The Best Advice Sheryl Sandberg Received

Mar 12, 2013 8:01am

In an ABC News/Yahoo! Newsmakers interview, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, said the best career advice she received was from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Sandberg had just received a job offer at Google with a title of Business Unit General Manager, one of many job opportunities at the time.

“But there were no business units to manage,” Sandberg said. “And I was just like, ‘Eric, I– I love Google. I want to take this job. But I don’t know what this job is.’”

At the time, Sandberg was chief of staff to then Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

“First he said, ‘Sheryl, don’t be an idiot.’ Which is excellent career advice,” Sandberg said.

The year was 2001. Schmidt had just become CEO of Google, when the company had fewer than 1,000 employees.

“But the next thing he said was, ‘If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don’t ask what seat.’ I tell people in their careers, ‘look for growth.’ Look for the teams that are growing quickly. Look for the companies that are doing well. Look for a place where you feel that you can have a lot of impact.”

Sandberg became Google’s vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations. Today, Google has over 30,000 employees.

Sandberg left in 2008 to become chief operating officer of Facebook. She is also a director of The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC News.

Sandberg said Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg gave her another great piece of career advice during her first performance review.

“And he said, ‘Sheryl, your biggest problem is– you’re trying to please everyone all the time. You’re trying not to say anything that anyone objects to. You don’t make change in the world; you don’t have impact in the world unless you’re willing to say things that not everyone will like.’ Really important advice for me,” Sandberg said. “I don’t think I would have written this book if Mark hadn’t said that to me.”

In Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” she offers stories about what is holding women back in career and life, and ways to address them. All the proceeds from the book will be donated to a nonprofit, LeanIn.org.

“As a man gets more successful, more powerful, everyone likes him more,” she said. “As a woman gets more successful, everyone likes her less. And I am hoping that “Lean In” the book and LeanIn.org is going to change that,” she said. “Because if we make people aware of this bias, aware that we’re applauding men who succeed but telling women they shouldn’t, I think we can change it.”

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