Treasury.

Oh my gosh! People have said something similar to me.  When I was in school studying to be a CPA more than one person told me I would have no trouble finding a job when I finished because "I was a woman."

Not even two weeks ago, a male I know who works for a fortune 500 company, told me the only way you can be promoted today in his division was to be a minority female. Seriously, I can't imagine promotions are awarded to minority females over men just because of gender or race.

It was conversations like these that inspired Sheryl to begin talking about women in the workplace. Here is a quote from her very first talk on this subject:
I began my talk by explaining that in business we are taught to fit in, but that I was starting to think this might not be the right approach.  I said out loud that there are differences between men and women both in their behavior and in the way their behavior is perceived by others.  I admitted that I could see these dynamics playing out in the workforce, and that, in order to fix the problems, we needed to be able to talk about gender without people thinking we were crying for help, asking for special treatment, or about to sue.  (Pg. 145)
Have you ever been told you or someone else received a job or promotion because of gender?  How do you think we can change these stereotypes?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sherl Sandberg's Advice on How to Get Hired

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Today is the third in a series of posts I am writing though out the month inspired by Lean in. Previous posts discussed What does "lean-in" mean for you? and When Taking a Pay-Cut is a Good Career Move.

Today I would like to highlight Sheryl Sandberg's advice on how to get hired:

Sheryl had received a phone call from Lori Goler, a highly regarded senior director of marketing at eBay.  Lori was calling to ask Sheryl for a job at Facebook.  Instead of telling her all of the things she was good at and all of the things she would like to do at Facebook, Lori asked:
"What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?"
Sheryl's jaw hit the floor.  She had hired thousands of people over the previous decade and no one had ever said anything remotely like that.  Sheryl admitted her biggest problem was recruiting.  She hired Lori to solve it. (Pg. 54)

When I was interviewing for my current position I asked my future boss, "What do you foresee as your biggest project for the coming year."  He answered with "We have a big project in the works but I can't discuss it because it is not public knowledge."  My company was in the process of buying out a competitor. 

I like Lori's question much better:

It gives you an opportunity to ask for a specific job function or task while possibly providing the interviewer with a mental picture of you performing it.  This could give you an edge-up in the hiring process.

It also could provide you with insight into what is really going on at this company.  If their biggest problem is needing help securing financing - they have cash flow issues. Needing help with recruiting or retention could mean fast growth or low morale.  A paper flow or heavy work load problem may mean they are understaffed or mismanaged. You can then ask yourself is this a problem I want to help fix.

This post was inspired by Catherine Gacad who left a comment on my post What does "lean-in" mean for you? stating asking a potential employer, "What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it? is the best interview advice she has ever heard.

What is the best interview advice you've been given?
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

When Taking a Pay-Cut is a Good Career Move

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Today is the second in a series of posts I will be writing though out the month inspired by Lean in. Last week we discussed What does "lean-in" mean for you?

Today I want to share what may have been my biggest career mistake:

In the chapter, “It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder” Sheryl Sandberg introduces the metaphor coined by Pattie Sellers “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” It implies the former career model of spending your entire career at one company continuously progressing up the ladder (while staring at the butt of the person above) no longer applies to most workers. Instead today’s career path is more like a jungle gym. Sheryl writes:
There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The jungle gym model benefits everyone, but especially women who might be starting careers, switching careers, getting blocked by external barriers, or reentering the workforce after taking time off. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment. Plus, a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top. (Pg. 53)
Sheryl has seen both men and women miss out on great opportunities by focusing too much on career levels.

This message really hit home when Sheryl writes about her friend who after working as a lawyer for four years realizes instead of shooting for partner she’d rather join a company in a sales or marketing role:
One of her clients was willing to hire her in this new capacity but wanted her to start at the ground level. Since she could afford the temporary pay cut, I urged her to make the jump, but she decided against taking a job that put her “back four years.” I understood how painful it was for her to lose hard-earned ground. Still, my argument was that if she was going to work for the next thirty years, what difference does going “back” four years really make? If the other path made her happier and offered her a chance to learn new skills, that meant she was actually moving forward. (Pg. 61)
I had spent years working full-time as a staff accountant while taking the courses I needed to sit for the CPA exam in my spare time. After I passed the exam I began searching for a new job that would utilize my new certification and pay me a larger salary. I talked to one of my former classmates who had been hired by a local CPA firm. She offered to set up an informational interview for me with a partner at her firm to discuss potential job opportunities. She did say I would most likely have to take a significant pay-cut if I were hired as an entry-level accountant at her firm. Since I was looking for an increase in pay not a decrease, I decided to pass on the informational interview. I then proceeded to not send out a single resume to an accounting firm. Instead I went on to work as a manager in an accounting department at a medium-sized company in a dying industry.

Sheryl has learned from her own experience the only criterion that mattered when picking a job was – fast growth. When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. When companies grow more slowly or stop growing, there is less to do and too many people to not be doing them. Politics and stagnation set in, and everyone falters.

Another aha moment – I picked this job:
I have always felt I worked at my current job because they were the only company that offered me a job, but while reading Lean in I realized I picked this job. I consciously chose not to pursue a career with an accounting firm. I listened as my current boss informed me the hours were long and the money was tight at his company. Later he would joke I was the only one who came back for a second interview.

I suffered from imposter syndrome – this is a phenomenon where capable people are plagued by self-doubt and is also mentioned in the book. I was  risk averse and terrified I was not qualified to perform a job that was too far out of my comfort zone. 

Sheryl writes about this too:
One reason women avoid stretch assignments and new challenges is that they worry too much about whether they currently have the skills they need for a new role. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, since so many abilities are acquired on the job. An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they meet 60 percent of the requirements. This difference has a huge ripple effect. Women need to shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.” 
Wow what an eye-opener. I can’t help but wonder where my career would be if I had leaned into a career as a CPA – pay-cut and all – rather than picking a job in another dying industry because that was what I was familiar with.

I have come to the conclusion this book should be given to every women upon graduation. 

Would you consider taking a pay-cut if it meant advancing your career in the long-run? What was your biggest career mistake?

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Calling Shenanigans on Three Magazine Diet Myths

Photo Credit: bravenewtraveler via Compfight cc
Americans are more insecure about their weight now than ever before. Women are conditioned from a young age to believe they are overweight just because they don’t look like the emaciated women they see on screens and in magazines. While many are not as fat as they think they are, obesity is on the rise among children and adults across the first world. Magazines only contribute to this problem while pretending to offer solutions.

Go to any grocery store aisle and take a look for yourself. The average magazine cover is designed to play on your insecurities and make you feel inferior. They are strategically located in an area where you are likely to be doing a bit of reflection about the food you are planning to eat over the next week. Catchy headlines simultaneously point out all your flaws and offer supposedly easy solutions to eliminate them. The first thing you see when you look away is a huge rack of candy bars. You have to be smart if you want to fight this level of manipulation. In my work as a nutrition consultant, I have seen firsthand how hundreds of people have been duped by magazine diet and fitness claims.  Every day, I have to talk men and women out of their preconceived notions of nutrition.
Here are three popular magazine myths that are touted as truths in the check-out line and some of the most common misconceptions my clients have:
1) Dieting is the best way to shed pounds.
Most weight-loss fads you read about in magazines involve dieting. These include guidelines on what to eat, when to eat, and foods to avoid in your daily meals. Some say you can lose weight by eating nothing but chicken soup. Some involve counting calories, having more and smaller meals throughout the day, eating only this, not eating that, etc. You can read all kinds of things in these articles, such as testimonies from people who have tried it and medical professionals who recommend it as a viable weight-loss option. Yet very few of them mention the other components to a healthy lifestyle.

News flash! You cannot lose weight and keep it off only by changing what you eat. Good health isn’t just a series of eating habits, it is a complete lifestyle. It is about more than just your body weight, too. So many people don’t even pay attention to good health until they start to lose it, and these are going to be the folks who have the hardest work to do. If you want to make big changes to your body, you will have to make equally big changes to your lifestyle. Everything from your self-image to your mental attitude and your activity level has a role to play in creating a sustainable system for maintaining good health. Those who start with a healthy diet and a good fitness regimen will find that the other components follow a bit more naturally. However you cannot expect to magically see the progress you are hoping for just by picking one easy thing to change.

It’s time to get out of the diet mindset and move towards overall nutrition—this shifts the focus from short term results to lifelong health.

2) Juice Fasts are an easy way to drop weight fast or jumpstart your nutrition.
Ask anyone, and they will probably agree that drinking nothing but juice for days on end is a great way to detox and lose weight. How many of them can tell you why they believe this? Many of my clients who have tried this saw only insignificant and temporary results in terms of weight loss. Since they have no way of knowing for sure how many toxins left their body, it just goes without saying that this must have worked.

In reality, even homemade juice contains little more than water and sugars. When you juice multiple fruits into one glass of liquid, you are taking in all the calories of each fruit with none of the good stuff. Raw fruits and veggies normally offer lots of vital nutrients and fiber. However, these tend to reside in the pulp and skin of the fruit. Guess what you are throwing into the trash when you empty the filter from your juicer? Everything your body actually needs in order to function.

Those who fast for too many days often experience symptoms of food poisoning. My clients think that this is a sign that the detox is working--the scientific community, on the other hand, agrees that this is your body’s way of telling you it is not getting what it needs and you should probably eat a sandwich. It is perfectly fine to have juice as part of your diet, and it is much better to make your juice at home than to purchase it pasteurized from the store. However, if you are looking to maintain the full nutritional value of raw fruits and veggies, try making them into smoothies instead of juice.

3) Carbs must be avoided like the plague.
Even though the Atkins Diet craze has long since passed, I bet you still find yourself irrationally avoiding carbohydrates on a regular basis. Some people have even started avoiding gluten because they think it is bad for everyone. The truth is gluten is harmless unless your body has a specific kind of intolerance, and carbs are absolutely essential to a healthy diet.

It is perfectly fine to avoid highly processed and refined carbohydrates such as pasta and bread, but not because they are carbohydrates. You should avoid them because they are high in fat and difficult for your body to process. A diet completely devoid of carbs is missing some very important components. Carbohydrates are your body’s top source of fuel. It is much easier for your body to access these fuels in natural carbohydrates such as veggies, fruit and whole grains, so it doesn’t hurt to avoid the super-processed stuff. Just don’t be fooled into thinking your body has no use for carbs and you should avoid them altogether.
The Bottom Line
The truth is there’s no easy way to lose weight and keep it off. The lifestyle habits that lead to weight gain and obesity are not likely to be changed without serious dedication and very hard work. However, people just don’t want to hear this. All it takes is for an “expert” of indeterminate origin to mention an easy way out, and they will completely ignore time tested truths in favor of the shortcut. Those who waste time and energy on these fake solutions are much more likely to fail than to succeed in their quest for a healthier lifestyle.

Carolyn Heintz works in San Diego as a personal nutrition consultant, as a mom to two daughters, and as an advocate for the health screenings that helped saved her father’s life. When she’s not working, she’s soaking up any nutritional, fitness, or wellness knowledge that she can get her hands on and sharing that information on her blog.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

What does “lean in” mean for you?

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Today is the first in a series of posts I plan on writing though out the month inspired by the book.

What was Sheryl Sandburg's motivation behind Lean-In?

When Sheryl Sandburg graduated from college in 1991 and from business school in 1995 her entry-level colleagues were a balanced mix of male and female. She saw that her senior leaders were almost entirely male, but she thought that was due to historical discrimination against women. She thought it was only a matter of time before her generation took their fair share of leadership roles. But with each passing year fewer and fewer of her colleagues were women. More and more often she was the only woman in the room. 

She feels the problem is two-fold:

External barriers erected by society
Blatant and subtle sexism, discrimination and sexual harassment.
Too few workplaces offering flexibility and access to child care and parental leave.
Men having an easier time finding mentors and sponsors who are invaluable for career progression.  
Men are promoted based on potential while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.

Self-imposed internal barriers:
Lacking self-confidence.
Not raising our hands.
Pulling back when we should be leaning in.
Internalizing internal messages we get throughout our lives – the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, and more powerful than men.
We lower our expectations of what we can achieve.
We continue to do the majority of the housework and childcare.
We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet.
Compared to our male colleagues, fewer of us aspire to senior positions.

Sheryl’s argument is that getting rid of the internal barriers is critical to gaining power.

In the introduction of Lean-in she writes:
I am writ­ing this book 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. 
This book makes the case for lean­ing in, for being ambi­tious, in any pursuit. (pgs. 9-10) 
She then promises to provide adjustments and differences we can make within ourselves to reduce self-imposed internal barriers in subsequent chapters.

I recently watched a news program where a group of women were talking about leaning-in. Every one of them felt they couldn’t possibly lean-in to their careers more than they currently were doing. They were completely tapped out. After reading most of this book I can’t help but wonder if they’d actually read the book themselves or if they were just responding to the hype. I also wonder if they had thought about what leaning-in actually means to them.

For me leaning-in no longer means doing whatever it takes to get the corner office. (Actually I have a corner office – it is kind of small though - but it does have a window with a view of our back parking lot.) I also make a decent salary, but am not paid nearly as much as a man would be paid in a similar position. At this stage of my life I don’t want to lean into my career. I want to lean-in to my life. I want to a second career that is more meaningful and less time consuming than the one I have now. 
The example from the book that resonated with me the most is the one where Larry Kanarek manager of the Washington D.C. office of McKinsey and Company gathered his employees together for a talk.
He explained that since he was running the office, employees came to him when they wanted to quit. Over time, he noticed that people quit for one reason only: they were burnt out, tired of working long hours and traveling. Larry said he could understand the complaint, but what he could not understand was that all the people who quit- every single one- had unused vacation time. Up until the day they left, they did everything McKinsey asked of them before deciding that is was too much.

Larry implored us to exert more control over our careers. He said McKinsey would never stop making demands on our time, so it was up to us to decide what we were willing to do. It was our responsibility to draw the line. We needed to determine how many hours we were willing to work in a day and how many nights we were willing to travel. If later on, the job did not work out, we would know that we had tried on our own terms.  
Counterintuitively, long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately - to set limits and stick to them. (pg. 126)
Wow did that hit home. I am one of those people who doesn't use all of my vacation time. Even with my recent bunion surgery I worked from home four of the eight days I was out of the office. At the end of this year I will probably have at least two weeks of unused vacation – ouch. One of my fellow male managers called me out on this. He said I work so much that it is now expected. He strongly encouraged me to break this cycle and begin taking care of myself. He uses all of his four weeks of vacation each year, upper management complains when he is out of the office, but he does it anyway. He does make himself available for questions via phone and email while he is out, but he doesn’t actually sit down and work.

For me leaning-in has to involve setting limits and learning to stick to them without feeling guilty
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Are you reading this book? What are your thoughts so far? What does “lean-in” mean for you?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Terminated for Facebook Post

I recently read a blog post where a fellow blogger had been asked to resign from her job. Her offense - posting on her personal Facebook account that she wanted to make a career change.  One of her co-workers printed out the update and conveniently shared it with the blogger’s manager. This blogger who had been with her company for eight years was immediately forced into resigning and escorted out of the building.

Here are a few lessons from this story:

Work friends are not real friends
Do not share your inner most thoughts with your co-workers. They may not be good at keeping secrets or worse yet may use this information against you or to better their own career. 

Do not friend your co-workers on Facebook:
This includes clients, vendors and business associates.  Business and work-related contacts belong on LinkedIn, not Facebook.

You never know who will stumble across your posts:
Clients, vendors, neighbors, or your husband's ex-wife – you just never know. Your inner-most thoughts belong in your personal journal not on Facebook. I know of someone not hired for her dream job because her Facebook postings were not in line with the company’s mission.  Even charity work can be held against you if it is for the wrong political party, religious affiliation or agency.

Be careful what you write in an email:
Emails can be forwarded and archived. They can also be submitted as evidence in court cases.

In most states, employment is at will:
That means your employer can fire you at their discretion for any reason, even if there is no reason.

If at all possible do not sign anything:
If you sign a letter of resignation you may have difficulty collecting unemployment benefits.

Owners of small and family owned companies may take your displeasure with working at their company personal:
I know of more than one employee who was terminated after their boss learned they were looking for another job. I even know of one who was terminated when her manager overheard her telling a vendor her life (meaning her job) was a hellish nightmare. Keep your job-dissatisfaction to yourself until after you've secured a new position.  Even then never burn a bridge.  You never know where your boss or former co-workers may end up.

Always apply for unemployment:
Hating your job is not considered misconduct by most state’s unemployment panels. If you can prove you were coerced into resigning, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.  Submit a claim to your state's employment security department. After receiving separation information from both you and your employer they will make a determination.  If gross conduct can't be proven typically benefits are granted.

Do you have any lessons to add? Do you know of anyone who was not hired or terminated because of Facebook?  

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Announcing "The Savvy Reader" Book Club

I've decided to start an online nonfiction book club for savvy readers.  My plan is to choose one or two books at the beginning of each month then host discussion posts throughout the month.  All you have to do is read the book and participate as you see fit.  If you write a blog post discussing one of my book selections I will be happy to add your link to a post.

The Savvy Reader book club selection for September is Sheryl Sandburg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead:

I am choosing this book as my first book club selection to motivate me to finally read it.  When Lean In was initially released I read so many negative reviews I couldn't bring myself to read it.   Then I realized it is time I find out what all the hoopla is about.

This month I am also recommending Leymah Gbowee's book Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War as a companion read.

Sheryl Sandberg mentions Leymah Gbowee and her memoir Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War in the beginning of her book.  Leymah won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to lead the women's protests that toppled Liberia's dictator. While attending a book party in Sheryl's home a guest asked Leymah how American women could help those who experienced the horrors and mass rapes of war in places like Liberia.  Her response was four simple words: "More women in power."  Her memoir should be an interesting read.
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Have you read either of these books? What were your thoughts?  Be sure to stop back in throughout the month to participate in the discussions.