Don’t try to map out your entire career from the get-go, advises Sheryl Sandberg. If she had done so, she would have missed the opportunities at Google and Facebook altogether. After all, when she graduated from Harvard, the internet didn’t exist.

“If you try to plan out your career, it’s going to be boring. You’re going to miss all the good stuff, because all the good stuff hasn’t been invented yet,” says Sandberg. “You want to have a really long-run dream and you want to have a short-run plan. And that short-run plan, it’s not about what you accomplish, especially in the early days. It’s about what you help other people accomplish and about what you learn. You invest in yourself. You invest in the success of your teams.”

Don’t just look for a job, says Sandberg. Look for an organization with a mission that matters to you. “When I finally got a job at Google, it felt like the wrong job,” she recalls. “I had a spreadsheet [of job criteria], and the problem with the Google job was that other than loving the company, it met none of the criteria.”

Then Sandberg showed her spreadsheet to Google CEO Eric Schmidt. “Eric put his hand on my little spreadsheet,” she recalls, “and said, ‘You love the mission. This is a rocket ship. When you get offered a seat on the rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat.’ And the job I took at Google and the job I took at Facebook were more junior than every other job offer I had. But they turned out to be much bigger opportunities.”

Once you have a job, counsels Sandberg, work hard. “All the stuff out there on grit and determination and working on things that are challenging is all true,” she says. “There’s no substitute for hard work. I have a poster in my office that I got from [Starbucks founder] Howard Schultz of two dirty hands. It says the future belongs to those of us still willing to get our hands dirty. Do something you care about and get your hands dirty doing it. You’ll be able to do anything, I promise.”

The proper goal of hard work is not personal gain, but organizational contribution, adds Sandberg. “I don’t see that many people coming into the workplace asking what they can do for the company,” she says. “Ask what you can do. I promise you will get mentors. You will get sponsors. You will get results. You will get promotions. You will get opportunities by contributing.”

The idea of developing your personal brand is a bad one, according to Sandberg. “People aren’t brands,” she says. “That’s what products need. They need to be packaged cleanly, neatly, concretely. People aren’t like that.”

“Who am I?” asks Sandberg. “I am the COO of Facebook, a company I deeply believe in. I’m an author. I’m a mom. I’m a widow. At some level, I’m still deeply heartbroken. I am a friend and I am a sister. I am a lot of very messy, complicated things. I don’t have a brand, but I have a voice.”

Focus on developing your voice, she says. Figuring out what’s important to you and being willing to use your voice for that purpose is incredibly valuable. “If you are doing it to develop your personal brand, it’s empty and self-serving and not about what you’re talking about,” she says. “If you’re doing it because there is something you want to see changed in the world, that’s where it will have value and depth and integrity.”

In a world where the average employee sends and receives 122 emails per day and attends an average of 62 meetings per month, your boss or HR leadership simply doesn’t have the time or bandwidth to properly think through how best to deploy your talents moving forward. Instead, we have to take control of our career planning to ensure we’re putting ourselves in position for long-term growth.

Force yourself to set aside time. When things get busy, time for strategic thinking is almost always the first to go. Planning sessions seem amorphous, and the ROI is uncertain. But going for months or years without regular introspection can lead you down a professional path that you didn’t intend to be on. Instead, force yourself to make time for strategic reflection. Just as you’re more likely to go to the gym if you have plans to meet a workout buddy, you can use the same technique to enforce discipline around strategic thinking. Identify several trusted colleagues and start a mastermind group to meet regularly, discuss big picture goals, and hold each other accountable for meeting them. Having others whom you trust challenge your thinking can open up new ideas and possibilities you hadn’t previously considered.

Get clear on your next steps. Getting clarity around your professional goals — such as being promoted to SVP, starting your own business, or running the Asia/Pacific region — is only the first step. The place where many professionals fall down is identifying the pathway to get from here to there. One technique you can use is pre-writing your resume. In this exercise, you put yourself five years into the future and write your resume as you envision it, including your new title and exact job responsibilities. The trick is that you also have to fill in the intervening five years, which prompts you to reflect on what specific skills you’ll need to develop in the interim, what degrees or accreditations you may need to earn, and what promotional path you’ll need to pursue in order to get there. Understanding that helps force your thinking and ensure that you’re taking the right steps.

Invest in deep work. It can be tempting to invest your time the same way everyone else does — putting in face time at the office, or racing to respond to emails the fastest. At lower levels, that might mark employees as “go-getters.” But as you ascend in the organization, the ability to jump higher and faster becomes less important. Instead, what marks you as successful over time is creating in-depth, valuable projects — whether that’s writing a book or a brilliant new piece of code, spearheading the launch of a promising product, or undertaking a meaningful initiative, like reorganizing the company’s performance review system. That involves a shift from staccato, reactive work into more self-directed, long-term projects, deep work. Many professionals don’t seek this work out, as there’s no immediate ROI — but the long-term benefits and recognition are substantial.

Build your external reputation. External hires into a company get paid 20% more than internal workers who are promoted into similar jobs. Gratingly, they also perform worse for the first two years. That’s patently unjust, but it points to an important truth: professionals are often taken for granted inside their own organizations. That doesn’t mean you should jump ship every few years. But it does point to the fact that, even if you’d like to stay at the same company, it’s important to cultivate a strong external reputation so that you have opportunities if you want them, and to remind your boss and colleagues that your abilities are sought after and appreciated by others. Blogging for industry journals, applying to speak at conferences, and taking on a leadership role in your professional association are all great ways to stay visible in your field — both to outsiders and those inside your company who need to be reminded of your talents.

Taking time to think about your career development is obviously important, but it’s almost never urgent, so many professionals fail to take action, year after year. By focusing on these four steps, you can begin to carve out time to be more deliberate, and lay the groundwork for the job you want — five years from now, and beyond. 

People who are rewarded for their performance express more desire for money than people who receive fixed payments—even when the amounts they end up earning are similar. This increased hunger for money can manifest itself in different ways, such as a greater willingness to complete a tedious task to make money or a decreased willingness to part with earnings by donating to charity.


Individuals often struggle to know where they need to grow in order to move up to the next level. One of the best strategies for aspiring leaders to rise through the ranks in organizations is to create a personal board of directors. The board is a group of six to eight people you select to help with your professional development — individuals who can help you uncover your blind spots, provide specific feedback by seeing you in action, and, in some situations, advocate for you. They can help you navigate tumultuous political waters, provide you with insight on a regular basis that can inform the ways you work and think, and even change the minds of your toughest critics.

Consider the case of Alex, a general manager at an online company. She was very successful at producing results. Her business numbers were stellar and on a steady climb. She was one of the most knowledgeable people in her field and a sought-after speaker on future trends in her industry. But while she was very good at what she did, Alex struggled with how she did her job. When asked, people admitted to walking on eggshells around her. Alex considered herself direct, but others thought she was condescending, dismissive, and impatient. They thought she was invested in furthering only her own team’s agenda — at the cost of other teams’ goals. And although her team was motivated by business wins, they feared Alex and were hungry for positive acknowledgement. Only a small handful of people appreciated her no-nonsense approach. Unless she addressed these communication challenges, her chances of promotion were slim.

Alex needed a personal board of directors. Since most people who worked with her already had firmly entrenched perceptions about her, she needed a diverse set of people who could actively observe and inform her about her interactions. But Alex needed to build this board not just with her supporters but also with her critics.

As with any good board of directors, you need to fill different roles and specialties to optimize its effectiveness. William Wrigley Jr. is reported to have said, “When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” If you have too many board members who agree with each other, you might as well have a board of one. A diverse board broadens your leadership skills by understanding the motivations of different kinds of people. Having multiple perceptions reveals a wider range of notes you can play. Use unconventional but important roles to fill on your personal board of directors.

Your fans help you learn how to change. By giving constructive feedback on the things you’re struggling with, they can help you pinpoint actionable details behind the tough feedback you don’t want to hear. Because they’re your fans, they deliver this feedback with kindness and good intent. Suddenly, the tough stuff no longer makes you feel helpless and overwhelmed. You see a clear set of steps forward.

But it’s your responsibility to push back on your fans for specific information. Ask them for feedback on the behaviors that underlie each negative perception, and go beyond the obvious. For example, ask, “What do you see in my actions that I don’t see?” or “What’s the last 10% that you haven’t yet shared with me?” These types of questions can help them identify areas you may be blind to.

Potential sponsors are senior leaders who can advocate for you when it’s time for promotion. They may include your manager, your manager’s peers, leaders in a different department, and other influencers who make decisions about you and your coworkers. To work effectively with these folks, stay on their radar and prove your value to them. Share information they don’t have easy access to — perhaps news from a customer visit or themes from an employee roundtable. Also, acknowledge them. Call out how they have made an impact on your business results. They’ll feel good about their work, and you’ll get to showcase your results.

It’s important to remember to keep a current list of potential sponsors, especially as the players around you change. If you’re left without a certain player on your board, you have no option for growth. For example, in the past year, three vice presidents I coach maintained a strong relationship with a single key person above them. But when that sponsor left the organization, all three lost their champion. Without an internal sponsor, they ended up leaving the organization as well.

Your critics are the frequently overlooked category is the toughest part of your board. These individuals have deep-seated perceptions of you and can block you from advancing. There are two reasons to enroll your critics: to shift their perception of you to a more favorable one and to give you specific, actionable feedback on what you do well so you can improve.

Find adversaries who are critical, pinpoint specifics, and are nitpicky. But rather than having them point out your deficiencies, ask them to identify your strengths, and show them you’re committed to improving. Ask them to provide you with feedback when they catch you doing the new and improved behavior well. Then push them further. As with your fans, ask for specific behaviors. For example, ask, “What did you see me say or do that led you to the impression that I’m more invested in building peer relationships?”

Ten months after Alex started working with her board, she was given a promotion, increased job responsibilities, and a special bonus. Her hard work paid off. Because her board had seen her efforts to improve up close, they could speak confidently about the changes they had observed, and they worked hard to advocate for her.

To improve yourself as a leader and professional, you can’t depend on your point of view. Seek out feedback from a group of smart and influential people — those who support you and those who don’t. Putting together a diverse group of carefully curated colleagues will help you have a greater impact, move up, and generate more supporters who want to see you succeed.


VUCA means a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. We know that such VUCA conditions trip up executives accustomed to more sedate settings. Democracies try to keep people’s social backgrounds from overly determining or constraining their futures. Moreover, VUCA environments are rapidly enveloping even stable nations because of sharp and rapid (disruptive) technological changes, people’s unease with social changes, major political disagreements within and between countries, terrorism and war in a highly interconnected world, the pressure on natural resources and from global warming, etc.


Most companies aren’t prepared for the VUCA world. Their executives allude to VUCA in strategy presentations, but rarely work at realigning their internal reality – structure, processes, information flows, culture, and talent – to the demands of their VUCA environment. Their words are eloquent, but they experience no cognitive disconnect when they use planning systems that demand single point revenue or profit or growth goals to confront those challenges. They acknowledge the importance of “outside in” viewpoints, without recognizing how internal sense-making capabilities constrain their absorption. These gaps will adversely affect, even destroy, some companies.

Even in companies that recognize the stakes, making these changes will take time. Where should they start? Which early changes will have (1) widespread impact (2) in a relatively short time (3) while laying the foundation for long term? They should focus on their Talent Management System (TMS).

Largely developed in the 20th century, many TMS are well past their prime. They are poor – as research and practice have shown – at creating diverse workforces, even at executive levels. My focus here is on a less appreciated problem: TMS elicit praises of managers who plan well and the virtual worshipping of managers who execute plans brilliantly. If someone excels in both – subject to likeability and similarity considerations – they facilitate promotions that provide the accoutrements of power. And these individuals, in turn, favor those who are also proponents of strong planning and flawless execution. In other words, traditional TMS are superb for finding “Executive A” types who were perfect for the 20th century.

In a VUCA world, however, carefully laid plans often don’t survive contact with hard reality. Planning and execution don’t become irrelevant, but do become baseline requirements. Three other capabilities are key: the ability to sense, on the fly, the reality of a situation; the ability to respond effectively to the sensed reality, even without resources to assess major implications carefully; and the ability to learn rapidly from experience and incorporate the lessons into future plans, execution, and most importantly, the building of sense and respond capabilities. Executive B probably had to master these capabilities for day-to-day living: how to go with the flow, gauge the environment, and make snap decisions using available (and presumably flawed) information.

Though these increasingly essential capabilities are observable, traditional TMS don’t ascribe them value. To appreciate the veracity of this assertion, consider the TMS’ most visible tool: the quarterly or annual performance review. Reflecting its decades old origin, it evaluates execution based on specific plans (tied to a goal or KPI) set at the beginning of the evaluation period. So, it simply cannot readily capture a person’s ability to sense and respond to emerging realities, or to learn from these. Good bosses compensate by supplanting the original plans/goals/KPI with new ones after new business realities emerge. This ad hoc approach, though necessary, can be unfair – what if your boss isn’t “good?” Indeed, several (mostly high tech) companies have begun drastically reshaping or abandoning traditional performance evaluations for closely related reasons.

A mostly ignored demographic change is compounding this key weakness. The average age of top executives, including CEOs, has dropped sharply since 1980. The average CEO tenure has dropped over 50% during the same time. The average tenures of non-CEO executives have probably dropped too: Women – who weren’t on executive teams prior to 1980 – are rising to power more quickly and spend less time at each level. Data collected informally from executive education participants around the world suggests that since 2005, the average tenure for mid-to-senior executives has between 2 and 3 years, well below the average in earlier years. So, companies have limited opportunity to formally observe, record, and nurture/correct any capability that traditional performance evaluation doesn’t capture routinely.

Companies should start making changes from the top. Their Board and CEO can reasonably select top leaders based on their ability to sense, respond and learn well before these become a part of their formal leadership standards. One key appointment would be that of the top HR executive, who must lead the changing the TMS. Such top down change will facilitate the further transformation necessary for a VUCA world: Executives who have experiential understanding of what it takes to sense, respond and learn will be responsible for carrying out the transformation, not those who are only comfortable in the world of plan and execute.

Minority job applicants are whitening their resumes by deleting references to their race with the hope of boosting their shot at jobs, and the strategy is paying off. In fact, companies are more than twice as likely to call minority applicants for interviews if they submit whitened resumes than candidates who reveal their race—and this discriminatory practice is just as strong for businesses that claim to value diversity as those that don’t.

A bias against minorities runs rampant through the resume screening process at companies throughout the United States. Discrimination still exists in the workplace. Organizations now have an opportunity to recognize this issue as a pinch point, so they can do something about it.

When an employer says it values diversity in its job posting by including words like equal opportunity employer or minorities are strongly encouraged to apply, many minority applicants get the false impression that it’s safe to reveal their race on their resumes—only to be rejected later.

You are at an even greater risk for discrimination when applying with a pro-diversity employer because you’re being more transparent. Those companies have the same rate of discrimination, which makes you more vulnerable when you expose yourself to those companies.

These organizations are not necessarily all talk when they say they’re pro-diversity. Maybe the diversity values are there, but they just haven’t been translated from the person who writes the job ad to the person who is screening resumes.

It’s time for employers to acknowledge that bias is hardwired into the hiring system and that prejudice is clouding the screening of qualified applicants. Business leaders should start by taking a closer look at their resume screening processes. Blind recruitment is one possible solution, where information about race, age, gender, or social class are removed from resumes before hiring managers see them.

Companies can also perform regular checks for discrimination in the screening process, for example by measuring how many minorities applied for a position and comparing that with the percentage of those applicants who made the first cut. Organizations can now see very clearly that this is why they are not meeting their diversity goals. They can’t just put a message on recruitment ads and be done. They need to follow through with a clear structure and staff training. They need to make goals and then continually evaluate the outcome in order to meet those goals.

Writing a CV can be tough, so it pays to know exactly what recruiters and employers expect from candidates. Here are five essential CV writing rules to ensure your CV makes a winning impression and carries you through to interview stage.

  1. Give your CV a narrow focus

The number one rule of CV writing is to target your CV specifically towards one industry or role type. Trying to impress everyone with a broad CV will weaken the appeal of your CV to your target employers.

  • Target a specific role type with your CV
  • Research the role requirements thoroughly
  • Only include highly relevant skills and knowledge
  1. Make an instant impact

With recruiters often receiving hundreds of applications for every job vacancy, you have to ensure that your CV grabs their attention quickly.

  • Head your CV up with a punchy profile
  • Use bullet pointed Core Skills list to give recruiters a snapshot of your offerings
  • Tailor your CV to the jobs you are applying for
  1. Be flawless

In today’s job market, it’s not enough to have an OK CV, you need to have an exceptional CV if you want secure the job interviews you want. Just one mistake can cause recruiters to doubt your credibility.

  • Use professional language throughout your CV
  • Triple check your CV for spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Don’t use a nickname email address
  1. Prove your value

Employers love to see the return on in investment they can expect to see from a candidate, so show them directly with your CV.

  • Add key achievements to demonstrate your impact on employers
  • Use plenty of facts and figures to quantify your value
  1. Make reading easy

Making your CV easy to read will keep readers happy and allow them to quickly pick out the information they need.

  • Use a clean and simple font
  • Avoid using big chunks of text
  • Use bullet points in your roles

When writing your CV, the content is obviously very important, but fewer things are more important than the verbs you choose to include. Verbs are words that are used to describe actions, so it’s crucial that you include powerful verbs that accurately describe your actions in the workplace and demonstrate the impact they have on employers. There are ten most effective CV writing verbs, so try to use as many as you can when writing your own CV if you want to clearly explain your value to employers.

Some important verbs include:


Management skills are crucial in the workplace but are not just limited to people management. They also include time management, process management and stakeholder management. So to include the term managed in your CV, shows recruiters that you have control over your responsibilities and are able to drive the results that your employer needs.


Businesses are always looking to make improvements, so if you can drive positive change within an organisation then include it on your CV. If you’re an employee who can be brought on board to drive positive change within an organisation, you will be invaluable to an employer.


Reduction is often perceived as a negative term, but there are plenty of positive ways to implement reductions in a business. Reducing company spending or resource use in particular is hugely beneficial to an employer. So if you have been involved in any cost or time saving activities, then get them in to your CV.


Negotiation is often considered a sales tool but it can also be used to gain better deals from suppliers and greater budgets for projects etc.


Planning is the backbone of success, so it’s vital to show employers that you are capable of methodical and effective planning. Your CV should contain solid examples of how you have created work plans and directed them through to completion in order to achieve your employers’ goals.


Most business exist to solve problems and help others, so being capable of support is hugely valuable. Whether you support your clients, line manager or team members – ensure that your CV shows how your actions benefit those who you interact with.


From influencing potential customers to believe in a new product, to influencing senior staff to provide resources for a key project – the power of influence is always in high demand. If you have been able to use your influence to the benefit of previous employers, then detail it in your CV.


The ability to train others is appreciated by employers for two reasons. Firstly it shows that you have plenty of expertise in your field along with the gravitas and communication skills to deliver training sessions. Secondly, staff are a business’s most valuable asset, so anybody who can be relied upon to further strengthen a team will always be of benefit.


Businesses face problems every day that need to be resolved. So it stands to reason that if you can prove your ability to resolve issues, you will impress recruiters with your CV. So whether you are resolving client complaints or internal work process problems, use your CV to explain how you can identify and resolve issues to ensure the smooth running of your employers’ business.


Public speaking of any kind can be a daunting task but it’s a hugely valuable skill for any employee to have. From presenting findings of research to an internal stakeholder, to presenting a new product to a crowd of potential customers; presentation is necessary across most businesses. If you’ve got any presentation experience at all, ensure that you include it in your CV if you want to make an impression.


When writing your CV as a project manager it’s important to show employers how you can deliver a project from inception to completion and describe the impact of your work. Although every project manager’s CV will be unique, there are certain skills that are essential to all project managers.

1. Scheduling

Effective scheduling is crucial to the success of a project, so it’s important to include it in your CV. Demonstrate your ability to plan and arrange activities to be completed in time with project expectations.

2. Cost control

In order for a project to be delivered within budget, cost control is vital. When writing your CV ensure that you include the budgets you manage, optimal allocation of spending and cost effective vendor relationships

3. Risk management

Every project faces risks that have the potential to derail it’s success. A strong project manager’s CV should give solid examples of controlling risk to show project sponsors that you are able limit their effects.

4. Leadership

If you’re going to lead a project through to successful delivery, it stands to reason that you should posses sound leadership skills. Use your CV to detail the teams you manage and how you drive them towards deliverables.

5. Methodologies

Methodologies are rigorous systems of methods which are used to keep projects on track and drive them forward. Whether you utilise Prince2, Agile or any other methodology, employers need to know your experience, knowledge and qualifications in those areas.

6. Business case writing

Justifying project initiation, spending and resource allocation often requires a strong and coherent business case. The ability to write or at lease contribute to a business case is therefore a valuable skill for your CV.

7. Delivery

The ultimate measure of success for a project manager is the results they deliver. Clearly explain the benefits your projects have provided and use figures where possible to quantify your value.

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