Choice, Not Chance: Career Advice for Women as They Age
After 15 years as a stay-at-home mom, Tamara Fay decided to return to work. The hours didn’t fit her family’s lifestyle, though; and after some soul searching she decided that what she really wanted to do was start her own consulting business. Part of that business is providing career consulting to other women who find themselves in a similar situation.
For a long time, her clientele consisted primarily of younger women returning to the workforce, but about five years ago Fay noticed that those seeking her services were increasingly in an older demographic. While many women their age were preparing to retire, these women wanted to continue working for a variety of reasons, including finances, the need for health benefits or simply enjoying the working world.
“I now have women who are approaching retirement, but they’re not ready to retire. They say, ‘I can’t stop working, I need to continue.’ I’ve also seen women who are retired but want a sense of purpose. They may have tried retirement and didn’t like it. Their feeling is, ‘I want to do something different at this point in my life. What else can I be to have more of a fulfilling life?’”
Fay has advice for any worker, but especially mature women who are looking to change careers. “Make sure that your next job is by choice, not chance,” she says. Be thoughtful about your next career. You have years of wisdom and experience in your favor. You are no longer fresh out of college, scrambling for any job that pays your bills. And as a career changer, you aren’t stuck doing what you’ve always done. As a mature woman, you are also more in tune with who you are and what drives you. That gives you the opportunity to choose a career that matches not only your skills, but your values. When you’re able to do that, you can find real satisfaction and fulfillment in your work, which leads to a happier you and a better employee. That benefits your company, too.
So how do you figure out what career is next for you? Here are some tips:
1. Know your values. Figure out what’s important to you and what your motivations are. Fay helps her clients find their true values and passions using a button analogy. She invites you to imagine a four-hole button, in which each buttonhole represents a core value. When you use a thread to fasten the button, each hole does an equal job in holding things together—much like each of those values holds you together. What four would you choose? These are the things that should be nurtured in your working life.
2. Research your next career move. If you’ve always loved art, contact your local art museum and see what positions they have that could match your passion and values. You might become a docent, work at the front desk or assist behind the scenes.
3. Take your dream job for a test drive. Whether through volunteering or temping, there is no better way to find out if a job suits you than to try it out. Both opportunities give you the chance to try the job you want with minimal commitment, and they also help you figure out if the organization is a fit for you. In addition, it’s a great way to network, which is where 70 to 80 percent of jobs come from, Fay estimates.
4. Update your resumé. As a career changer, your past job experience is likely in a different field. Make sure your resumé highlights the skill sets that make you right for the job you want and isn’t just a chronological list of jobs you’ve held.
Fay is now 59 years old, adoring her own job and telling women everywhere that life really is short. Make sure you wake up every day excited to go to work. That’s when you know you’ve come upon true fulfillment in your job.
“If you find your next career by choice and not chance, then work is not work. You’re going to love it. You’ll enjoy what you’re doing, and just imagine the value you’re bringing to that organization. It’s a win-win everywhere.”