Working at Home over 40 – Fast Track to Middle-Aged Wasteland?

gray haird woman computerWorking from home, on your home, or partial telecommuting?  With each passing year I meet more and more people who work from home for a variety of reasons, and despite what at first might seem like oceans of free time or an infinite flexibility in managing one’s own time, the reality is often the exact opposite.  And, what often suffers in all the time constraints is one’s own physical and emotional health.  Even if your home-based reality is for the most part a pleasant one, there are going to be days when all you want to do is pull on the sweatpants, slash open the potato chips, and giggle through a marathon of Modern Family reruns!

Not only is the middle-aged mind a terrible thing to waste, but your mind is a muscle that needs rebooting all the time! So, let’s accentuate the positive in looking at  how to make the WFH environment more conducive to physical and psychological health.    There are many productive and positive reasons to work at home, and many ways to offset the challenges that come with feeling “marooned” in a home office.  Here are just a few:

Some people are working in their own businesses, or working with employers whose business models enable or require working from home, whether it’s full-time at home or flex-time.   If you don’t have to report to an office even part of the time, that’s all the more reason to get out to breakfast, lunch or drinks with colleagues or other people in your industry – even if it’s in an online gathering.   

Many people are working on their homes, or inside their homes, in some way while also earning a living.  Working on a home could mean prepping for a sale, or downsizing and the clearing out that comes with both those transitions.  Or, it could involve taking care of children and elderly parents – many boomers are doing both while also working full time.   

During really hectic times in your life, push yourself to carve out time just for you.  I force myself to exercise several mornings a week, while it’s still really early, just so that I don’t spend my entire morning binge-watching cable or locked to news reports on screens.  If I do that, then the rest of my day is spent doing something for someone else.

Others are working at home only until …  Here, just fill in the blanks to suit your own situation.  It’s all the more important to be in “work-style mindset.”   Job-hunters are the people I empathize with the most, because their identities are about work (work clothes, work habits, work skills), and they can’t predict how long the job search might be.  Prepping or waiting for calls or emails about leads, decisions and other search issues is happening at home these days for more and more people.  It takes Herculean effort to bound out of bed, get to the gym or outdoors, or do an online workout.  For sure, those are the days when you have to get out of the sweatpants and plan on healthful foods that will make you actually feel good, and schedule meetings – online or outside your home.

In the winter months when the weather is bleaker, it’s worse – but you have to get over it and get out!  I get invited to lots of networking events – I could be out every night of the week!  Some are well worth the outing, but others are not as productive.  Regardless, I still push myself to go out on most nights.  Engaging with other people – especially people who are different than you, is the best way to enhance your social skills, broaden your horizons and make you more productive in your work at home.

 

Are you sure you know your strengths? Try the Strengths Finder Test.

StrengthsFinder 2.0As we’re all looking for positive thoughts these days,  let’s focus on less on what we’re doing “wrong” or what we have to “do less of” or “give up”… [or insert vice of your choice] in order to lose the weight, stop smoking, find a new job, etc. and focus on what’s good, strong and forward-thinking.  

There’s a better way to focus on the positive as opposed to everything you think is just plain wrong. Focus instead on STRONG. Ask yourself: Are you doing what you are best at every day, and if so, do you love doing it? I’m not talking about what you’re told you’re good at, or the things you’re good at that you get paid to do. I am talking about your real strengths. If you are doing what you love, you are using your strengths.

But don’t just take my word for it, because it’s not my original idea. It is the brainchild of those brainy people at Gallup.You know Gallup: the people who pose a lot of questions about a lot of things to a lot of different people, from every walk of life. A few years ago, Gallup came up with a survey/test to help people discover what they’re good at and what they’re passionate about – two very different constructs.

If you’re confused about this idea, then consider taking the Strengths Finder Test. This is a test, and book, that Gallup introduced in 2001 (and again in 2007 with an updated version, StrengthsFinder 2) to help people discover their top talents and skills.

I know we all think we know what our strengths are – I mean, seriously, over 50 we have a clue, don’t we? But I have to say, I believe this test can help, if we take it every few years. It will re-inform you, or inform you in a new area, or re-motivate you in your life path, career, or job choice. Or it may simply help you focus and polish the areas in which you are strongest.

Here are a few ways the book and test can help you:

  • Career planning – You can find and polish the areas for which you are best equipped in your work or career choice.
  • Team building – You work better with others when you really understand your own individuals strengths.
  • Improving work performance – When you know and understand your strengths, you’re more able to channel your energies to work more effectively.
  • Interview preparation – You will find that the results of your StrengthsFinder test will really empower you when that interview question pops up: “Can you tell me what your strengths are?”

I have taken it once since its new iteration, but it remains valuable to me every time I look at the list of strengths, their analyses and the concomitant advice they offer. The author, Tom Rath, states that we are better off cultivating our strengths, rather than spending too much time trying to improve our areas of weakness, as we are often taught to do here in the US.I agree!

Rooted in more than 40 years of research, this assessment is a real powerhouse! Check it out!

Click here for more info: Strengths Finder Test.

 

Hello, your insurance company called. They want your baggy pants back.

The realities of working from home for many people have hit home whether we want them to or not, and whether we like working from home or not.  

Here’s a wake-up call you can’t ignore: Statistics from almost every insurance company show people telecommuting for work gain weight faster and have a harder time losing it than those who go out to work every day! We tend to underestimate the expenditure of energy it takes to get up, get showered, get ready, get dressed and get out the door – all the mundane tasks we don’t really think of as physical exercise but which burn calories. Hey, just blasting a hair dryer for 14 minutes during weeks when I’m sorely overdue at my hairdresser’s (like today) causes me to fume to the point where I just know I’m burning up some extra calories!

File:RIAN archive 555848 Testing on treadmill.jpgWe all know that 24/7 screen time not only takes away from our physical activity, but interferes with sleep, which then negatively impacts our ability to do productive work.  On top of that, not being mindful of how much comfort food we’re eating also packs on the pounds.

However, food manufacturers always get blamed for making people fat, but they could be a boon to consumers who want to think inside the box when planning healthful meals. Frozen processed foods, eaten in moderation, are a secret weapon of people who really want to lose weight but hate the whole planning, measuring, chopping, cooking and clean-up work. When I lost 60 pounds several years ago, and managed to keep all but 7 pounds off, I relied a lot on frozen meals. I would much rather spend my creativity on real work rather than cooking and cleaning. Besides, all that prepping tends to make me munch between chopping, since it takes so much time before I actually sit down to eat my meal!

The key benefit of frozen meals is portion control. If Lean Cuisine and similar lines are too “mini-meal” for you, add a big salad, cut your dressing with lemon juice and make sure you have satisfying vegetables with your meal. Bottom-line is that the food industry doesn’t lift that high calorie snack bar or bag of chips to your mouth again and again. And, if you’re not commuting regularly and your office is in or near the kitchen, it’s just too easy to grab the snacks and lose perspective.

Get dressed in clean clothes every day. Yes, seriously. I know it’s been said before – in some good ways, actually: “Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up.” You may be fighting some depression, some rejection, some anxiety, or even the stubborn remnants of winter’s SAD disorder (Seasonal Affective Disorder- try some full spectrum light bulbs for that). But this can help: put on real clothes, something that makes you look put together. It will prepare you for the day in a way that working in your secret pajama bottoms just can’t.

File:Skinny20080428.jpgHang up your “5-pounds-to-go” jeans (or slinky dress, etc.) where you can see them all the time. I don’t mean your skinny-skinny-skinny jeans that would require liposuction for you to get back into, but something attainable that will help keep you out of the refrigerator or the cookie jar. A colleague of mine hung hers OVER the refrigerator, so that she would have to actually move the jeans in order to open the door to the fridge. May be a bit extreme, but she swears it mortified her into shape.

Consider getting a Soda Stream water carbonator. No, I’m not paid by them, nor do I have shares in the company. It’s just a really good idea. Coffee with sugar and cream in it, fruit juice, lattes and sodas, all have calories that we forget to count, and come with other negative health effects. Instead, Soda Stream will help you drink more calorie-less plain seltzer water with ice, or lightly flavored with a touch of lemon, lime, grape juice, etc.

Set a timer to go off once an hour to take a break. So many of us are as focused as we are sedentary, even eating our lunch at our home office desk or table. The New York Times routinely publishes research about the importance of getting up and moving – for our brains as well as the rest of our bodies.  Every hour, when your timer dings, get up, run up and down the stairs, or do a few minutes of jump-rope. Even do ten push ups and ten sit ups, if this doesn’t leave you in a sweaty heap. It is the movement, the increase to your circulation and metabolism that we are after here. Some blood to the brain. Refresh and recharge and feel better.

These are just a few ways to accentuate the positive, focusing on the things to actually do rather than not do, to charge yourself up.  Whether you’re working from home temporarily, or for the foreseeable future, make sure you get yourself in a productive work mindset, get dressed, put on some music, keep moving and refresh your brain at least once an hour.

As for those baggy pants, tell your insurance company they’re just for sleeping – which you try to do for at least 7 hours – or the temporary bottoms of your Zoom, Webex or GoToMeeting uniform.   

 


[i]http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/12/telecommuting_may_be_terrible_for_your_work_life_balance.html

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 to get outside and enjoy warm weather, 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, 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 (in some cases, out of their pajamas) 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 refresh your networking and selling skills along the way.  

  1. business cardThis could be 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, or are on LinkedIn, 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 show-time, 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. 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 (online or IRL) with connectors, influencers and hiring managers, plugging in to 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 half-year on record, and the universe 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!

 

 

 

 

Plant Seeds of Renewal in Your Brain this Spring!

plant-164500_640This year, it seems like there is no spring season in sight… for so many reasons.   

It could be the best opportunity to plant seeds of renewal in our brains. Here are 7 SEEDS of ideas to get you growing and sowing. After all, Mother Nature herself needed seven days to get the earth in BLOOM, and even SHE rested!

  1. To PLANT your SEEDS of accomplishment for this year, first decide what you want to reap. Do you want to learn valuable new skills, gear up for a brand new, exciting and fulfilling career? Develop new connections, friendships and relationships? Maybe you have an even loftier goal, such as starting a business. Decide what you want your full-blown PLANTS to look like, and get to making it happen. 
  2. Once you determine how you want your flourishing GARDEN to look, you need a plan to make it happen. If you want to learn a new skill, why not sign up now for a finance class, a computer class, a graphic design or writing class, or music lessons? Why not learn a new language?
  3. If your goal is finding a new career, it’s never a bad time to set up informational interviews or networking sessions where you talk with people about their jobs and figure out whether their career might be a perfect career for you. People you want to know are ready to come out of retreat for a quick lunch or espresso – online or IRL. 
  4. If you have to literally crack open your copy of What Color is Your Parachute, then don’t wait for evidence of moth larvae infestation between the pages before you buy yourself the new edition. No one writes about career reinvention, midlife crises or having a “Plan B” the way that Richard Nelson Bolles does.
  5. If you haven’t taken a career assessment test since you wore miniskirts the first decade they were in style (which would also be the decade that Cher could scowl and smirk with the lips, eyes and forehead that Mother Nature gave her), then sign up to take a Myers-Briggs personality test (www.mbticomplete.com). Even though Myers-Briggs experts say that your personality traits stay the same as you move through your life, taking the test again will reaffirm for you who you are today, and what type of job would be a good fit for your personality now. At the very least, it’s a way to PLANT new SEEDS in your own head, and then in others’ heads.
  6. Speaking of heads, two (or more) heads are sometimes better than one. If you want to develop new networks of friends or relationships, make sure you have a profile on a business social network like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), or update your professional profile, and make plans with people whom you haven’t seen in years. Or, how about hosting a dinner party for six friends that you think would have fun together brainstorming the next move in their lives – even if you have to order in? Or, go to a panel sponsored by your alma mater or the local YMCA, so you can be exposed to new ideas while meeting new people.
  7. Finally, this might not sound like an activity for a “day of rest” but if your daydreaming time tends to veer toward visions of having your own business, maybe this is the perfect time to PLANT the SEEDS for that. Decide what type of business you want to start that fits in with the rest of your goals in life. In entrepreneurial finance, the term “lifestyle business” is used to define a business that will also allow you to have a normal life. And, we’re all for that! Start researching the industry you’re thinking about entering, and the companies that might be your competition. Then think about what you would need to do to put together a kick-butt business plan. 

    SEED that need and get yourself in full BLOOM!

 

Are You Suffering from Deadline Dandruff? Here’s How to MAKE SOME HEADWAY!

deadlines clockAre you procrastinating? Most mature professionals are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, and often fear or resist tackling something out of their comfort zone. The reason, subconscious or otherwise, is that they think, after that’s done, well, then what? Or, they postpone finishing up a project or relationship or other endeavor because their daily lives demand it. For them, it’s other people’s priorities that drive them.

Other women turn prioritizing, organizing and meeting deadlines into a science; still others know it’s closer to an art. Even then, their to-do lists are filled with what amounts to “deadline dandruff” rather than actual “Big Deal” accomplishments that help them move forward toward a significant goal. So, what have they actually accomplished – except to knock some deadline dandruff off their minds, without actually making any – pardon the pun – HEADWAY.

But there comes a point in our lives or schedules or to-do lists that we realize it’s later than we think. It’s now or never. If not now, then when? One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, writes in his kick-ass book called Linchpin that at some point you have to be content with “good enough,” and moving quickly to get the mundane things on your to-do list out of the way, off the list, done, and done.

Godin calls it “SHIPPING” – as in, get it out the door! On the other hand, SHIPPING is hard. SHIPPING means you’re acknowledging that you have only so much time in your life to perfect the project, or resuscitate the relationship, or primp up the place before you have to declare it whipped, zipped and shipped. We all tend to seek out something to tackle that will soothe or entertain our frazzled nerves right now, because it’s so much easier than doggedly completing a really critical task or a long overdue project that will deliver actual benefits.

So, go ahead, Ship it! Schedule it, work on it, get it done. Whip it! Zip it! Ship it! Stop procrastinating! This will help:

1) Create a to-do list that has a BIG-THREE, MUST-DO-TODAY mandate. This may seem like “duh.” But limiting yourself to those BIG-THREE, MUST-DO-TODAY on some days, helps you prioritize what’s really critical. Even if those BIG-THREE items have multiple parts, just getting past those smaller hurdles will help you conquer the BIG THREE. But remember, writing it down is important, but merely writing it down WON’T MAKE IT HAPPEN. We have to actually take action and do that thing that’s long overdue. Recent studies are showing that writing things down and telling people you’re “doing that” can actually delude us into thinking we’ve actually DONE IT – and we know the truth. It doesn’t get done until you get it done – or SHIPPED!

2) Do the hard one first. Tackle that biggest looming item first. It will give you a boost, (and a sense of relief) which will help you finish the other jobs more easily.

deadlines eat that frogBrian Tracey calls this “Eating the Frog.” Check out his book, Eat That Frog, 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. He doesn’t delve too deeply into the psychological whys and wherefores of procrastination, but goes straight to the “do” heart of the matter. In clear and concise terms he instructs you to tackle your “frog,” that one task that will lend the greatest results first. Eating that biggest, ugliest frog on your to do list each morning can greatly increase your sense of accomplishment. This book is an easy read, and it might be a good one to read before going to sleep, since that supposedly aids in moving your unconscious self to action.

3) Do 15-minute-drills: Fake yourself out. Just tell yourself, “I will do only 15 minutes on this job, and then I can do something else.” Very often, you get into a groove, lose track of the time, and you find you are still working at it after the 15 minutes is up. But remember, you have to SHIP it by an urgent deadline – imposed by you or someone else.

4) Clear away distractions. Turn off your phone, log OUT of Facebook or Pinterest, try noise-cancelling headphones, and put your novel, i-pod, or whatever, in another room.

5) Let go of perfectionism. Don’t wait for the “right” time, or the “right” piece of software before you can complete the job. Remember, Voltaire said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Aim for excellent, not perfect.

6) Promise yourself a reward: A treat you can look forward to will provide
some additional incentive to get the job done. Or tell yourself you can’t have
that Starbucks coffee or hot chocolate until you have completed the task;
negative reinforcement sometimes works as well!

There are many more helpful ideas 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. Here are a few:

1. 90-Day ACTion PLAN: DARE to establish and commit to conscientious habits for achieving your Aims. You need an ACTion plan that requires you to tackle at least one Aim every day that will get your closer to ADVANCE your PLAN, and it is helpful to manage our time in chunks, so we can see three months out.

2. Design your life: Looking back on your life in your 80s or 90s, what would you like your life to look like? How can you make changes today so that Design is enacted?

3. Know your three most important Aims you have for your life, career, and community. What do you need to do to enhance your ideal Design?

4. Identify three ACTS toward any of those Aims that you could start in the next three months, and the resources you will Access & Approach to help you. 90-day plans, why they help manage chunks of our time so we see three months out.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


© The DARE-Force Corporation, 2015.

Check out Liz Weinmann’s 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, by Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA. All rights reserved.

All of the content on this website and in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation are based on sound business principles and practices of strategy, operations, leadership and marketing, and on current and emerging trends in those referenced business principles and practices. None of the content on this website, nor in the other content-driven products and services of The DARE-Force Corporation, are intended to be, nor should they be, perceived as, practiced as, or applied as, counsel, diagnosis, or treatment for any implicit or explicit mental, emotional or physical health challenges.

 

 

 

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

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.