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

“The rise of older women as ‘encore entrepreneurs’ ” By Jane O’Brien BBC, Washington

bbc logoI am thrilled to have been interviewed by the BBC!

“A growing number of women aged over 50 are setting up their own businesses. Jane O’Brien reports on the rise of the ‘encore entrepreneurs’.”

Here is an excerpt, and you can read the entire article here: BBC.Co.Uk/news

The rise of older women as ‘encore entrepreneurs.’ By Jane O’Brien, BBC, Washington.

“Liz DiMarco Weinmann now helps other women over 40 to start new careers.

“Liz DiMarco Weinmann was sitting in her New York office on the morning of 11 September 2001 when two planes flew into the Twin Towers.

“As with many Americans that day, the experience changed her life.

“I looked out the window and saw the buildings fall, and decided I had sold enough soap and cereal,” she recalls.

“Ms. DiMarco Weinmann left her corporate job as a marketing consultant earning a high six-figure salary and spent the next few years trying to find something more meaningful.”

READ MORE

Turning Points & Touch Points: A Workshop for Mid-Career Women – 90 days in 90 minutes

nywici logo color of WOn October 24th, I conducted a workshop for the members of the New York Women in Communications community. NYWICI represents women who work in the media industries: publishing, advertising, PR, and related professions, and many of the women in attendance were in transition because of downsizing, job threats and other challenges. But in that room, they were empowered and enthusiastic! It was proof positive for me that a group ideation session is so much more powerful than individual brainstorming.

What a fascinating evening, working with a group of such strong, dynamic women, and given the chaotic state of the media industries – and I mean that in the plural! Opening the workshop, I shared some of my story, and the many roadblocks that led me to pursue an MBA late in my career. Many of the attendees related to the “been there, done that” element of my career choices and events, and shared their similar experiences with me at the breaks and following the workshop.

Many of the women were surprised to learn that the leadership case histories in business school are mostly about men, written by men, for men. While studying leadership, I realized there was an appalling lack of female representation in the hundreds of case studies about men, so chose to focus on women’s leadership for my master’s thesis, inspired by women who reinvented themselves, later in life.

book cover sharpenedGoing on to write 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, was not only a catharsis for me but has become an area of expertise I am pleased to pay forward for men and women over 40. The book, which has been described as an “empowerment guide,” provides insights, techniques and tactics for developing a personal strategy and career plan. So many of the women I researched are now inspiration for the women I am meeting in career workshops, college courses, online and at all sorts of sponsored events in various venues.

Here are just a few of the women I researched, whose careers inspired the book, and the modern lessons they can teach us.

  • Juliette Gordon Low, who formed the Girl Scouts when she was 52 years old

Juliette was deaf in one ear in her 20s and in an accident at her own wedding became deaf in her other ear. Twenty years later and divorced, she formed the Girl Scouts, which now has 3.2 million members. Modern lesson: You are NEVER too old to start something new!

  • Jean Nidetch, who formed Weight Watchers in her 40s

Jean was an overweight Long Island housewife, who realized having a support group to help her lose weight was better than doing it alone – which leads me to one of my favorite quotes, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,” ~ Helen Keller. Modern lesson: Never underestimate the power of one determined women to cajole her friends into losing weight, saving money, introducing them to their next job, love interest, fantastic apartment, whatever!

  • Mary Kay Ash, who formed Mary Kay Cosmetics at 45

Mary Kay was divorced and pissed when passed over for a promotion. She quit in order to start her own company, with her new husband. One month before the launch he died of a heart attack. Then one month after his death, she went ahead with Mary Kay Cosmetics. Modern Lesson: When life gives you lemons, squeeze them in other people’s eyes; then sell them some mascara!

  • Julia Child, who wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking when she was 49 years old. Ms. Child became famous for her rule of the culinary world, a second career she began in earnest over the age of 50, after enduring punishing treatment by male chefs who wouldn’t take her seriously in the kitchen. Modern Lesson: Do what you love, the money will follow, and you’ll leave others in the dust.

During the workshop, I split the room into small groups where everyone was encouraged to discuss a career challenge. Then I asked them to discuss where and how they could take action against that challenge in the next 90 days. By the end of the brainstorm, they all had their own 90-day plans.

Here are the 10 key points I made in my workshop, which I always recommend for all executives over 40:

  1. Even if you think you’re in a permanent job, you’re really not. These days we are all consultants.
  2. We all think about what we want to do next – think about looking back to the future, as it were – what do you want to say when you look back on your career 10, 20 years from now?
  3. Think about hurdles that are stopping you from doing what you want and what the actions you can take to start advancing you towards your goal.
  4. Only women would think that asking for something like a raise, promotion or transfer means they’re being too aggressive.
  5. Because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should keep doing it – think about your strengths and what you like doing. Think about how that could lead to your next job.
  6. The biggest thing holding us back is the ‘F’ word – Fear – fear of change, the unknown, failure, success – the key is to reach through the fear and make the time to make it happen.
  7. Figure out how to be just the right amount of aggressive.
  8. Getting out of your office can help you in the office – as you can bring back new ideas and a new perspective.
  9. Go toward “the other” – people who are different than you. For example, other age groups, other cities, other ethnic groups, other industries, other faiths – to learn more about the world as it is really is today: uber-connected in more ways that we ever thought possible.
  10. We all need a plan B: think of the “B” as the Business of YOU… Figure out a way to have something that only belongs to you, that is uniquely yours, that will become your brand as well as your stock portfolio, even if you never launch or sell any other product or service but yourself. That’s your most valuable asset.

All in all, I hope that listening to me during a workshop is not unlike listening to your best friend or older sister, a woman who isn’t afraid to “tell you like it is,” and to “get up, get off it and get moving!” Well, OK, it’s more like having Joan Rivers yammering in one ear while Mother Teresa is consoling you in the other.

The best part was that I made a whole new batch of friends, as I heard from many of the women who attended, and of course, LinkedIn with them online and in coffee shops around the city we all love. As I said at the top of this blog: I could brainstorm or email all day from my laptop but there’s nothing more powerful than real connections made in a group discussion about something so powerful, energizing and motivating about taking stock, taking action and taking charge of the rest of our lives! Go DARE!

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

© The DARE-Force Corporation, 2013.

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.

 

 

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.

 

It’s Never Too Early and Never Too Late – Two young enterprising careerists demonstrate.

Most of us by now have learned that using the term “seasoned executive” is a sure turnoff to many of today’s younger hiring managers, some of whom look as if they could be our kids but in fact are now our supervisors. They’re learning early how to Drive, Advance, Rule and Express their Experience and Expertise.

Make no mistake that they are running the new world, and we must run along with them, run faster than them, or run and hide from them. For me and other women over 40 who DARE, the last choice isn’t even an option. I say we challenge ourselves to run along with them and champion them to win – the pie is big enough for all of us.

Chardia Christophe

Chardia Christophe

Two phenomenal young 20-something women I met several months ago illustrate this point. At the behest of a friend, I attended an evening networking event sponsored by New York Women in Communications, being held at an Upper West Side restaurant in a very fashionable neighborhood in New York City.

Among the young women we observed scooping up guacamole, slurping mixed cocktails, and balancing their tiny frames on vertiginously high heels that evening were Micaela and Chardia Christophe. Two utterly charming twin sisters, both have been working and learning about business since their early teens. Micaela manages showroom merchandising projects at Donghia, a high-end home furnishings company featuring textiles, lighting and accessories. Chardia works for American Express, managing the marketing for a wine club along  with other member affinity clubs under such luxury brands as Food & Wine, Sky Guide, and Departures.  Chardia has a Master’s in Communication Studies; Micaela is pursuing her MBA in Marketing.

micaela christophe

Micaela Christophe

Even a few of those remarkable accomplishments would place them high on my list of “young professionals I would love to mentor/sponsor/adopt.” On top of that, they are extremely endearing, fascinating and fascinated about everything, and hilariously funny because of their complete and utter curiosity and genuine appreciation for every opportunity they have to advance their careers constructively and productively, make their parents proud and have as much fun as possible doing it.

Following is just some of the wise advice Micaela and Chardia offered when they spoke to my Marketing Planning class at NYU. They didn’t merely shoot from the hip; they did a full-blown Power-Point presentation. Their advice is as suitable for 60-somethings as it is for 20-somethings. I’ve paraphrased only slightly for space and context, adding my own two cents- type comments here and there.

1. Get engaged in the industry you wish to be in – especially if you’re job-hunting. The ladies’ specific advice:

  • Follow powerful people you admire or would like to network with on Twitter and LinkedIn. Comment politely on their background or posts.
  • Volunteer at events whenever you can.
  • Go to mixers and network strategically.

2. Professionalize your phone presence and voice messages. The ladies’ advice:

  • Be sure your outgoing message as well as the ones you leave for others are friendly and professional.
  • If you are trying to persuade busy executives, script out what you want to say, because very few executives pick up their own phones, and assistants will happily put you into voice mails.
    My own two cents: Record and listen to your cadence and delivery (this goes for oral presentations in general). Be especially cognizant of what I see in women of all ages, the telltale “uptick” at the end of declarative sentences as if they were questions.

3. Check your email, at least three times a day; being responsive is a highly valued trait.
My two cents: if you truly cannot respond in a day, at least acknowledge the email within 24 hours and/or default to an “out of office” notice so your lack of reply doesn’t seem discourteous. If you’re like me and running through airports mowing down baby strollers and old people, you’re probably not interested in email as much as you are in food and bathroom facilities.

4. Be careful with your wardrobe. Remember to “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.”
My two cents: nothing saddens me more than to see a woman over 40 dressed slovenly or in sweat pants in public unless said woman is: a) escaping from an Outward Bound retreat; b) coming or going to the gym; c) appearing in public that way before dawn, in which case “slovenly” might be most handy caffeine-procurement garb, in which case, perfectly suitable!

5. Utilize your friends and contacts courteously when job hunting. The ladies’ advice: Reach out to all your contacts and let people know you’re looking. People like to help, and they can’t if you haven’t asked them! Looking for a job IS YOUR JOB.
My two cents: regarding your friends and contacts, do ASK, don’t demand; accommodate their schedules, don’t impose; be geo-friendly – don’t specify neighborhoods you’d prefer to meet when time is tight for the people you’re asking!

6. Practice, Practice, Practice. The ladies’ advice:

  • Go through the possible interview questions until you’re blue in the face.
  • Know the company well, so well that you feel confident and comfortable.
  • Remind yourself of the value of direct eye contact with the interviewer. As you practice, look in a mirror to be sure your body language is relaxed and strong, that you are not fidgeting.
  • Try out your wardrobe choice in advance.
    My two cents: when you’ve done so much research on the firm and reviewed your resume to the point where you could recite it from memory, group all of your benefits to the employer into these three “bundles:” strengths, motivation and fit. Trust me, ALL interview questions fall into those areas, and ALL of them must reflect what the employer most wants that you are willing to deliver to get the job.

7. Go to ALL interviews. Consider them networking opportunities, even if you do not get the job. You never know who knows who.
My two cents: AMEN to that, for sure! It also helps to have a strategic job-hunting plan, and identify the kinds of people you most need to cultivate.

8. Use good online Resources: Media Bistro, Indeed, LinkedIn – all are good for a variety of jobs. There are new online career sites emerging every day.
My two cents: Don’t forget that most hiring managers either hire from within or hire someone they know and trust. More than that, you need to research and secure a SPONSOR. (See my previous blogs for more on working with sponsors: http://thedareforce.com/2013/05/20/executives-over-40-a-few-choice-words-from-your-sponsor-part-1/; http://thedareforce.com/2013/05/30/part-2-great-expectations-from-sponsors-from-you/

Micaela and Chardia Christophe are just two of the young professionals currently hoping to run the new world. Here’s hoping that their managers over 40 are not only running along with them, but championing them to win. Leaders over 40 need to embrace every opportunity to mentor, champion and sponsor the next generation. If you doubt the pie is big enough for all of us, then the next generation of digital natives and relentlessly inventive entrepreneurs will be eating your lunch.

 

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

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

 

 


Lately I’ve seen articles with the terms “Hollywood A-listers,” “superstar women” and “bullies” in the same sentence,
topped by last month’s Wall Street Journal article by Peggy Drexler, “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee: Women who reached positions of power were supposed to be mentors to those who followed—but something is amiss in the professional sisterhood.”

With all the heightened talk of mentors and sponsors, it’s sad to consider that there are 40-something female bosses out there who are terrible bullies. What’s more, they blame (sometimes rightfully) the generation of women before them – i.e., 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.

According to Drexler’s article, the queen bee sting is still a big thing. She writes, “Having spent decades working in psychology, a field heavily populated by highly competitive women, I had certainly seen the queen bee before: The female boss who not only has zero interest in fostering the careers of women who aim to follow in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to cut them off at the pass.”[i]

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.

Case in point: In New York right now, media stories harp on about the bullying tactics of mayoral candidate (current New York City Council Speaker) Christine Quinn. Yet it seems many New Yorkers not only are ready to forgive former testicle-tweeting congressman (and presumed mayoral candidate) Anthony Weiner his pictorial peccadilloes but also the fact that he is a reputed screamer and bully – which was widely reported years before his anti-social exhibitionism.

Bullying isn’t just an older woman/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 workshops I do today with women, and with my marketing students at NYU, 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 DARE-ing women today – mentors and mentees – 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.”

Next up: Tips, principles and practices for a more equitable way to access, approach and engage one another.

 



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

Three Daring Women Over 40, Three Different and Inspiring Legacies

Photograph

Margaret Thatcher – 1925-2013

You loved her or hated her. She saved Britain, or changed it irrevocably into a greedy, heartless, vastly divided nation. Either way, she was charismatic, powerful, and single-minded. She was proud of her nickname, “The Iron Lady” and she was definitely DARE-ing before her time.

Whatever the world thinks of Thatcher, the effects of her powerful years at the helm still ripple outward. To say Margaret Thatcher was not warm and fuzzy would be an understatement. She wanted to be seen as the prime minister, not as a female prime minister. At her death, she leaves a powerful legacy. She was quite simply one of the most important and powerful political human beings (male or female) of the last 50 years.

 

Annette Funicello – 1942-2013

To anyone growing up at the advent of TV when the reference to Mickey Mouse’s ears was literal and not a description of an overzealous pigtail hairstyle, Annette (her first name was how most of us referred to her) was the epitome of warm and fuzzy. And, she was apparently as untouchable as our mothers wanted us to believe we all should be, that is, until properly and officially married. Her deterioration after contracting M.S. in her forties showed a different and more DARE-ing side of this onetime childhood sweetheart, and served as a powerful reminder to all of us over 40. Now more than ever, we need to embrace our health, especially the factors we actually can control, like diet, exercise, annual physicals, and the concomitant tests they entail so we’re vigilant and diligent. Her life and death inspired so many, and prompted glowing farewells from more than one of her leading men. Apparently, Annette was just as wholesome and sweet in real life as she was in all those Disney shows and movies.

 

Debbie Reynolds.jpgDebbie Reynolds – 1932-STILL ALIVE AND CLICKING!

When I was invited to hear veteran stage, film and theatre actor-singer-dancer-author-philanthropist Debbie Reynolds speak at a 92nd Street Y event a few weeks ago, my first rather unkind and profoundly incredulous exclamation was, “…She’s still living?!” Yes, she definitely is, and then some! Over the course of a 60-minute talk to promote her new book, Unsinkable, the 81-year-old Reynolds expounded not a little on love, loss and what she wore, but so much more on love, loss and the, um…word that rhymes with “wars” – all the women who stole the various men Reynolds had the distinct misfortune of hooking up with, giving money to and losing more than she ever thought possible in no bargain. No matter – she is defiantly resilient and resolute about all of it, especially in admonishing her interviewer (an NPR interviewer at least 15 years younger than Reynolds and not nearly as sharp) to stop asking questions about how and why Eddie Fisher left her for Elizabeth Taylor.

Throughout the performance, Reynolds was most hilarious (a lot) when she was being sarcastic, sharp-tongued and self-deprecating, especially when she reached into her bra where she (ostensibly) had interview notes stashed away so she wouldn’t forget her lines. However, she was never more touching, more inspiring and more charming than when she spoke without self-reference of the problems and triumphs of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, who has battled numerous demons of her own. Fisher bought a plot of land just down the hill from where her mother has a cottage, so that she could be near her. THAT takes DARE-ing for sure!

I did not expect to be moved by Debbie Reynolds at this late stage in my life (and hers) but I was sorry to see the show come to an end. Here’s hoping someone soon puts the Unsinkable Ms. Reynolds on Saturday Night Live and that both she and Betty White have a duet somewhere before it’s too late.