“At my age, after I’ve been out of the workforce for so many years, why would anyone want to hire me?” That’s a question I’ve heard for more than a decade as I’ve coached women who like the idea of returning to work, but fear they are dinosaurs in heels.
My answer is always some polite version of “Don’t be ridiculous”. It’s a very outdated notion that employers only want to hire recent college graduates. In fact, even in this difficult job market, more and more employers seek out women who have more maturity and life experience.
If you’re still skeptical, read a great article by Whitney Johnson, “Get Innovation Right: Tap Into Women Over 40”. Whitney cites a New York Times article (“Why Innovators Get Better With Age“), and research indicating that a 55 or 65-year-old has more innovation potential than a 25-year-old. (Whitney defines innovation as the ability to go from stuck to unstuck, to move forward, not backward.)
One statement Whitney makes in the article is particularly compelling: “…Life doesn’t end at age 40. On the contrary, at age 40 we’re just getting to the best part. After spending years on the low end of the S-curve of experience, we are now ready to accelerate into a sweet spot of competence and contribution.”
Whitney goes on to note that like you, many women take time off career paths to parent. “To some in the C suite that makes them less committed and less capable. What I see and what I have personally experienced is that those years ‘off track’ actually increase and diversify a woman’s portfolio of skills and knowledge, increasing her potential to become a powerful player in her 40s and beyond.”
Like Whitney, this is what I have observed and experienced: women who recognize that they have a vast portfolio of skills and experience—from activity in and out of the workforce—are unstoppable when they decide to pursue second, third and fourth careers. It’s a mindset: you must have the wisdom and confidence to know that your time out of the workforce is more of a pro than a con.
Kathy Sniezek, one of many interesting women I follow on Twitter (follow me to meet them, too!), captured the opportunity for 40+ women with grace and the requisite brevity for 140-character tweets: “Whitney Johnson redefines ‘coming of age’ in a way that’s viable & smart for business & society at large.”
This “coming of age” provides endless opportunities, but none that will land on your lap. Of course, as with any job seeker, you’ll never be able to just show up with an enthusiastic “Here I am world!” You need to professionally package all your skills and experience into persuasive messages that emphasize you have always been learning, thinking, discovering—and honing resume-worthy skills. All the strategic packaging changes the question from “Who would want me” to “Who wouldn’t?” as your confidence and determination build. —KAS
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