Female and 50? How to re-kindle your career
By Jim Kendall
This column originally appeared in the August 3, 2015 Daily Herald
Female? 50ish, or at least somewhere in the Baby Boomer 51-69 age range? Business owner? Wannabe a business owner? Planning to return to the workforce? Already there?
Wherever you fit, if you’re ready to re-kindle your career, Lillian Bjorseth wants to talk with you. You probably should listen.
Bjorseth, president of Duoforce Enterprises Inc., Lisle, is a highly respected networking-communications-let’s-get-this-done professional. What she’s most likely to talk about is the full-day conference she has created for Boomer-age business women.
Titled “Maximize Your Career, Business Tools for Women over 50” and set for August 28 at the DePaul University campus in Naperville, the conference is intended to help businesswomen 50 and older enhance their workplace opportunities. (www.bizwomenover50conference.com.)
It’s probably because I’m not a 50-year old female that I paused when Bjorseth answered my first interview question: Why a full-day career conference for women over 50? After all, when men hit 50, we tend to consider ourselves at the top of the business game – although we may peek ahead and begin to contemplate selling the business and kicking back.
But women, says Bjorseth, look at their 50s differently.
Part of Bjorseth’s answer to my question is almost rote. “Women at 50 face two major challenges,” she says. “Gender and age. Perception plays a big role (in a woman’s success). Men age, they look mature. Women age, they get wrinkles.”
Bjorseth’s full answer is far more insightful. Baby boomer women, she says, “finally have an empty nest. They can look at ramping up their careers. They can go to work without worrying about responsibilities at home.”
The Mommy Track days are over, giving businesswomen the opportunity to enhance, or perhaps discover, the resources they need to jump start careers.
“We have to expand the business woman’s mindset,” Bjorseth says. One way to do that, she continues, is to “increase networking with like-minded women.
“People like to work with people (who are) like they are. Men still have their old boys’ network, but women still have to work their way in. We want women talking to women on an equal level.”
Those connections clearly matter in the entrepreneurial world, but they matter in the corporate sector as well. Sarah Donahue, a CPA and retired Allstate vice president in Long Grove, has an interesting conference role: To explain the corporate world, where, she says, “Networking, both internally and externally, is really important for women hoping to move ahead.”
The relationships women can establish via networking make a difference, Donahue says.
She also offers ways women can gauge their acceptance. “Look for the signals the company is investing in you,” Donahue suggests. “Are you being selected for such things as higher exposure assignments? Industry committees? Additional training? Maybe not-for-profit committee work?
“You may have to advocate for yourself,” Donahue advises – which, she adds, is something women don’t typically do.