Reinvent Yourself!

Dare to reinvent yourself!  Here are some role models. 

How many other women over 40, let alone over 50, never attempt something new or frightening because they feel uncomfortable, inferior or otherwise unworthy? Do they just give up, rather than muster up the confidence to dare through their fears?

Being that there were few examples of women leaders to learn from, I set out to do my own study, focusing on strong women over 40 from various walks of life – not just business. I studied women over 40 in the arts, in politics, in nonprofits, in the sciences, and in other fields – seeking as many relevant examples as I could find.

 

Here are a few stellar examples:

 

Juliette Gordon Low, pictured left, who was 52 when she founded Girl Scouts of America.

 

 

 

 

Jean Nidetch, right, founded Weight Watchers, today the world’s most respected weight loss program, when she was 40.

 

 

 

Liz Claiborne, left, was a Seventh Avenue veteran in her late forties when she rightly perceived that the fashion industry was not serving the needs of everyday working women, and thus began and led a valuable fashion empire for decades.

Today, these women, and/or the companies they began, are household names. Not one of them thought of herself as a “super-woman.” Basically, they just saw a need, and dared to meet that need, despite several hardships along the way.

Business school aside, I learned more about leadership from researching these daring role models over 40 – their heartaches, as well as their triumphs – than I had in my entire career. What they, and their 21st century counterparts, can teach millions of women over 40 from all walks of life, is that having conviction, commitment, competence and confidence is not the sole purview of men over 40. Nor are hoodie-clad post-pubescent wunderkinds the only geniuses among us. (Facebook IPO, anyone?) These women were daring at a time when being over 40 meant you were “done.” Necessity may be the mother of invention, but daring are the mothers of reinvention.

All of us over 50 have the opportunity, power and duty, every single day, to become positive role models, whether for our peers or for the younger persons who look up to us. It’s high time we all do our part to mash the myths, slam the stereotypes and blast the biases that a woman over 50 is “over” or on a “short runway,” a bias term that seeps like sewage into the daily parlance of leadership coaches and H.R. executives alike when describing professionals over 40 – of any gender. In the current economic environment, that bias is reprehensible. Assert at every opportunity that you’re nowhere near “done.” And, whatever you do, stare down and prove wrong anyone who calls you a cougar, “toast” or “so frigging old.”

Remember the words of Robert Frost:

Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

 You have much to do and wonderful miles to go – so reinvent yourself!

 

Tips for Over-50 Career Switchers

Our media cauldron is still spitting out assertions that baby boomers are retiring in record numbers, and continue to moan that there are simply not enough 30-somethings to fill this void. In fact, recent reports indicate there are more unemployed over-50 than at any time in history.

Let me set the record straight, and at the same time offer up some tips for over-50s now contemplating switching careers:

1) Boomers aren’t exactly stampeding to the golf courses or beaches. That hackneyed cliché is an egregious insult to boomers who look forward to continuing their productive careers or starting fulfilling second careers. It is most insulting to boomers who have lost their savings, and even their homes.

2) The work experience and expertise of boomers make some of us costly hires in this economy. Headhunters and American corporate expatriates advise boomers to consider international work, citing India, China and Vietnam as attractive emerging markets. However, some skills may be moot even in a rebound, if the industries or companies that used to need them are mature or defunct – here and abroad. Boomers who are interested in leadership positions should also seek out small or mid-size firms rather than large corporations. Private equity firms, though somewhat dormant right now, look for experienced leaders to fill C-suite positions in their portfolio companies.

3) For career-switchers over 50, there’s another indignation: headhunters and corporations call us “seasoned professionals with a short runway.”Some presume boomers will work only five to ten years more before we retire, and therefore we’re not worth the investment. Glenn Okun, a successful venture capitalist and finance professor, has a very different view: he recently told a group of MBAs ranging in age from late 20s to mid-50s: “You’re all going to be working until you’re 90 years old.”

4) A warning regarding career switching: many boomers jump to nonprofit without considering the risks, especially if the salary is comparable to their corporate pay. Don’t presume that your hard-driving private-sector persona will be welcome everywhere. It’s a very hard transition for individuals who are used to focusing almost entirely on quantitative goals and metrics without considering the cultural ramifications. Again, know what you want and need, especially the ROLE you want to play, regardless of title and salary.

Here are some powerful strategies that reflect the advice of psychological counselors, social workers, management consultants, business academics and executive coaches who work with individuals in transition in their personal lives or careers:

1. Develop a concrete plan of action. Have clearly defined objectives, desired outcomes and a strategy for managing your transition and your finances, along with a firm deadline and benchmarks along the way. Focus on delineating what your key priorities are, what you really want and need from life, what you’re passionate about for yourself and for your loved ones. Be honest about your deal-breakers as well as what you would be willing to compromise.

2. Write in a journal about what’s on your mind, how your anxiety might be connected to past experiences, and what this means for your future. Journals can become powerful personal development tools that impart a holistic view of what’s going on in your life, eventually transforming your vents and rants into insights and solutions.

3. Dare to spend time alone. Friends, colleagues and experts are a welcome source of counsel and support, but if you’ve just had a serious loss, you need time alone to process it, be angry and mourn. If you haven’t developed strategies for being alone to take care of yourself, it could be very lonely, and drive you to fill the void with people, activities and things that could thwart your ultimate goals for moving forward.

Above all, research, train, and learn how to prevent or survive a crash landing.

Remember the infamous news story: a 58-year-old former fighter pilot and trainer with thousands of hours of experience and expertise, who commandeered a massive mess of machinery and flammables with over 160 people aboard, and prevented what would have been their certain deaths, and that of thousands of other people. It was a seasoned professional (to use headhunter jargon), supported by an expert crew of equally seasoned professionals, who shepherded everyone on board that day to walk on water, literally, and return safely to their families.

I dare ask: how many 30-somethings could have done that? Short runway, huh? Run that one by me again.

How Do Women-Owned Businesses Differ From Companies Owned by Men?

There is a terrific article from SmallBizTrends.com, discussing women-owned businesses, and how they differ from those owned by men.

Research in entrepreneurial finance proves out that regardless of your business model, it’s key that you cultivate early on those influential and powerful people who can champion you – not just assist, mentor or advise you. The traditional corporate world calls such individuals “sponsors.” In fact, research by the women’s leadership nonprofit organization, Catalyst, indicates that one of the key differences between how men and women advance is that men tend to seek out, cultivate and benefit from sponsors. Sponsors are different from mentors in that a sponsor will advocate for you, get you invited to meetings that you ordinarily would not have access to, or let you in on crucial information they have access to through their inner circles. It’s important to network, yes, but manage your time well and make sure you cultivate, secure and exchange your talents with persons of power and influence – i.e., sponsors – who will actively champion your mission and vision. This also means you have to learn about your sponsor’s priorities as well, and where there is mutual benefit. Working with a sponsor is an exchange. It works best when there are complementary skills and talents at work.

Check out the SmallBizTrends.com article here.

This is an excerpt from the article:

How do women-owned businesses differ from companies owned by men? Not as much as they used to, according to a recent study from the SBA’s Office of Advocacy. “Business ownership no longer can be analyzed simply on the basis of the owner’s gender; businesses owned by women and men more and more share the same general development patterns, write the authors of “Developments in Women-owned Business, 1997-2007.”

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE

 

 

 

Sometimes it really does have to be all about you.

Create a Vision Board!

Are you running so hard you have no time for yourself?

If you’re like most women, you make time to take care of almost everyone but yourself. Without taking care of your own needs, you could be gasping for some fresh air.

Here are three ideas can help.

1) Create a Vision Board – a design for living the rest of your life. Write down your vision of your Before, Now and Future.

Small section: what you dreamed and excelled at between ages 10-18;
Small section: what you dreamed and achieved between 18 and now;
As much space as you want:
Think about your vision of the “perfect life,” as if you are looking back in your old age. Then decide what you are dealing with that’s keeping you from that vision, and what you need to do now to reach that vision.

Be sure to revisit and revise these last three as your priorities change.

2) Always in a Race? Protect your Space! “No” time to exercise? Need to better manage your finances? Longing to finish a personal project that’s lurking? Set a deadline, schedule time every day or every week to work on it, when you know you’ll actually do it. Otherwise, it won’t happen.

3)  Read it and reap. Start a daily journal, password it. Write what’s making you happy, driving you crazy, or whatever else is on your mind. Generate ideas for what you really want and need to accomplish for yourself – that day, the next day and so forth.

Embrace your space! Sometimes it really does have to be all about you.