Yesterday was a big day for Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot. Not only did the founders of Levo League, a career advice website for women, launch an online mentoring platform; but they also ignited a Twitter firestorm when Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg sat down for a chat during one of their Office Hours interview sessions.
During the 30 minute interview, Sandberg doled out career and even some relationship advice as she took questions from the audience and from Twitter users via the hashtag #leanin. Not-so-ironically, Lean In is also the title of Sandberg’s new book, which she is currently touring the country to promote–a book she says she never would have had the courage to write had she not taken the job at Facebook.
“I remember my first day at Facebook, driving to this new job and this hard job and not being sure I could do it. I think about all the moments when I just didn’t believe in myself, every task I was sure I was just about to fail. Every job I was sure I wasn’t sure I could do. It was after watching so many women quietly lean back, after watching myself quietly lean back and miss opportunities that I started to see the pattern and started to talk about it,” Sandberg says in a video on her website Leanin.org. “Part of what I’m hoping Lean In will do is start a conversation in every workplace, in every company and in every school to start thinking about gender differently.”
If the online buzz from the Levo League interview or the countless articles about Sandberg’s “lean in” philosophy that come up when you Google her name are any indication, she is well on her way to accomplishing her aforementioned goal. So what exactly is Sandberg saying that has so many people talking?
In almost every one of Sandberg’s talks or interviews, you’ll hear her quote soundbites about “sitting at the table” (you’re just as good as anyone else), not “leaving before you leave” (don’t allow the prospect of having children to alter your career path) and the importance of sharing domestic responsibilities with your partner. But perhaps the best advice she gave the Levo League audience yesterday was not something she is often quoted on: her advice on mentorship, a topic she dedicates an entire chapter to in her book.
“Mentors are only one part of the success equation,” Sandberg says in her book. “Rather than telling yourself ‘get a mentor and you will excel’, women need to tell themselves, ‘excel and you will get a mentor’.”
According to Sandberg, approaching a stranger and asking them to be your mentor rarely ever works, but approaching them with a pointed, well thought out inquiry can yield results.
“Few mentors have time for excessive hand holding,” Sandberg says. “It’s not necessarily someone you talk to for an hour a week. Using a mentor’s time to validate feelings may help psychologically, but it’s better to focus on specific problems with real solutions.”
The principle of getting real solutions for real problems is what Levo League’s mentoring platform hinges on. Dozens of high-powered executives (think Chegg President Dan Rosensweig, See’s Candies VP Tracy Cioffi and Target VP of Public Relations Dustee Jenkins), have signed on to be Levo League mentors. Folks wanting to be mentored simply sign up for a free Levo League account, begin following the mentor they want to learn from and then ask him or her a question on the Levo League website. Questions can be kept private, but Ghosn and Pouchot encourage people to keep them public so that others can benefit from the expert insight.
“Most mentor’s are adept at problem solving,” Sandberg says. “Give them a problem to solve. Asking for input is not a sign of weakness, it’s the first step to finding a path forward.“
Other notable advice Sandberg gave during yesterday’s interview included the four ways she maximizes her time each week:
- Schedule calls in the car.
- Answer emails quickly. People are more grateful for a quick two sentence reply than they are to receive three paragraphs three weeks later.
- Remember that done is better than perfect. (A motto held by the Facebook staff.)
- Ask yourself What am I trying to get done this week? And write it down. Otherwise, you’ll spend your entire week doing things for other people.
Sandberg’s full Office Hours interview is available on the Levo League website. Take a look then let us know YOUR best piece of career advice in the comments section below.