Lean In: Become the CEO of Your Career and Achieve Professional Fulfillment


by Jackie Duodu-Burbridge

I just wrapped up book #1 on my summer reading list, “Lean In” the somewhat controversial first book by Facebook’s COO, and working mother, Sheryl Sandberg. The book offers advice on how to navigate the professional and work/life balance struggles that women face in everyday life. Some say she misses the mark; some say she’s out of touch with reality because most of us do not have the financial resources she has to afford help (Sandberg made approximately $845 million dollars from investments in the company when Facebook went public last year alone, with a salary of $328,000 and a $277,000 bonus). Perhaps they are right. However, there is a much bigger, more meaningful message that can be culled from the narrative, for men and women alike. That message can be found right on the cover of the book: and that is quite simply to lean in.

For those of us to whom building a successful professional life outside of the home is an important goal, we must lean in.

I mean, all the way in.

Not everyone thinks that an extensive professional career is for them. A lot of us are solely focused on putting food on the table and keeping the lights on. I want to challenge all of you to think broader, bigger, higher. If there is something you are passionate about, lean into it. Take it to the next level. The average person works at least 40 hours a week at a full time job, that amounts to one third of the total hours in a day. If you take into consideration the amount of time we spend commuting or running errands, what you do for a living is where you dedicate most of your waking hours daily. Anything in your life that requires that much of your time and attention should be rewarding, right? And more than just financially. It should fulfill you, challenge you, excite you and compensate you appropriately. That means you have to have a certain level of self-awareness and self-worth.

 Steps You Can Take Right Now

 Aside from a privileged few, a great job and career trajectory aren’t going to just happen to us. We must do the work.

* Define and design the path you want to take and then start in on it. What is your end goal (or at least your next goal)? Do you know anyone who has accomplished, or is accomplishing, something similar? Talk to them; find out how they did it.

* Are there any educational and/or training requirements for what you are trying to do? Find out what they are and get them.

* Be prepared to pay your dues; to an employer, there’s nothing cute about a sense of entitlement.

* The flip side of that is to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. If you’re serious about your professional advancement, spending too much time in a job that drains you emotionally and offers nothing to your desired skillset is more of a hindrance than a benefit.

* Be strategic in your career moves and in your networking. Get yourself in front of the right people by attending seminars, workshops and mingling events. The same holds true if your goals are more entrepreneurial. Hone your craft and get to know people who can offer you advice or simply even a helpful introduction.

* And then, and maybe most importantly, know your worth. Research appropriate compensation and do not be afraid to ask for it. Know what you bring to the table – and conversely, what you lack so that you can focus on self-development.

As you start your summer reading, keep checking the blog and look for my series of posts on how to become the CEO of your career. You’ll learn useful tips for managing the most important aspects like preparedness, self-advocacy and negotiating pay. Have any particular topics of concern? Let me know in the comments section.

Jackie Duodu-Burbridge is an accomplished fundraising executive in New York with a background in writing and communications.  An ardent proponent of human rights, especially issues pertaining to women, she is a graduate of Spelman College and holds an MBA in Marketing from Hofstra University. 


  1. Great advice! This is my favorite: “Research appropriate compensation and do not be afraid to ask for it.”

    1. Thanks Kendra! – it’s important to know your worth in the workplace (particularly as women), otherwise you could spend a significant portion of your career playing catch-up when it comes to salary.

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