Job Hunters Over 40: Time to get past the long, cold winter of discontent

Job Hunters: How to Spring Forward, Make Rain Happen!

men joggingAs we hope and wait for a reasonable weather pattern that actually looks as if it somehow reflects the fact that it’s March, many over-40 executives in transition between jobs, or those who are employed but job-hunting, have been feeling more overwhelmed, discouraged and listless than ever over the past two months. The postponements or outright cancellations of networking meetings, job interviews, valuable education seminars and the like, caused by one of the worst winters in recent memory, have made even the most tenacious procrastinators hope for some kind of deadline, deliverable, or other indicator that they need to be somewhere, produce something, anything, that will want them to get out of their caves (literal or figurative) without having to suit up as if they’re drilling for oil in Alaska!

So here are just a few suggestions to fire up your motivation for a renewed job hunt or career rejuvenation – with the hopes that you become your own “rainmaker” and thaw out your networking and selling skills along the way. After all, we all know we’ll soon have more reasons for sunscreen that don’t have anything to do with protecting ourselves against the glare of bright white ice crystals on a brutal afternoon jog in 18-below on frosted sidewalks!

  1. business cardSpring is a great time for new business cards, especially if you’re re-starting your networking after a few months indoors. I’m astounded at the number of job hunters who, because they’ve left a company’s employ, don’t carry their own business cards! It doesn’t matter who you were at your former company and what you did, if you don’t have a card that tells prospects who you are now, your expertise and what you’re seeking in your next position, you’re communicating that you are in a “holding pattern” with no contact information for the people you meet who actually want to keep your info handy. Always have business cards with you that demonstrate what you’re looking for next in your career.
  2. Where there’s rain, get covered – a cover letter! Many job hunters over 40 fail to realize that cover letters regarding the specific company’s market position, financial profile or other personalized insights can land them in an “A” pile that makes the resume a secondary priority. State your career objectives in cover letters, comment on specifics, detail clearly why you’re interested in the organization, and then customize your resume accordingly.
  3. The only three questions every resume needs to answer. Does your resume sell your strengths, fit and motivation to the organization you’re pitching? Not customizing your resume to serve the type of opportunity you’re seeking is like writing the same ad copy to sell food, wine or electronics. Customize your resume to the company you’re pitching.
  4. It’s spring, do you know where your mentors and sponsors are? Make sure you know the answer to that question by listing all the people you already know that could help you in your job hunt or career moves. Are they connectors, mentors or sponsors? Connectors can help you access information or introductions. Mentors guide and advise. Sponsors – the most valuable resources – are like your personal agents. Sponsors can be advocates and ambassadors for your candidacy. Identify, research and cultivate at least five sponsors. Work that list, contact them for informational interviews by phone or Skype, and persuade them to introduce you to potential hiring managers or clients.
  5. Do it full time, lose the fool time. Yeah, I know, tough love for job hunters, but if you’re really serious about the hunt, you should be working on it at least 9-to-5 every day, and not by surfing job sites, emailing people who don’t know you and, worse, who don’t care. Instead, use your evening and weekend hours to do research on your priority companies and hiring managers, customize your resume, or draft intro letters to those you want to meet. Your weekdays should be spending in meetings with connectors, influencers and hiring managers, attending the strategic networking events these important resources also attend, and getting involved in organizations (including nonprofits) that can help you fill resume gaps.

umbrellaSo, although it seems we’ve had the worst winter on record, and the polar vortex has all but swallowed up our action plans, it’s time to plant new seeds, get the right gear in place, get out there and do more than pray for rain.

Spring forward, Make rain happen!

 

 

 

 

$1,750 or $175,000-Plus – Questions to consider for your own reinvention in 2014

cap and diplomaAs so many of us think about new year’s resolutions to make, many mature professionals consider going back to school to get professional training or expand areas of their intellects that intrigue them. I’m all for that, if you have the time and money to pursue something that will benefit you – financially, emotionally, physically, whatever your motivation.

It so happens that in my business consulting work and the workshops I produce for executives in transition, the most-asked question I get is should I go back and if so, should I pursue an MBA. I’m asked that one a lot because I earned my MBA in mid-career, and over the age of 50. I had a specific goal and plan in mind, and it worked for me.

mba biz cardThe MBA is a hotly discussed degree, for anyone over 21 and up. However, the dollar amounts above, in the title, are not salaries or billable-hour rates but rather tuition ranges for one course – for example, a marketing course at NYU, and the going rate for a two-year Executive MBA program at a top school. So, considering that the costs of earning an MBA today are climbing steadily, executives over 40 need to consider whether the investment in an MBA will be worth it in the long run.

Add to that question, the increasing number of MBAs who are jobless, “aged-out” of the workforce, or under-employed, and the question of whether an MBA is necessary for entrepreneurs is the new twist on what has become the business world’s favorite conundrum: good investment or waste of precious time and money?

Following is a NY Times article that is one of the best I’ve seen on the topic. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get into Stanford or Harvard. Read the piece and decide for yourself, and share your thoughts.

Click here to read NYTimes.com: Assessing Whether Entrepreneurs Should Get M.B.A.’s

 

 

 

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!

What’s the Big Idea? – Inspiration and Cautionary Lessons for Entrepreneurs of All Ages and Motivations from NYU’s Business Plan Competition (Part 1)

nyu sternRecently, I served as a judge in a semi-final event for the 2014 NYU Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan competition, dubbed “The Entrepreneur’s Challenge.” The final event was held last Friday at NYU, capping nine months of preparation by hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs. Comprised of several dozen teams, it was ultimately winnowed down to winners in three categories: Technology ($75,000), Social Enterprise ($50,000) and New Venture in Any Category ($75,000).

Each of the winning ventures had one very compelling characteristic in common. (More about that in a minute.)Some of the young students and seasoned entrepreneurs sitting with me at the event were surprised at the winning selections, but I wasn’t. Having produced, pitched, taught and evaluated business plans and marketing campaigns my whole career, working with fast-talking money-changing Mad Men types, I picked the same winners the official judges did.

So, what exactly does it take to launch, differentiate, compete and scale a business idea into a profitable enterprise that attracts loyal customers, secures investors and thrives until such time as the entrepreneur decides to sell, expand or merge? From the official website of the NYU Entrepreneurs’ Challenge, the following are just some of the criteria, quoted verbatim, italics inserted for emphasis:

“…Not any old ideas. What we’re interested in are disruptive ideas, ideas with the power for great impact and influence. Ideas that challenge assumed boundaries and inspire a sense of what’s possible.

“The $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge provides you with the framework and motivation you’ll need to think and do what no one else is doing…”

Here’s my view of what the judges saw in this year’s winners:

1) Conscious competence – and the commitment, confidence and drive to turn an incipient idea into a viable company, i.e., to “scale.” By the time competitors get to the finals, they have lived, breathed, dreamed and agonized over their business ideas, making dozens of revisions. All of this has helped them further establish and demonstrate their competence, confidence and drive to differentiate, solve true marketplace needs and aspire to be the best solution to those needs.

2) Forget “analysis is paralysis.” In a competitive arena where millions (let alone thousands) of investment dollars and/or sales to consumers are in play, research is king, queen, and master of the universe. The winners demonstrated they had performed painstaking research into and testing of the differentiating strategies, operational levers and financial models that would turn their concept into a business offering worthy of at least initial investment beyond their friends and family. They considered every possible method for launching successfully, accelerating awareness, building positive perceptions and securing attractive customer bases, while also demonstrating they could manage unnecessary costs, fix weaknesses and address threats efficiently and effectively.

3) Practice, practice, practice, and be willing to take and apply what may seem like excruciating advice. The most motivated among the NYU competitors participate in energizing but grueling boot camps and multiple preliminary competitions, representing thousands of collective hours of sweat equity and brainpower expended. If it’s true that to become truly competent, one needs to have engaged in an activity some 10,000 hours, then I suspect the winners did that and more. If you consider yourself an expert already and resist the notion of all but the most essential business advisors, chances are you won’t sustain your business for long or you’ll struggle at some impasse where you absolutely need fresh thinking.

4) A truly differentiated product or service that answers a compelling marketplace need that the new firm can meet better, cheaper or faster than existing products or services. As good as all the finalists were in stating the need for their services and their differentiating competitive advantage, the judges rejected all but the three winners for the following reasons:

a) Unfocused or incorrect strategy: business models that were too complicated or too simplistic to make money and scale sufficiently.

b) Risky operations: underestimating logistical constraints and the inherent costs involved (among them, inventory costs, privacy issues and insurance liabilities); the team’s lack of industry experience; inability to address serious technological challenges.

c) Weak branding and/or lack of a marketing expertise: either too little or too much investment estimated for target audience segmentation, other market research and marketing itself to acquire initial customers, let alone build a brand that would scale, be sustainable and yield ROI in a reasonable amount of time.

So, what was the secret ingredient, the winning factor that distinguished the prize winners? Venture capitalists and other financiers ask a lot of questions regarding the marketplace need for a new offering, and the questions all boil down to this: is your business offering a vitamin or a painkiller? In a similar vein, is your business a pain to use?

nyu stern awardsThe ultimate winners of the NYU competition crafted and made compelling business cases for offerings that addressed marketplace pain. Take a look and see what you might be missing in your own business offering.

 

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.

 

Next: Franchising for Over 40 Executives

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

Part 3: To Plan B, From Point A. 3 Inspiring Stories!

Here is Part Three in a series of blogs featuring three amazing women.

The first featured Jan Mercer Dahms, the founder of image consulting and brand experience management company: JanMercerDahms.com. Read the blog here

The second blog, from last week, featured Christi Scofield, President and Founder of Ice Breaker Entertainment: www.icebreakerentertainment.com. This is a highly successful (and fun!) consumer products company selling books, games, school supplies, t-shirts, iPhone apps, and more. Read the blog here

A recent networking event held in New York City, and hosted by Jan Mercer Dahms, perfectly captured its theme and promise of inspiring women who want to get “From Point A to Plan B.” The event featured three of my new favorite inspiring women entrepreneurs, all of whom DARE beyond what’s expected of them, and not one of them comes off as “super-woman.”

What they do possess is tremendous DRIVE; they work hard to ADVANCE their plans – and to refresh or reboot when necessary; they want to RULE their platforms, in the most productive and constructive way possible; and they are all at a point in their lives where they want to EXPRESS their experience and expertise.

Enjoy a snapshot of each woman’s story and be inspired!

gurjot3) Gurjot Sidhu: http://www.gurjotnewyork.com, is an upscale clothing firm whose CEO, GurjotSidhu, was a management consultant in one of the top tier firms.

Management consultant-turned-fashion designer, GurjotSidhu recognized first-hand the need for high-quality, conservative and comfortable business wear for women executives. Women who work in consulting run very long hours, and have to look as fresh at an important client dinner as they did on the early morning flight that took them there two time zones ago.

Gurjot designs lines of custom business attire for women that, while stylish, speak of gravitas and professionalism without smacking of old-style 80s power suits. Rather, her designs are flattering without being revealing, and conservative without the boxy look that so many of us remember. While polished and buttoned-up for the boardroom, they are also conducive to long business travel, given her use of the highest quality, natural, breathable fabrics.

Originally from Chicago, Gurjot received her MBA from the University of Chicago, before her successful career in management consulting for the retail, tech, and banking industries. But Gurjot’s lifelong fashion-passion (she studied at the renowned Fashion Institute of Technology in New York) led her to her current path. Combining her talents, skills, and passion, her clothing line is fashion created FOR a businesswoman, BY a businesswoman.

Just as with Christi Scofield, what I love about Gurjot is her refreshing candor, especially given her experience and expertise in two fields – management consulting and fashion – that are not known for their, shall we say, “warm and friendly” cultures. What’s more she shared some of the many challenges she experienced as a wife and mother as she made the decision to pursue fashion design instead of continuing with what many would consider a high-powered career in management consulting. She said that even telling her friends in the suburbs that she was going into New York to attend F.I.T. was a challenge! Wow – Gurjot is just the kind of friend any woman – in business or other worthwhile pursuit – would be lucky to have.

Check out GurjotNewYork.com

Part 2: To Plan B, From Point A. 3 Inspiring Stories!

Here is Part Two in a series of blogs featuring three amazing women. The first, from last week, featured Jan Mercer Dahms, the founder of image consulting and brand experience management company: JanMercerDahms.com.

A recent networking event held in New York City, and hosted by Jan, perfectly captured its theme and promise of inspiring women who want to get “From Point A to Plan B.” The event featured three of my new favorite inspiring women entrepreneurs, all of whom DARE beyond what’s expected of them, and not one of them comes off as “super-woman.”

What they do possess is tremendous DRIVE; they work hard to ADVANCE their plans – and to refresh or reboot when necessary; they want to RULE their platforms, in the most productive and constructive way possible; and they are all at a point in their lives where they want to EXPRESS their experience and expertise.

christi scofieldEnjoy a snapshot of each woman’s story and be inspired!

2) Christi Scofield, President and Founder, Ice Breaker Entertainment. On any given day, at any hour, or especially if you’re having a really bad day- run, don’t walk, to Christi Scofield’s website. Between your hooting and hollering with joy at all the hilarious things to buy, try and contain your envy and admiration for this boundlessly cheery entrepreneur’s whimsy and wisdom. Just because she founded a company I only wish I could have started – if I had her charm, tenacity and sense of humor – is something I got over quickly. Not only is it fun, but it is brilliant! And, so is she.

One evening after a long day of skiing, Christi decided there just wasn’t a good board game to keep her and her friends amused for the evening, so she just decided to develop her own! “Sexy Slang” was born, along with the company she founded, “Icebreaker Entertainment.” The company’s mission is to make high-quality products that will make people laugh and be the hit of the party. Christi held on to her day job in technology sales at HP while developing and testing the game with family and friends.

When the “Sexy Slang” board game took off, she expanded into clothing, taking some of the board game terms and recreating them on t-shirts. Christi’s creative entrepreneurial brain went on to develop products with double-entendres such as notebooks called “Eye Candy” and “Talk Nerdy To Me” and t-shirts with a “Stud Muffin” design that even the most curmudgeonly guy would have to love.

Her company grew from a single board game to a highly successful consumer products company selling books, games, school supplies, t-shirts, iPhone apps, and more. Her products have made it onto the shelves of several large retailers, among them: Kohl’s, Sears, Spencer Gifts, and Walmart, in addition to smaller retail shops. This is an amazing testament in an industry that is notoriously hard on suppliers and where the competition for shelf space is extremely tight. Definitely her own t-shirt should read, “Not your average smart cookie.”

What I love about Christi is her complete and utter candor about what she worries about relative to running and growing her business. Many entrepreneurs speak to how much fun they’re having working IN their business, as does Christi, but she is also rightly focused on working ON her business – the strategy, operations, marketing and finance aspects of it that will help it thrive if the fun ever wears off. Although she too earned an MBA, she is refreshing in that she admits she may not have all the answers, but she doggedly pursues the big questions. A good idea, even for women who don’t aspire to be entrepreneurs.

To Plan B, From Point A. 3 Inspiring Stories of Over-40 Entrepreneurs!

A recent networking event held in New York City perfectly captured its theme and promise of inspiring women who want to get “From Point A to Plan B.” The event featured three of my new favorite, inspiring, over-40 women entrepreneurs, all of whom DARE beyond what’s expected of them, and not one of them comes off as “super-woman.”

What they do possess is tremendous DRIVE; they work hard to ADVANCE their plans – and to refresh or reboot when necessary; they want to RULE their platforms, in the most productive and constructive way possible; and they are all at a point in their lives where they want to EXPRESS their experience and expertise.

Here is the first in a series of blogs featuring three amazing women.

Enjoy a snapshot of each woman’s story and be inspired!

jan mercer dahms1) Jan Mercer Dahms: Founder of image consulting and brand experience management company: JanMercerDahms.com

The host of the “From Point A to Plan B” event,  Jan Mercer Dahms, has been bringing together women in various venues in Manhattan over the past year, through her national networking group for successful executive women, known as“6-Figures – Professional Women. Her generosity in sharing her experience and expertise as a nonprofit executive is as powerful as her drive in planning and staging her events. Jan also happens to be the very busy CFO of International Planned Parenthood.

Wearing multiple hats at the same time seems perfect for her. As she puts it, “it keeps the creative juices flowing freely.” Entrepreneurial through and through, her career has spanned fashion, cosmetics, dermatological pharmaceuticals, media, and education. With an MBA in International Business, Jan has held executive-level finance positions, including leadership positions for organizations such as Teach For America and Medicis Pharma. In 2010, she launched Jan Mercer Dahms & Co.

What I love about Jan is her enthusiasm about her work as a cause, one that brings together like-minded motivated women who share their challenges as well as triumphs in the world of work. I know this because I practically monopolized her at another event recently, asking her dozens of questions regarding a nonprofit that I am interested in. Jan patiently answered all of them, and then some. I also learned that she is originally from Nebraska, and since the Midwest has always been the bastion of courteous and kind personalities, then Jan Mercer Dahms should be its official ambassador!

For more information about Jan Mercer Dahms, click here

Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon!

I will be featuring:

Christi Scofield, President and Founder, Ice Breaker Entertainment: www.icebreakerentertainment.com, a highly successful consumer products company selling books, games, school supplies, t-shirts, iPhone apps, and more.

AND

Gurjot Sidhu, CEO and founder of Gurjot NewYork: www.gurjotnewyork.com, an upscale clothing firm for women.

 

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.