Libraries, the universe and everything

Leaning in
August 19, 2013, 00:55
Filed under: Reading | Tags: , ,

So, no prizes for guessing which book I’ve been reading recently then. It’s been on my ‘to read’ list for ages, and I finally reached the top of the waiting list for a library copy last week. Naturally the fact that I hadn’t read it didn’t stop me having an opinion about it, and notwithstanding my ignorance I’d even chipped in to a recent twitter discussion about it (beautifully written-up by Jo here), so it’s nice finally to be up to speed on what everyone else is talking about!

To be scrupulously honest I was initially put off reading it as I had somehow acquired the idea that it was mostly about how to combine a stellar career with raising children, and as I neither have C-suite ambitions nor any desire for offspring I didn’t really see what I had to gain. Obviously the book is about a great deal more than this, so I’m very glad I persevered. Like many readers, I found the book extremely thought-provoking. Of course there were some things in there which were of less relevance to me than others, but learning how things look from a different viewpoint is rarely a waste of time.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Sandberg’s anecdotal style – it made me think about her points and compare them to my own experiences. This isn’t something I tend to do whilst reading business-type books, but in this case it helped me engage with the text and also strengthened the messages I took away from it.

The theme which really caught my attention was to do with the way women apparently tend to be more self-effacing than men, not only less likely to talk-up their achievements but to behave with potentially damaging professional modesty. The hazards of blanket generalizations aside, I know that I do tend to do this, and this has prompted me to consider how I might alter this behaviour. Obviously I’m not aspiring to turn into a braggart overnight (and neither did Sandberg advocate that anyone should do so), but I can absolutely see how a thoughtful presentation of my accomplishments could pay off, especially when it comes to job hunting or promotion time.

This point was brought home to me quite forcefully as I considered an error I was about to make along these very lines. We’ve just celebrated the first anniversary of our move to New York and I’ve been contemplating blogging a one-year review, but I’ve been putting it off as I couldn’t think of anything to say other than something like “I’ve had a nice year out of the workplace, seen a lot of Manhattan, written some blog posts, finally finished my Chartership, taken up running, but not really achieved much of note.”

Revisiting the same theme with Sandberg’s advice in mind, I would now put it like this: “I’ve settled into life in a new city, made friends, built up a social life, and acclimatised to a different culture. I’ve supported my husband as he set up an office from scratch and been of significant assistance to him and his UK-based colleagues in organising two conferences here in New York. I successfully completed my Chartership, having formed a small support group with another US-based candidate. I’ve joined two SLA committees and been to several networking events, as a result of which I was invited to project manage a big new event taking place next year, and have just had a proposal accepted to co-present my first conference workshop in October. I’ve been working on a range of volunteer projects, and have two exciting new posts on the horizon as a direct result of being proactive when opportunities arose.”

Same person, same time-frame, but what a difference. All absolutely true, still sufficiently modest to suit my preferred style, but, crucially, I’m completely comfortable with expressing myself like this. It wasn’t that hard to do. Why on earth didn’t I think of this before?!

There’s clearly a lot more in the book than this one element, and I’d encourage everyone (women AND men) to read it as I believe there’s likely to be something of value in it for most people. It has certainly given me some significant points to think about, and I’m tremendously grateful for that.


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