Over 40 and considering a master’s degree? Consider this…

salute to edAre you an mature professional who is considering a return to school for a master’s degree? Going back to school for any level of higher education is a fast-growing trend; recent stats from the U.S. Department of Education confirm that adult students are now the fastest growing demographic in the educational arena.

In my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I hear is “Should I go back to school and if so, should I pursue an MBA?” The MBA is certainly a hotly discussed degree. Many seasoned professionals leave the corporate world (by choice or not) to start new businesses, and think they have what it takes to do their own thing. Maybe, maybe not. However, it is possible that the training involved in achieving an MBA could be their best defense against some of the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make.

By the same token, an M.S.in Education or in Psychology and Human Services may empower you to reach for better, more interesting, and higher paying jobs than those available to someone with a bachelor’s degree.

Here is a brief overview of three possible master’s degrees you may be considering:

Master of Business Administration

The MBA is the most popular advanced degree in America and is one of the most reliable paths to a successful career in business – whether your goal is to rise in a corporation, run your own business, or lead a nonprofit. An MBA program provides you with the essential general management portfolio of strategy, operations, finance and marketing, with a strong emphasis on organizational development and personal leadership training. You will upgrade your technical business decision-making skills and increase your overall organizational effectiveness and value through improved self-management – skills that will benefit other areas of your lives

A good MBA program provides you with the invaluable opportunity to learn from professors with extensive experience as well as expertise in their respective fields of strategy, operations, marketing, finance and organizational development.  Look for programs where faculty members have extensive experience in, and a passion for, mentoring, training and educating diverse professionals and helping them build fulfilling careers.

Master of Science in Psychology (or other Human Services)

Senior managers recognize that they get a better worker when you go back to school for additional training, which can lead to promotions and pay raises. If you have established yourself in a specific type of counseling career for a few years and decide you want to try something different in the field, a graduate degree will prepare you to do so.

Master of Education

A master’s degree in education gives you the latest essential skills for educators and can provide you with an advantage in the job market over candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Whether you are interested in teaching in a public school, or simply wish to expand your understanding of the education process, but do not plan to teach in a classroom setting, an M.S. in Education can increase your options.

Look for colleges that can tailor programs to meet your specific career goals, needs and interests. Learning the latest classroom trends enhances your resume and expands your employment options. Look also for programs that are affordable and accessible to over-40 individuals already working in the field.

You, the over-40 professional, know you will be living longer, and you demand more from your life. In returning to school for a master’s degree, you are DARE-ing to pursue new career ideas, create new businesses, and fulfill your lifelong dreams.

 

adult ed pic two 9 4 2013

Power Station: It’s Time to Rewire, Reboot and Resurge!

If that’s your urge, then take time, take stock and take care. Then, take action.

Are you energized about learning and doing something new and exciting with every coming year since you’ve begun your career?

Whether your response is a yelping “Yes!” a tentative “Well, maybe” or an anxious “Not really, but I know I have to, in some way at some point in the second half of your life, you will experience the natural desire or face a compelling need to rewire, reboot and resurge. The economic realities of this century have eliminated the option of “No way” for most of us, because we will be working for longer than we ever thought. For most people that alone is “new and different.”

It’s not as impossible or untenable as it might seem. Whatever “camp” you’re in, I have good news for you: a rewire, reboot and resurge will absolutely power your life for the better. Just who am I to talk? In my early fifties, I was firmly in the “Yes!” camp of doing something new and different than my long career in marketing, only to embark on a series of soul-wrenching and workaholic career moves that challenged my overall physical, emotional and financial health. The experiences almost led me to believe that I couldn’t overcome even minor setbacks, let alone deal with bona fide crises. Making those career moves taught me a lot about resilience.

My resurge began in 2007, when I enrolled at New York University’s Stern School of Business to earn an MBA at age 55, graduating two years later, on my 57th birthday. Armed with extensive research I conducted while in business school, I started writing a book on how visionary, intelligent and motivated individuals over 40 drive and advance successful organizations, their careers, and their own personal development – despite the fact that many stereotypes cast midlife professionals as “over the hill” or “landing on a short runway.” Business school taught me how effective leaders get the right things done, not just by doing things better, but doing better things. Not coincidentally, I expanded my consulting practice to help other motivated individuals rewire, reboot and resurge. In the process, I’ve met and learned even more from other bold, brave people who are accomplishing more in the second half of their lives than they thought possible – even after great adversity.

Rebooting and resurging in midlife is necessary regardless of your calling, goals, stages, challenges, or roles – past or present. Whether managers or machinists; teachers or technicians; surgeons or salespersons; the fact is that all of us are CEOs – managers of our own lives. In carrying out our own mission and vision, we have much to learn from adapting sound business principles of good strategy (being effective), disciplined operations (being efficient with resources, especially time) and inspired leadership (managing ourselves and motivating others). We are all CEOs – with the “E” standing for enlightened, enriched and empowered.

Feeling the urge to rewire, reboot and resurge? Thinking “maybe”? Still in the “no way” camp?

Here are three Power Lines to get you going!

1. ) Whether your response is “Yesssss,” “maybe,” or “not really, but I know I have to,” you very well may experience a desire to do something different in the second half of your life. It requires taking the time to be thoughtful in figuring out what you really want; taking stock, so you lead with your strengths; and taking care, so you don’t compromise any aspects of your health. Then, develop an action plan to accomplish concrete goals and execute within a sensible timetable.

2. ) Figure out which “station” you’re in before you set a destination or route (i.e. your “strategy” for getting there). Here’s how:

If you answered “yes” and are looking forward to a new career, hobby, relocation, etc., but are not exactly sure what or how, then you’re ready for a first-class ticket on the rewired-not-expired express. You’re in good company: millions of people are determined to mash the myths, slam the stereotypes and bash the biases that older people are “winding down.” Yay, you!

Your route/strategy: Focus on what you really want, figure out what or who is keeping you from getting there, and whether it’s your own diversions, distractions, or other time management issues that are stalling you. Then write down all the things you want to do – in the next five years, one year, six months, all the way down to the current month, week, day and even hours. It doesn’t mean you become a robotic efficiency slave; but, without plans and to-lists, the unimportant “dandruff” in your life (emails, Facebook, Internet overload) will consume you, and you’ll have no time or energy left for what will get you ahead. Focus on “a-head” and get the “dandruff” under control!

road closedIf your replies were more tentative “maybes,” today there’s an abundance of “maps” – reputable information, sound research, and credible advice about why it’s beneficial to start something new and different, and how to deal with roadblocks. Many people who can’t or won’t get going on something new and different focus too much on their weaknesses and external obstacles. Laser in on your strengths – what you do well that you actually like to do. Strengths help you maximize opportunities.

Your route/strategy: Think about whether the pursuits you’re engaged in now are holdovers from the first half of your life. If you’ve already accomplished those earlier goals, then you really need to consider new pursuits. Either you regenerate, or you stagnate! Whether your new pursuits focus on personal goals, career transition, hobbies or community service, always be developing new ways to utilize your brain and maintain your physical health. The more you do physically, the better your brain performs, and a positive mindset accelerates exercise benefits, leading to more energy and more power over your choices.

If your reaction to rewiring, rebooting and resurging veer into the “no way but I really have no choice” zone, for you I have a special affinity and empathy. In this economy, financial and health challenges seem insurmountable. In fact, if you have to go back to work for the first time in many years, or you need to start work in a new career, new industry or new city, then it’s understandable that you’re stressing out. If you’re dealing with divorce, the death or prolonged illness of a spouse or partner, or your own illness, and the financial challenges of all these stressors, then you’re definitely overloaded. You may be too over-committed to sort out all the things you feel you have to do, let alone pursue new and different things you’d like to do.

Your route/strategy: You are the very person who needs not to rush into anything without first making a concerted commitment to build in private time to take care of yourself, so you also figure out what you really need and want, and what resources you need to help you. You have to make the time and effort to eat right and fit in exercise, even if it’s a short walk. You have to pay careful attention to your finances. Carve out quiet time, to journal, read, jot notes on index cards or on your smart-phone, meditate, pray, get a massage, a manicure or some other respite from your stress. You owe it to yourself and others who rely on you, to take that time. These are all coping mechanisms – for you they may be exactly the new and different things you need the most.

3. ) Dare to “arrive” at your final destination: create your own “Power Structure” and “Bottom Line” for the second half of your life. We all know that “power structure” usually refers to hierarchy in an organization. Your life has a hierarchy too – the Before, the Now and the Future. The Now and the Future should rule your own bottom line. Here’s an exercise I use in my workshops. Using one sheet of 8½ X 11 sheet of paper and a pen (computers and pencils make you think too hard and edit too much), write the following:

— a. Top half: Write ONE (1) sentence about what you dreamed, desired and were good at as a child (ages 10-18);

— b. In the same half: write ONE more sentence: what you dreamed, desired, achieved and were good between the ages of 20 and 40;

— c. In the bottom half and back of the page, write as much as you want on: 1) Your vision of the “perfect life” – when you look back in your 80s and 90s; 2) What you’re dealing with now that is keeping you from that perfect vision; 3) What you think you need to power up in your life – i.e., to rewire and reboot – so you can resurge and drive that vision to reality.

That exercise alone can help you see the many strengths you have and appreciate the opportunities before you, so you get going on your action plan.

Rewiring, rebooting and resurging help us to explore, examine and expand – creating new ideas, new insights, new solutions and new horizons. What energizes me is that the alternate route – to assume that I’ve “had a good run but now I’m ‘done'” – is so demoralizing I can’t even think about stopping now. Most likely, neither can you.

Yes? Maybe? No? Here’s what you need to believe: The power is yours. Use it or lose it. You are your own power station, in control of your own power structure. You are the only one who can take stock, take action and take charge of the rest of your life. You are the only one who can take care of your health, by making time to think, pray, read for inspiration, meditate, exercise and eat right. And, you are the only one who can take concerted action to make a plan, set concrete goals, get rid of the distracting “dandruff” that’s holding you back, access the right resources, stick to a schedule, and advance that plan to make the second half of your life even more powerful than the first.

Think ahead!

Education and Professional Development Options: Several Courses of Action to Consider!

In my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I hear is should I go back to school and if so, should I pursue an MBA. While I have no regrets about my MBA, especially since I had the opportunity to choose the dual concentration of Finance and Leadership, I know it may not be the ideal investment for most professionals, especially those over 50. Take into consideration your own specific financial situation and current knowledge, strengths and aptitudes, of course, but here’s what I’ve observed are, in fact, good investments for professionals over 40, and the reasons why:

MEDIA BISTRO1) Digital Media Marketing – There are so many course offerings, at every type of institution or training facility, from community colleges to major universities, to companies like Media Bistro. Here’s why:

a) Learning digital media is very attractive to almost any professionals over 40 who are worried that their counterparts in their twenties and thirties are far more nimble, facile and advanced in digital media.

b)Younger professionals who are born into the “digital river” are earning promotions much faster, while older professionals are being passed over or worse – downsized.

c) In almost any industry, in any sector, being skilled in social media and its applications to business at large, especially those undergoing structural chaos, such as media, and to marketing in particular is an important differentiating advantage.

2) successBusiness Administration refresher courses or earning a Bachelor’s in Business – Many professionals over 40 leave the corporate world (by choice or not) to start their own businesses, and think they have what it takes to do their own thing. Maybe, maybe not. Here’s why:

a) Courses in business administration, whether a certificate or Bachelor’s, could be their best defense against some of the most common mistakes and disillusions that plague even the hippest hoodie-clad start-up CEO. Launching a business seems easy; running one day to day is far from easy.

b) A well-rounded education in business administration gives the budding entrepreneur (at any age) grounding in operations (one of the most tedious aspects of the business that a lot of so-called visionaries can’t manage), accounting (try writing a business plan without that!), and the more right-brain and crucial courses of strategy, marketing, brand management and leadership.

c) If the time comes to sell, be merged/acquired or seek investors, then you had better know something about corporate finance or you won’t be able to even read a deal memo, let alone write or negotiate one that won’t leave you disappointed and feeling as if you wasted the sweat equity you built up in your business.

3) gold capCareer Management and Talent Development – This field has almost no barriers to entry, which is good for seasoned business professionals but also makes it very attractive to all sorts of nefarious imposters. Here’s what to look for and why:

a) Forgive my snobbery, but when I was considering a different career path, I consulted a Master’s-level counselor, not a so-called coach whose sole credentials were a 4-week teleseminar certificate!

b) Smart professionals who seek career coaching likewise want someone who’s well trained and exudes trust, not someone who’s following a commercial enterprise’s notion of “counseling.” Opt to put in the time, do the good work and earn a recognized Master’s degree in a discipline that has a reputable body of knowledge. Whether your Master’s is in psychology, social work, organizational development, counseling or any other mental health profession, the degree distinguishes you (to some extent) from those reading from a telemarketing pro’s psychobabble-ridden bromides.

c) In the same vein, anyone who takes advice from a business coach that can’t demonstrate his/her extensive experience and expertise in having actually run a business, or at least having earned an MBA, is gambling with their money. Again, if business coaching is your area of interest and you can afford the time and money for training, then earning an MBA can give you a leg up on business coaches that do not have an MBA.

4)  Online courses in almost every topic imaginable – arts, science, math, and so on.  My new favorite is Udemy.com, but Coursera, University of Phoenix and Southern New Hampshire University (www.snhu.edu) are just a few of the online schools to check out.

Try Charm – It’s NEVER out of style!

woman officeHere are some powerful tips from the “Access/Approach” and “Exchange” methods featured in my book, Get DARE From Here, 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives:

  • Be exceedingly nice to everyone: Some of the people you are able to ACCESS in the short run might not be decision makers or people who can readily help you achieve your Aims, but they can help you navigate ACCESS to & APPROACH the decision makers you really need. Be exceedingly nice to everyone, especially those who might in fact have advice regarding the ACCESS & APPROACH you should take.No crueler body of truth can damn you in a competitive job situation than a former subordinate who asserts you were the absolute most hellish boss or colleague. Mailroom attendants, secretaries, junior account execs, bank tellers, nannies – anyone who’s ever crossed your path as a colleague – could paint you as Cruella Deville or Medea.
  • facebook buttontwitter buttonlinked in buttonTake care what you say online: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Never before in the history of womankind has it been so easy to identify, investigate and reveal your past transgressions. Many women (and men) over 40 find that the habits, roles or personas they took on earlier in their careers can create hidden roadblocks now that they’re in a transitional period in their lives.
  • Consider a new APPROACH from the ones you’ve used to gain ACCESS in the past. In fact, your old APPROACH may not work in new situations, or in crises, or when transitioning from one corporate culture or geographic area to another. You have to consider the needs and culture of the decision makers you’re seeking to APPROACH. For that you need ACCESS to information regarding what it is that s/he wants and expects, what s/he might need from you, and what s/ he is willing to compromise (and not). Better yet, try to ACCESS information about a problem s/he’s Dealing with that’s important to her company, or job or community.Think of ways that you could help.
  • Everyone needs a dependable, trustworthy network, and it takes time and energy to cultivate reciprocal relationships. Be diligent and proactive about staying in touch with people you trust and respect, ask often about their families as well as their careers, and when appropriate, offer your help. Don’t wait until you’re in a dangerous intersection to ACCESS & APPROACH those that could help you the most. To ADVANCE your own PLAN, you have to maintain ACCESS & APPROACH by showing genuine interest on an ongoing basis especially when you’re not in need.
  • People who are genuinely interested in other people for who they are, not what they can do for them, are the ones with the most friends and business contacts to ACCESS & APPROACH. A genuine friendship is usually a mutually beneficial Deal; the individuals consider what the other person in the friendship needs. It should not be a relationship “bank” full of “chits” one redeems like coupons. If you’re the type that keeps score, you’ll find your ability to ACCESS & APPROACH diminishes, especially as the years wear on, friends move on or retire, and your life situation or career changes.
  • Expand your ancillary circle of friends that you can ACCESS & APPROACH. Individuals you’ve met and have something in common with – be it personal, career or community-centric – you can acknowledge via occasional emails, offers of help, short notes to touch base, etc. It’s not about the quantity of APPROACHES you make, but the quality. Remember you have to APPROACH from the point of view that you have something of value to offer. In the same vein, if you haven’t kept in touch with former co-workers for years, especially if they used to report to you or vice versa, then it’s hard to reach out to them if you don’t have a common meaningful bond.
  • ACCESS & APPROACH for advice those friends who are smarter than you, and even different from you. In the same vein, have at least one friend in each decade: teenager, 20s, 30s, and so on. Make friends outside your normal sphere of influence, especially those with jobs and backgrounds very different from yours.
  • ACCESS & APPROACH people who are good at things you’re not good at or don’t like to do. This is especially important if what you’re not good at is diverting you from strengths that could ADVANCE Your PLAN faster. Or, team up with someone where your joint strengths create efficiencies you could never accomplish on your own. You have to reciprocate and offer skills or advice that would be of value to the other person.

Remember: Poets ranging from John Donne [“No man is an island”], to Carole King [“You’ve Got a Friend”], and Barbara Streisand [“People Who Need People”], have emoted over the centuries about our critical need for ACCESS & APPROACH to, and genuine connection with, other people.

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
~ Madeleine Albright

Lesson Plans: What All Women Over 40 Should Know, and Why We All Should Always Be Learning

“I am learning all the time.  The tombstone will be my diploma.”
– Eartha Kitt, 1927-2008

Having just enjoyed another birthday, I am still amazed at how much I still have to learn – despite my many beneficial experiences and expertise – that I feel I should have learned at a much younger age.   Most women over 40 feel this way, I know.

 Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Because of my experiences, and continued passion for adding to my expertise, I also have a passion for mentoring, teaching and counseling others – especially college students – so they develop a zeal for a lifetime of learning.  Of course, none of us learns the same way, nor do we want to learn for the same reasons.   For example, I learned about leadership by becoming extremely open to learning from all sorts of people in some very uncomfortable situations.  I now look at those learning situations as essential to my professional and spiritual development, much like new physical exercises are essential to my health as I get older.


As an educator and consultant I can confirm that the three very important lessons about life, business and professional responsibility I learned at a very young age from my Italian parents.  They are pertinent to anyone who’s interested in the mission of “always be learning.”

#1:  Be respectful to everyone, even when you think others aren’t watching, because it’s the right thing to do and because there’s always someone watching.  Women (and men!) over 40  in presumed leadership positions often make the gravest mistakes in exhibiting rude behavior towards individuals they think are “beneath” them.   Not only is this unprofessional and unbecoming in a leader, it can be deleterious to your career in general.  The very individuals to whom you might have been insensitive could in turn complain behind your back to your most important client, or to your boss, or to a prospective employer.  Even if no one turns your story into a version of Nanny Diaries or Devil Wears Prada, what mature executive can afford bad references!

#2:  Be wary of making derisive comments – ever – about religion, sexual orientation, and ethnic background.  What might seem innocuous, or so-called conventional wisdom, or “playing along to get along” in a group not only hurts others, but could hurt you most when you least expect it, for instance, at what should be the zenith of your career.

piggy bank#3:  Earn, invest in and have easy access to your own “Forget You!” assets.  I was nine when my very wise father advised me that romantic partners, business associates, bosses, friends and others on whom I might depend or trust for financial support were, in fact, not to be depended on or trusted as my primary means of financial support.   Even after nearly 40 years of fulfilling marriage to a devoted and exceedingly decent man, I haven’t forgotten my father’s advice.

Since I’ve spent half my career marketing corporate brands and services, I don’t purport to be a novice let alone an apologist for anyone’s insensitive behavior or personal troubles.  Even when it concerns notable women over 40 who I respect, but especially when it concerns celebrities who earn millions of dollars – as brands!   

Be that as it may, few normal folk have to manage their lives under the constant scrutiny of the public eye.  As a marketer, I know from experience that the hardest brands to manage and market are those associated with celebrity spokespersons.  When the person is the brand, it’s nearly impossible to predict what might happen to the brand’s equity when the brand exhibits evidence of being a living, learning human being.

As countless  women over 40 have realized, our lives are full of lesson plans.  Whether they’re proactive plans, to optimize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses in good times, or they’re reactive, to mitigate crises and help us take advantage of opportunities, is governed by our willingness to always be learning.

For my own coda, I hope I’m as lucky as Eartha Kitt – learning all the time, until the very last diploma.    

 

Thinking of going back to school, over 40? Just BOOK it! You might love it!

adult ed pic 9 4 2013

An article this week commented that, regardless of one’s age, September signifies the start of a new year more than January does. Ask any student between the ages of three and twenty-two!

Students much older than children are returning to school – now, more than ever. Are you one of them?

As you put away those beach books, or simply cannot put down that beach book you haven’t finished yet, Labor Day swings past, and you can’t help but pay more attention to the Education stories in the media, not to mention the endless back-to-school promotions. If you aren’t interested in school for reasons other than those concerning your children, that’s perfectly fine, of course.

If you in fact are considering returning to school, good for you! Whether you’re pursuing a degree or just taking a course (or six!) in a subject you’re passionate about or want for your career or personal development, going back to school over 40 is definitelydaring but shouldn’t be daunting!

adult ed pic two 9 4 2013Diving back into education after working for more than 30 years was truly one of the best things I ever did. I went back after a series of unsatisfying career moves, where I had landed what seemed very attractive leadership positions with organizations whose cultural norms and values were very unlike what I had experienced in my twenty years as a managing director with global marketing services firms.

Committed to learn from the MBA coursework everything I could about truly effective leadership, no matter the organization or sector, I ended up also loving the finance courses. Ultimately, I earned my MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business, with a concentration in both Finance and Leadership.

When we were kids, returning to school as an adult was either very unconventional or something that immigrants did to study English. But that has all changed. You think, go back to school – not at my age! But, think again! You’d be in great company if you did! In fact, you’d be one of huge numbers: recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education[1] are revealing that adult students are now the fastest growing demographic in the educational arena, with those numbers increasing steadily. Statistics compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics show a whopping 42 percent increase in college students age 25 and older from 2000-2013. And they project that between 2010 and 2019 there will be a 23 percent increase in the enrollment of college students 25 and over. [2]

A college degree looks more and more a necessity and a good investment. There is a lot of evidence that more education is becoming not a luxury, but a necessity. The stats are convincing:[3] studies are showing that 75% of future jobs will most likely need some type of certification or licensure, and those professions that demand a BS or BA will grow 50% faster than the national average.

More women aged 55 to 79 are deciding not only what they want to do in their second half, but that they want to continue learning in some formal way. A report from The American Council on Education, entitled, Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education, shows that with older adults returning to college in record numbers, they are daring to pursue new career ideas, found new businesses, and create their lifelong dreams.

No one’s saying you have to put away the beach books forever, but consider varying your reading material. Just as the advice that we must “never wear white after Labor Day” is outdated, so is the notion that school is out of the question after a “certain” age. If I can learn to love studying corporate finance in my fifties, then almost anyone can pursue any interest at all – and at all price points, at any time of the day or night, online or in person. All you have to do is get beyond your comfort zone a little bit and just go DARE.

 

1) http://www.luminafoundation.org/publications/focus_archive/Focus_Fall_2009.pdf

2) http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/adulted/index.asp

3) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/visualnewscom/going-back-to-school-as-a_b_3438434.html

Bully for You? Et tu, Brutus? Don’t Be A Bully, Especially If You’re a Woman Over 40!

Glinda the Good Witch

VERSUS

Cruella de Vil


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

With all the heightened talk of mentors and sponsors, it’s sad to consider that there are 40-something bosses out there – men and women – who are terrible bullies. What’s more, they blame (sometimes rightfully) the generation of manager before them – e.g., women like me who are now in their fifties and sixties who were also bullied early in their careers. It gives new meaning to: “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

Don’t believe me? Deny the obvious? Come on! How many of us older women can honestly assert we never thought, “Oh, what a wimp!”, as we watched a younger impressionable woman cry in anger and frustration in front of us about a work or personal issue? How many of us can honestly say we have never cried at work?

One such young woman on my team many years ago not only survived some mean moments with me, but thrived, moving on to head up a respected boutique PR firm. Now in her forties, she is a partner at a large prestigious marketing firm – no small achievement. I know that it’s an achievement she earned not by being a bully, not by being a diva, and not by being a screamer. A few years ago I ran into her in a restaurant, where she warmly greeted me and graciously provided a business lead that became of tremendous value to me. I’d like to think that she learned how to be tough, street-smart, strategic and kind by observing those who were not.

Unfortunately, the queen bee sting is still a big thing. The female boss who not only has little interest in fostering the careers of women who aim to follow in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to throw them under the bus.

Women have even more responsibility to stop this behavior. As I speak with many women about bullying (and its evil stepsisters: apathy, neglect and rudeness), the reality emerges that it’s tolerated in men but unforgivable in women.

Bullying isn’t just an older manager/younger subordinate affliction. It can happen whenever someone else controls your paycheck, promotions, raises, contracts, referrals and other career advancement factors (or, similarly, a spouse who controls your financial security).

Although it happened many years ago, it’s still hard for me to forgive, let alone forget, the hulking mass of a former boss, a (female) CEO who one day physically pushed me – someone who is decidedly not demure, not shy, and not petite – up against a wall to chew me out following a client meeting. I did not see her as powerful or strong. I saw her for the weak and frightened vendor she was. The client himself was a tyrant who routinely threw papers and objects at me and my team, and should have been sued and marked for unemployment forever. My boss was desperate to retain his business, so she chose me as her punching bag. I left the firm soon after that.

The lessons I learned from bad bosses and caustic clients didn’t dilute the far more positive lessons I’m able to exchange with others today. They drove me to business school in mid-career, and to start my own company. More than just learning how to master corporate finance, my MBA taught me lot about respect, motivation and true leadership. Ironically, case histories of powerful (and often bullying) men dominate business school curricula, which is what inspired me to write a book about how great women leaders over 40 lead differently.

In fact, many women in their 20s, 30s and 40s today are helping to pull from career abyss unemployed women over 50 who still want to work. These women are battling a barrage of issues: restructurings, rejection letters, ageism, under-employment, and exploitation of their willingness to consult for free in the hopes of winning paying contracts that never fully materialize. Some of these affronts are by female CEOs, including the increasing practice of ignoring emails from seasoned professionals these CEOs have engaged and to whom they promised decisions.

As one article summed it up: “No reply is the ‘new no.’” While such apathy or cowardice is not limited to female CEOs, it’s perceived as nastier. Is this how they would like to see their daughters and sons treated? If not, they have themselves to blame for proliferating rudeness that will surely pass on to the next generation of hiring managers. Is this what feminists envisioned when they talked about sisterhood, and about women having bigger balls than men? Ignoring courteous requests for closure after you’ve engaged these women to your benefit is the loudest promo that you in fact have no balls – doesn’t matter how powerful you think you are.

What’s even more astonishing in this age of uber-connectedness is that anyone thinks they are immune from the reputation-damaging consequences of such rudeness. People talk and they name names – to your potential clients, your prospective employees, your funders and, most especially, to the media and to your competitors.

Because of the 24/7 spotlight on – well, everyone! – in the works I do today, I try to focus on the positive and to be as responsive as possible. I spend a lot of time mentoring women and men of all ages, some whom I’ve never even met, and some who don’t have the ability to pay. It makes me happy that so many of these young professionals become mentors and sponsors for the next generation. Some may say I do it to “redeem” my own past leadership missteps. Better late than never, at least I’m righting – and writing – my own best “leader-ship”.

My hope is that all the truly powerful, truly empathetic women today – the mentors and the mentored – remember the good lessons of the women leaders in their lives. And I hope they heed Ms. Angelou’s heartfelt pronouncement as profound advice:

“…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

 

 


[i] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323884304578328271526080496.html

High There! – High-rise over 40!

woman trapezeThe education industry offers us literally millions of options for expanding the depth and breadth of our brainpower, from womb to tomb. Yet, there’s an assumption within some industries and organizations that when someone has reached the age of 50 and beyond, they are no longer in the classification that talent management gurus call “high potentials.” The term “high potential” refers to individuals an organization should devote the majority of its efforts to mentor, sponsor and retain.  Harvard Business Review, among others, has published numerous articles on the topic of high potentials, a recent one in 2010[1], excerpted here:

“…High potentials consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors that reflect their companies’ culture and values in an exemplary manner. Moreover, they show a strong capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers within an organization—more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”

In some firms, it is often presumed – mistakenly – that these behaviors are most attributable to younger, presumably more energetic, employees. When I was a young, aggressive, frenetic manager I worked to my full capacity to be fiercely competitive, running a robust portfolio of business for large ad agencies yet was always on the lookout for more revenue, and was fairly well-compensated (almost) for my skills. But I was not as loyal to “companies’ culture” as the definition above would suggest. And now when I think back to all of the things I did not know when I was younger I want to laugh out loud.

The fact of the matter is that I was well into my forties when I learned the most valuable lessons of my personal and professional life. Among these is how to be a good leader of people, beyond knowing how to manage a P&L. Becoming a leader, one of my favorite business-school professors confirmed when I decided to pursue my MBA in my mid-50s, is not something that can be taught. It must be learned through experience.

brain partsScientists ranging from prenatal experts to gerontologists assert there are nine different types of intelligence. And throughout our lives we don’t need to compartmentalize ourselves into just one of them! Just because you reach a certain age and become known for your math (or juggling) skills, it doesn’t mean you can’t suddenly discover an amazing talent for painting (arts, or another form of the nine kinds of intelligence) that you never knew you had.  So, just because you’re reached “high performer” in one skill doesn’t mean you’re DONE reaching your high potential as a human relative to some other skill.

That someone over 40 may not be considered a high-potential is unfair, yes, but it is often the perception. If this is the perception you have of yourself, there’s no excuse for that! 

Here’s just a short list of ideas, articles and books that should change your mind, literally and figuratively, about how much there still is to learn and develop your own high potential:

book pen notepad1) The New York Times: OPINION: “Fast Time and the Aging Mind,” by Richard A. Friedman, July 20. 2013.  Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psycho-pharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College. posits: “Is it possible that learning new things might slow our internal sense of time?” My favorite passage is this:

“…It’s simple: if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.”[2]

2) The New York Times: PREOCCUPATIONS: “She Turned Her Upspeak Down a Notch, by Jessica Grose, July 27, 2013.  As the Times call out summarized it: “A freelance journalist was tired of sources thinking that she sounded like a little girl on the phone. So she set out to change her voice.”[3]  Think an “uptick” is the bailiwick of the young? Think again! I hear so many women over the age of 40 using an “uptick” in their speaking style that it reminds me not so much of the so-called “valley girls” that supposedly started the trend but of an antiquated time of deference and asking permission that smacks of pre-Mad Men secretarial pools.

3) The “Gravitas Guru,” Raleigh Mayer: One of my favorite executive coaches in New York is a woman named Raleigh Mayer,  who rightly calls herself “The Gravitas Guru.” She rightly puts enthusiastic women of all ages through paces to break out of habits that include poor grooming, ill-fitting shoes and speaking as if every sentence is a question. And, she does it with total aplomb and the utmost courtesy, even as she gets everyone to laugh at themselves.

time keeping watch4) From The New York Times: APP SMART: “To Manage Time, Track Time and Pass the Time, by Kit Eaton, June 26, 2013. As the Times call out summarized it: “When they aren’t listening to music or playing a game on their devices, people who work from home can stay on task with a range of productivity apps.” [4]  As a career-long time tracker and “billable hour” monitor, I long ago developed the habit of tracking my time for productivity and also as a planning tool before I even sit down to work. Most experienced adults know how important this is, perhaps even better than our younger colleagues do.

5) From The New York Times: BUCKS BLOG: “Helping Older Americans Avoid Swindles,” by Ann Carrns. As Ms. Carrns in the Times call out summarizes: “A new educational tool from the F.D.I.C., called “Money Smart for Older Americans,” aims to help people protect themselves against financial abuses.”[5] 

Finally: Even when – and especially if – there seems to be more of an alarming trend against hiring older workers, don’t rule out the capacity to expand your own high potential through various productive and constructive means that don’t have to cost a fortune.  

If you’re still unconvinced, lift your spirits (and your potential) by reading the cover story in the July 8-15, 2013 issue of TIME Magazine, entitled: “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  That will help you get on the high road to developing your potential. It’s likely there’s a long stretch of highway and miles to go before you sleep.

highway white line

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Ready, Douglas A., Conger, Jay A., Hill, Linda A., (2010, June) Are You a High Potential? Harvard Business Review, Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2010/06/are-you-a-high-potential/ar/1

[2] Friedman, Richard A., (2013, July 20) Fast Time and the Aging Mind. The New York Times: Opinion. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/13UmKa2.

[3] Grosse, Jessica, (2013, July 27) She Turned Her Upspeak Down a Notch, The New York Times: Preoccupations. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/13cNCQ9.

[4] Eaton, Kit, (2013, June 26), To Manage Time, Track Time and Pass the Time, The New York Times: App Smart. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/e/kit_eaton/index.html

[5] Carrns, Ann, (2013, June 13), Helping Older Americans Avoid Swindles, The New York Times, Buck’s Blog. Retrieved from. http://nyti.ms/18CtGdj.

Trains = brains, and dresses = stresses? New research doesn’t bode well for next generation either.

Are boys born loving trains and guns while girls reach for dolls and pretty pink dresses? Are boys born with different brains, enabling them in the areas of math and science, while girls naturally excel in literature and the written word?

You may remember, in 2005, when the president of Harvard at the time, Lawrence Summers, created such an uproar with disparaging comments about women’s aptitude for science and math. Well, it may be true there are dramatically more men than women in top levels of the science fields, but are the gender differences hard-wired?

This debate has raged on for years, the age-old nature versus nurture, science-brain versus art/literature-brain. Researchers have produced a wealth of results from various studies, often conflicting, and the matter remains far from resolved.

Studies have shown that American girls around between 9 and 17 consistently had fewer experiences in the science realm than boys, and generally expressed negative perceptions and attitudes toward science and math classes. Lawrence H. Summers, then president of Harvard, made his notorious comments about women’s aptitude — researchers have been searching for ways to explain why there are so many more men than women in the top ranks of science.

Explaining this gender gap away with the cry: “brain differences!” just does not wash, however. Recent research on gender with regard to skills in math was carried out in 86 countries. The results strongly suggest that culture may be the culprit, not brain differences, that this difference is not biological, but sociocultural. Some countries just do not show this gap that is apparent in the USA, and it seems in countries where females are comfortable and successful in the world of math, there is a greater degree of gender equality. For example, in Russia and Asia girls are more apt to pursue scientific careers than in the US, Canada and England.

But here in the States, the gap has been narrowing. Girls who are considered to be “highly gifted mathematicians” now number 3 to 1, a vast improvement over the 13 to 1 ratio that was present in the 1970s. Women obtaining graduate degrees in math are also on the uptick, even though men are still holding 70% of those degrees.

Suggestions for improving this further? The researchers listed:

  • Increase math-certified teachers in schools
  • Work on decreasing the number of children living in poverty
  • Equalize the gender equality gap.

Easier said than done.

lean-in-coverWhen none other than Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says that women “lean away” from challenging jobs in the corporate firmament because they want to off-track sooner than later to have their children, it’s hard to see how society can do even a 180-degree turn toward encouraging girls to pursue studies in science and math.

The really startling insight here is that research over the last half of the twentieth century, especially, has shown that women scientists (if they find the right sponsors and continue their careers while also having children) tend to focus on socially worthy science, such as disease cures, alleviation of poverty, hunger and homelessness, along with other humanitarian concerns. Male scientists have historically focused on research that is more driven toward industrial applications, such as improving military supremacy, space travel optimization and finance.

No wonder that so many female senators, congresswomen, university educators and other like-minded women are advocating the improvement and enhancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education for girls. We can only hope that a high percentage of them apply these skills to making real improvements on all of our lives – especially that of the current generation of their aging parents.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

· “Sex on the Brain: Are boys’ brains different from girls’ brains? Scientists debate the question.” http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2011/11/boys_brains_girls_brains_how_to_think_about_sex_differences_in_psychology_.html

· “Stereotype Threat and Women’s Math Performance” :http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103198913737http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/02/04/science/girls-lead-in-science-exam-but-not-in-the-united-states.html?_r=1&

· “The myth of equality in science classrooms” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.3660200205/abstract

· “Do the Math! Sex Divide Is Cultural, Not Biological” http://www.livescience.com/17429-math-gender-differences-myths.html

Caregiving for Baby Boomers: Blended families have blended loyalties

couple calculatorThe baby boom generation is history-making, life-changing, innovative and unusual.  Boomers take literally the mandate of “…Do not go gentle into that good night.” And the boomer cohort is HUGE.  According to  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, the number of Americans entering retirement age will nearly double by the year 2030. How on earth will we, as a nation, look after the health care of about 72 million older adults with few youngsters to support them financially and physically? Kotlikoff and Burns state in  The Coming Generational Storm, that “by 2030, the senior to kid ratio will be three to one!”

Caregiving is a stressful and exhausting task, even in an “old-fashioned” nuclear family.  My siblings and I continue to struggle with decisions we made (or waited too long to make) regarding both my parents, both of whom are now gone.  While my sister elected to keep Mom close to her, the enormity of the responsibility for my mother’s care took a monumental toll on my sister and her husband – more than anyone else in our family.

Modern blended families add an unprecedented level of complexity to the mix. Second and third marriages create a web of connections (and disconnects), with stepchildren and other more distant family members expressing varying degrees of loyalty and commitment.

Many questions arise:  How involved will children and/or stepchildren be in the long-term care needs of their parents? Who will be required to make difficult decisions if an older person or parent is no longer able to live alone, or make decisions about their own care? In blended families, competing loyalties make these decisions more difficult.

And here is a harsh reality: an older person may wonder if after his death his biological children will treat his surviving spouse, their stepmother, in the same way they treated him.  The grown stepchildren of later baby boom marriages just do not have the same history with the new stepparent, and feel less responsibility to help out.

This  can be viewed as more than a cautionary tale to add to the woes of boomers who currently may be unemployed, under-employed and dealing with the compounded responsibilities of supporting college-age students, eldercare expenses, diminishing home values, and their own health concerns.  Turn it into a call to action: “We will not go gentle into that good night!”

Boomers may be the first generation that made Botox, gym memberships and Spanx as essential as bread and water, but “essentials” take on a whole new meaning in a recession.  Considering that many women (and men) between the ages of 55 and 65 are working two and three jobs, with no healthcare benefits,  and resorting to health regimens that at best are questionable and at worst harmful to their health, and you don’t need a battle cry to realize it’s time for a better plan.

For my husband and me, the fact that we are childless means that we had to become our own caretakers – to a certain limit.  Our plan included buying long-term insurance ten years ago when we watched my father die in pain over the course of two years in nursing homes.  That was our alarm clock: We then put in place concrete goals, decision points and deadlines that included downsizing from the home we had bought 30 years ago when I was a bride, and which we sold several years ago to reducing myriad unnecessary expenses.

By anyone’s definition we do not live a Spartan life!  We bought a vacation home decades ago, when we were just starting our careers.  It has been retreat in more ways than I care to detail here.  In addition, we are in a very small but perfect (for us, anyway) condo near Manhattan (but not in) where we each monitor every financial and health decision, keep necessary costs down and eliminate non-essential expenses, defined as those that would cause us more stress if we indulged in them than if we don’t. What works for us certainly isn’t for everyone else, and we also realize that we are extremely fortunate in being able to live where we want to live, and enjoy what we have.

For other boomers, especially those in blended families where the demarcation lines of responsibility and loyalty give new meaning to the words “blurred” or “nonexistent” I can only offer a lot of empathy and encouragement:  It takes a lot of work and sacrifice to plan for retirement!  Even then, there are no guarantees that your plan will succeed, or that a health threat will not thwart your plan.  Therefore, plan for what you absolutely need as well as for what you want (two different constructs, of course).  Plan well, and monitor your plan diligently so you can shift your priorities when the need arises.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  In other words, do not go gentle into that good night.   Not on your life!

 

SOURCES:

http://www.csa.us/pubs/articles/Journal50_7_mccabe_BlendedFamilyTensions.pdf

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/

American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” survey

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-amy-ziettlow/caregiving_b_1220053.html

The Coming Generational Storm, Kotlikoff and Burns Kotlikoff and Burns

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] “In Blended Families, Responsibility Blurs,” Paula Span, NYTimes, http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/. February 12, 2013

 

 

The baby boom generation is history-making, life-changing, innovative and unusual.  Boomers take literally the mandate of “…Do not go gently into that good night.” And the boomer cohort is HUGE.  According to  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, the number of Americans entering retirement age will nearly double by the year 2030. How on earth will we, as a nation, look after the health care of about 72 million older adults with few youngsters to support them financially and physically? Kotlikoff and Burns state in  The Coming Generational Storm, that “by 2030, the senior to kid ratio will be three to one!”

Caregiving is a stressful and exhausting task, even in an “old-fashioned” nuclear family.  My siblings and I continue to struggle with decisions we made (or waited too long to make) regarding both my parents, especially my mother, who is 89 and ailing in a nursing home located close to my sister’s weekend home.  While my sister elected to keep Mom close to her, the enormity of the responsibility for my mother’s care is taking a monumental toll on my sister and her husband – more than anyone else in our family.     

Modern blended families add an unprecedented level of complexity to the mix. Second and third marriages create a web of connections (and disconnects), with stepchildren and other more distant family members expressing varying degrees of loyalty and commitment.

Many questions arise:  How involved will children and/or stepchildren be in the long-term care needs of their parents? Who will be required to make difficult decisions if an older person or parent is no longer able to live alone, or make decisions about their own care? In blended families, competing loyalties make these decisions more difficult.  

 

And here is a harsh reality: an older person may wonder if after his death his biological children will treat his surviving spouse, their stepmother, in the same way they treated him.  The grown stepchildren of later baby boom marriages just do not have the same history with the new stepparent, and feel less responsibility to help out. This is from the recent New York Times article entitled: “In Blended families, responsibility blurs:  “The ties which lead adult children to become caregivers — depending on how much contact they have with parents, how nearby they live, how obligated they feel — are weaker in stepchildren. “Older couples in this situation fall through the cracks.”[i]

The New York Times article can be viewed as more than a cautionary tale to add to the woes of boomers who currently may be unemployed, under-employed and dealing with the compounded responsibilities of supporting college-age students, eldercare expenses, diminishing home values, and their own health concerns.  Turn it into a call to action: “We will not go gently into that good night!”

Boomers may be the first generation that made Botox, gym memberships and Spanx as essential as bread and water, but “essentials” take on a whole new meaning in a recession.  Considering that many women (and men) between the ages of 55 and 65 are working two and three jobs, with no healthcare benefits,  and resorting to health regimens that at best are questionable and at worst harmful to their health, and you don’t need a battle cry to realize it’s time for a better plan. 

For my husband and me, the fact that we are childless means that we had to become our own caretakers – to a certain limit.  Our plan included buying long-term insurance ten years ago when we watched my father die in pain over the course of two years in nursing homes.  That was our alarm clock: We then put in place concrete goals, decision points and deadlines that included downsizing from the home we had bought 30 years ago when I was a bride, and which we sold last year, to reducing myriad unnecessary expenses. 

By anyone’s definition we do not live a Spartan life!  Today we are in a very small but perfect (for us, anyway) apartment where we each monitor every financial and health decision, keep necessary costs down and eliminate non-essential expenses –defined as those that would cause us more stress if we indulged in them than if we don’t.   What works for us certainly isn’t for everyone else, and we also realize that we are extremely fortunate in being able to live where we want to live, and enjoy what we have. 

For other boomers, especially those in blended families where the demarcation lines of responsibility and loyalty give new meaning to the words “blurred” or “nonexistent” I can only offer a lot of empathy and encouragement:  It takes a lot of work and sacrifice to plan for retirement!  Even then, there are no guarantees that your plan will succeed, or that a health threat will also thwart your plan.  Therefore, plan for what you absolutely need as well as for what you want (two different constructs, of course).  Plan well, and monitor your plan diligently so you can shift your priorities when the need arises.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  In other words, do not go gently into that good night.   Not on your life!

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.csa.us/pubs/articles/Journal50_7_mccabe_BlendedFamilyTensions.pdf

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/

American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” survey

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-amy-ziettlow/caregiving_b_1220053.html

The Coming Generational Storm, Kotlikoff and Burns Kotlikoff and Burns

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i]In Blended Families, Responsibility Blurs,” Paula Span, NYTimes, http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/in-blended-families-responsibility-blurs/. February 12, 2013