Not everyone is blessed with a tech-savvy father, as I am. In the past half hour he’s talked about his Facebook timeline, sharing photos via Dropbox, and using social networking technologies as a means of helping others. The fact that my dad is over 85 makes his familiarity with these options even more impressive.
But what really struck me is his loving concern for my sister and her friends, and how they might go about reinventing themselves professionally. He is concerned not just for my sister’s circle of friends, but because he recognizes that their challenges are shared by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other American women.
These are women in the prime of their lives: experienced, vibrant, energetic, full of ideas, with a passionate desire to contribute to their family and communities — and woefully under- or unemployed. Where’s the JOBS Act for them?
They exited the workforce in order to spend the past 10 or 15 years raising their families. Nowadays their kids are increasingly independent (except for transport and access to cash or credit cards!) This creates the possibility for these stay-at-home moms to re-enter the workforce, to contribute their wisdom and capabilities in exchange for some form of compensation.
But there’s a big catch…
These women have time and energy to invest in the next chapter of their career, but they fail to connect with today’s employers, so they can’t land jobs that stick. Sadly, their technical skills are years out of date… If they’re lucky enough to get a job interview, they may find themselves 10–15 years older than the hiring managers, who probably lack the willingness or time to invest in retraining Boomer women for today’s requirements.
Temping is an option, albeit less than ideal, but they’re at a generational disadvantage compared to recent college graduates and the “digital natives” who predominate in many temp agencies. They may not understand the rules of engagement when it comes to temp agencies and the contracts between agencies and their clients.
Seeking meaning and self-esteem (not to mention companionship, a trimmer figure, or a daily dose of endorphins), they flock to yoga, Pilates and Zumba classes…
My sister tells stories of how her friends try to help or advise each other, after class or in coffee shops. Dad wonders if there’s an online community that would enable them to help each other more effectively. His take is that there’s lots of talk, but no follow-through (for lack of a productive structure to their conversations?)
When asked, I wasn’t able to name specific online communities where women provide constructive advice and mentoring to those who want to re-enter the workforce after a multi-year absence… I also suspect, at least for this generation of Boomer women, that social bonds and trust are critical; few are likely to reach out to strangers for help when it comes to things that touch on self-esteem. For challenges like this their relationships would need to have a real-world grounding before being extended into a virtual community.
Women Helping Women, Like a Book Club
But I did have a practical idea that my sister and her friends could do at very little cost. They could meet together once or twice a month, like a book club, and commit to work together on a journey of self-discovery with the aid of a book called Business Model You.
At each meeting they would work together or separately through a set of career “reinvention exercises,” helping each other as sounding boards and cheerleaders. Each session would focus on one aspect of their personal value canvas, as shown below (thanks to www.BusinessModelYou.com). Ideally, someone would facilitate each session.
They could use the recommended activities and checklists in the best-selling book, Business Model You, as a personal roadmap.
At the end of the process, they are likely to end up with at least one career concepts that they could validate.
People who are serious about exploring new career vistas and are willing to be introspective should definitely buy the book.
Ddisclosure: I was a contributing co-author, along with hundreds of other insightful and talented people around the world.
Do you know anyone who has worked with women in this situation? I’m not talking about professional life coaches, but women helping women to reinvent themselves…