When Sheryl Sandberg first moved to Silicon Valley, Google's Eric Schmidt gave her advice she still uses today

Sheryl SandbergKimberly White/Getty‘When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship you don’t ask, ‘What seat?’ You just get on,’ Sandberg said.
  • Sheryl Sandberg said she was risk adverse when she moved to Silicon Valley.
  • She almost turned down a job at Google, before realising that she had a tremendous opportunity in front of her.
  • “When you’re offered a seat on a rocketship you don’t ask, ‘What seat?’ You just get on,” she explained.

When Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of leanin.org, began a career change into the tech industry she was “jump adverse.”

She moved from Washington, DC to Silicon Valley and struggled for 10 months to get a job, she explained on an episode of the podcast “When to Jump.”

Sandberg eventually got two job offers — one from Google and one from another company that she left unnamed. The Google role was ambiguous, and the role at the other company was more defined, with team members and specified goals.

She almost passed up the role at Google. “This job makes no sense. I have all my criteria and Google meets none of them except I love Google — I like Google better than the other company,” she remembers explaining to Eric Schmidt, now the executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc. Schmidt offered sage advice which Sandberg still remembers and uses today.

“When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship you don’t ask, ‘What seat?’ You just get on,” she recalled him saying.

In hindsight, Sandberg said the decision was simple, but she almost let her fear of the unknown get in the way. “I was basically being, if not an idiot, certainly risk adverse, and jump adverse,” Sandberg said.

Ambiguous roles, and those where you don’t have to answer questions but find the right question to ask, is where “the real opportunity lies,” according to Sandberg.

“Now what I tell people is that often the opportunity lies in the grey,” she said. “If everything is perfectly figured out at the company you are going to, maybe they don’t need you as much.”

Listen to the full podcast interview »

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.