Careerists: Leaning In And Rising Up


Everyone is impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of Australians have already lost their jobs.  In Melbourne, as on the 2nd of August, we have entered stricter regulations of a Stage 4 Lockdown which has meant entire industries are forced to stop work affecting the jobs of more than 250,000 Melburnians.  

Many of us are naturally worried about our careers. There is no guarantee we will still have a job tomorrow or whether the skills we have now will be required post-COVID-19. To survive this, we need to know how to lean into our strengths and demonstrate to our bosses that we are worth keeping around.  

In this edition, we highlight 5 career survivor tips from the ultimate career survivor – Sheryl Sandberg.    

Until not long ago, Sheryl Sandberg was the Morning Star of Facebook.  A woman who stood her ground as a ferocious leader in a testosterone-driven tech universe.  

For over a decade, she ruled the C-Suite as COO of Facebook.  Hired away from Google, the 38-year old Sheryl became Zuckerberg’s Number 2. A summa cum laude graduate of Harvard Business School, Sheryl already had an impressive resume that included stints at the World Bank, McKinsey & Company and Google.  Zuckerberg put her in charge of advertising and revenue generation ahead of the IPO.  She succeeded magnificently growing the company’s profits by 2,400% to $3.7 billion by 2011 and paved the way for a successful listing in 2012.  A month after listing, Sheryl was invited to join Facebook’s Board of Directors.  She became the first woman in the world to sit on the prestigious board. In 2013, she published her quasi-memoir slash feminist manifesto titled ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ and quickly became the icon for gender equality in the workplace.  In 2014, she became a billionaire.  In 2016, she was considered for a position in Clinton’s Cabinet but had her political aspirations derailed when Trump was elected. 

The burdens and perils of being on a pedestal came crashing down in 2018 as the Cambridge Analytical Scandal started unravelling.  Sheryl’s reputation is tarnished.  But she is still COO of Facebook.  With a personal net worth of $1.6 billion, Sheryl Sandberg remains one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley today.  Sheryl is a survivor.  


1.Don’t be afraid to show off your potential

‘I asked myself the question, Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook and my boss – might ask all of us, which is, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?  And then I go do it’.  She said in a TED Talk lecture that has been viewed and shared in 47 languages across the world.  

Sheryl once said it was hard for others to visualise someone as a leader if they are always waiting for others to tell them what to do.   

Working from home does not mean you go into an auto-drive mode.   Instead, take this time as an opportunity to show-off attributes that employers want today.   Don’t be afraid to demonstrate: 

  • Leadership
  • Loyalty and commitment
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Initiative
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork


2. The best communication in a crisis is authenticity

‘It’s the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper meaning’, Sheryl said after experiencing personal grief.    

Sheryl lost her husband tragically in 2015.  It was a terrible time for her and her two young children when Dave, her husband, died.  She survived it in a way that has become an inspiration – turning her pain into a public project about building resilience and surviving adversities.   

The key driver for good messaging in a crisis is authenticity.  If you want your staff to be engaged and productive during remote working, ensure your communication is: 

  • Clear and honest
  • Empathetic
  • Inclusive
  • Supportive


3. Good time management skills will help you succeed

‘One of my favourite posters on the walls at Facebook declares in big red letters, DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards.’ She said in an interview with TIME Magazine several years ago.   

Sheryl tried to emulate Zuckerberg’s crazy night-owl hours when she first started at Facebook.  She burned out.   In her ground-breaking book ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ she wrote about an aspirational world where women ran half the world’s countries and men ran half the households.  

When we work from home, the boundaries between professional and personal lines are blurred.   Skills that can help you avoid burnout and succeed in your role during a crisis include: 

  • Organisational skills
  • Time management
  • Work-life balance
  • Health and wellbeing


4. Challenging times require creativity and innovation 

‘I used to spend more of my time working on growth and now I’m spending more of my time safeguarding the company’. 

Sheryl was describing Facebook’s responsibility to do more to protect privacy.  Facebook is fighting for reputational survival now. 

To survive COVID-19 crisis, companies today must find new ways to deliver services or shift to new products (like Mercedes F1 that have shifted to making racing cars to making innovative respirators) to weather the storm.   Organisations need creative thinkers who can invent or dream up new products and ways to work.  They also need problem solvers who can come up with solutions to problems that have not even existed.  

The skills most in demand today are:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Problem-solving


5. Crises make or break leaders

‘We are not born with a certain amount of resilience.  We build resilience’. 

In her well-received address for the 2017 graduating class of Virginia Tech, Sheryl talked about the power of ‘community resilience’.  

Community resilience is about our relationships with others, our capacity to love, and our will to make a lasting change in the world.   The COVID-19 crisis is everyone’s crisis.  The best way we can survive it is together but to survive we need good leadership.  Crises make or break leaders.  Those in charge are tested in new areas they have never experienced before.  Good leaders can:

  • Make decisions with precision (and sometimes speed)
  • Adapt and innovate the business
  • Manage team productivity with new measures and alignments
  • Engage and motivate staff to stay focused on a common goal


Rising above also means making the choice to be better. With these inspiring tips from Sheryl, we hope it can inspire you to become the best you can be even during this unprecedented time. Just remember we are in this together. Stay safe!