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Older Women Need Career Challenges


by Paula Gardner of www.scarletthinking.com

lder women new career challenge image

Are you hating the idea of a long stroll into retirement? Are people telling you to take it easy, that you’ve nothing left to prove and yet you just want to shout at them “Yes, I do have something to prove…to myself!” Well, you’re not alone. I was fascinated to recently come across the Kaleidoscope career model, created by two academics, Mainiero and Sullivan, that explains how men and women differentiate in their approach to their careers throughout their lives.

Early in our careers, both men and women are looking for challenge but then we seem to diverge. Mid-career men look for both challenge and authenticity while women tend to strive for work life balance (I guess that’s the childcare juggling then). Later, we swap and men start craving that work life balance while the woman are gearing up for challenge. Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule but let’s look at what’s happening in the world of politics at the moment: May, Merkel, Clinton, Sturgeon all possibly fall into the Kaleidoscope model.

So, what does this mean for you? First, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Indeed, what you’re feeling is only natural. Embrace it and use it to spur you on to even greater achievements and adventures. It’s never too late.

Desire for authenticity

Interestingly, what often accompanies this urge to tackle new challenges is an increased desire for authenticity. I’ve seen it in myself. My twenty odd years in PR and marketing have been fun and glamorous, but I recently went back to University to study business psychology and now help people with career change, often people in midlife who want to move to a career that is more authentic or altruistic.

As we get older we experience the biggies like divorce and redundancy, people we love die, and we want what we do to have more purpose, more meaning. It’s not just about paying the mortgage anymore. Even if we are happy in our current jobs, we often start thinking about what we can do in our spare time through volunteering or mentoring, or just plain old philanthropy, to help others.

Women in particular often start their real authentic altruistic journey when they’ve experienced something themselves: their mother dies of breast cancer and they start campaigning for Macmillan nurses, or they become uncomfortably familiar with dementia and want to get involved in the fight. Perhaps it’s a way of feeling that we have some little form of control; perhaps it’s a need to leave some kind of legacy. It hardly matters, as we know it’s a good thing.

A few words of advice

If you’re on the edge of this journey, as I myself am, a few words of advice:

  • Think carefully about changing career as a knee jerk reaction to something that has gone on in your life. If you’ve always fancied becoming a teacher and, now the kids have left home, you feel you can go back to Uni and do it, then great. If you suddenly wake up one morning and think “this is my future”, be a little more wary
  • There are ways to give back without changing your entire life. You can volunteer after work, start or join a mentorship scheme for your organisation, raise funds through a run or something similar, or merely tithe some of your income to a worthy cause
  • Using your skills to give back in the form of becoming a charity trustee or advisor is a lovely way to get that challenge, give back and meet a whole new social set
  • Never underestimate the power of learning just for fun. Going back to University has been one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s helped me focus at a time when I needed it, made me learn new skills and meet people of all ages.
  • If career change is on the cards, take your time. Enquire about internships or shadowing to get a feel for how it will suit you. Ask probing questions; we have the wisdom and confidence after all. Consider career coaching that will dig deep to really help you find work that will bring you the meaning you seek.

 

Above all, relish this time. You are going to learn a whole lot more about yourself!

 

Paula Gardner career challenge imagePaula Gardner of Scarlett Thinking is a career coach with a PR twist, working with clients to uncover where they want to go, and helping them raise their online and offline profile to get them there. Paula is a huge believer in investing time and thought into choosing a sustainable and meaningful career that makes you proud to talk about what you do.

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