Career lessons from Marissa Mayer

I admire Marissa Mayer and always enjoy hearing her interviews and talks.  I admire her for her brightness, work ethic, the combination of shyness and confidence, of geekiness and femininity, and for her professional achievements.

I listened to an interview she gave at Cleveland Clinic Ideas for Tomorrow event earlier this year.  In this interview she talks about her work at Yahoo and Google, her career choices and the rationale underpinning these. She concludes by outlining the lessons she has learned. Here is a summary of career lessons from Marissa Mayer:

  1. Often there is not a good or a right choice, but there are many good choices – it’s about picking well and then committing to it.
  2. Surround yourself with the smartest people you can to challenge you and push you to the next level.
  3. Go for things you are not yet ready to do – you will either learn that you are better than you thought or that you fall short of where you want to be – both outcomes are a huge learning opportunity.
  4. When choosing a job, go for an environment you’re comfortable in – you want to be somewhere where you are surrounded by like-minded people, where you can realise your full potential, where you can have your voice, where you can influence. It may seem that this point contradicts 2 and 3 above but it doesn’t – what Mayer is talking about here is not seeking a non-challenging environment but one where there is a mutual cultural and value fit between you and the organisation.  The metaphor she used to explain this is: ‘when doing sports you should really push yourself, but wear comfortable clothes’.
  5. And the most important advice in my view – Work somewhere where there is someone in the leadership who will believe in you and who will invest in you so that you can take your work to the next level and learn something new constantly.