Four Tips for Women to Thrive Later in Their Careers

Rosemary Bova '71SW
September 03, 2019

Back to school season is a time for new beginnings. Rosemary Bova '71SW explains why you're never too old to dream big, shares her top tips for women to succeed in later stages of their careers, and reveals why her passion for this subject prompted her to develop a Facebook group to exchange ideas and best practices.

The Baby Boomer generation, known for breaking down barriers, is witnessing institutions crumble and whole industries being disrupted while new industries are being created. So why not start thinking and dreaming about the next phase of your career now? The average life expectancy of women today is 85 years. If you retire at 65, are you going to do nothing for 20 years? How much golf, tennis, and volunteering can you do? It's time for you to do what you’ve always wanted to or dreamed of doing. 

Here are three suggestions to get you in the right frame of mind for this late-career journey.

1. What is your purpose?  Many from our generation were thrilled that the doors of a graduate school education were freely open to us.  We were passionate about joining a profession or climbing the corporate ladder. We had excitement and enthusiasm.  For others, we married and had families thinking we could do it all. Some of us did.  For most, obstacles or roadblocks appeared. Sometimes we veered off our chosen path and now find ourselves somewhere we never dreamed of being.  On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you in your current work? Be truthful as you are the only one who will see your answer.  If you scored an 8 or above you are one of the lucky ones. Anything below 8 requires you to seriously consider a course correction—malaise in the higher range to depression at the lowest point.  Disengagement and stress are known to cause health issues. You can start this way: Take a few minutes and reflect on your dreams as a young girl about what your life would be like. Write some notes. Consider doing this at different ages-childhood, as a preteen, teenager, college student, young adult. Is there a common thread?

2. If money were no object, what work would you be doing now, in five years? In ten years? Write this down. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known whose attitude was to "suck it up" until retirement. Once they retire, something happens: a health issue or family tragedy, even death.  As women (and men too), we frequently focus on money as the culprit. I can’t give up this salary. How will my family live? I've gotten too comfortable. Ask yourself, how frequently do I experience joy at work? I can hear you laughing, but the truth is there should be some joy in work. There is great satisfaction when someone is well-matched to the work they do, some call it a "flow state." The experience keeps us alive and youthful.

3. What new skills would you like to learn and how can you go about learning them? Ask yourself: Is there a career I would have liked to go into? Given that you have been working for a long while, perhaps you can enter another field at an entry-level. Lots of small business owners need the support and know-how of people coming out of corporate America. They are willing to train and barter someone who can help them out.

Technology has also leveled the playing field as there is much available online and in how-to books. For some, there may be a cause you are passionate about. Try volunteering and see if it might grow into a part-time job or consultancy.

4. Continue the conversation. A new passion has been ignited in me. My first step was the creation of Women Thriving Over 50, a private Facebook group hosted on my Bova Enterprises page. There we explore the intersectionality of the feminine and ageism. It is a safe space where women can discuss feelings of inadequacy, being too much, feeling worthless, and imposter syndrome—where we can learn new skills.

Patriarchy has devalued the feminine for thousands of years. To climb the corporate ladder we were methodically forced to take on masculine ways. Women today do not know how ancient matriarchal societies operated. It’s time we learn. We must honor and explore the ancient feminine cultures, mythologies, and teachings. We need to celebrate our bodies, trust our intuition, and embrace our femininity. At the same time, we need to proudly take our place as elders. Indigenous cultures honor and revere the elders of their tribes. We must share our stories, tell our truths, guide the young, and at the same time, learn from them to revolutionize how our culture views the phenomena of the feminine and aging. The power of a vibrant community of women is limitless. If we choose, we can step into full partnership with men. Please join me in this exploration. You can email me at [email protected] subject line: Women Thriving Over 50. Or, request to join the private Facebook group. I welcome your comments.

Image courtesy of Rosemary Bova.

Rosemary A. Bova has 30 years of experience as an executive/career coach and an organization design and development consultant. Her clients include executives in Fortune 500 companies, not for profit organizations, and entrepreneurs. She is a possibility thinker, expert listener, and organization and career strategist. Her company, Bova Enterprises (BE), specializes in corporate human systems development—accountable managerial leadership, team development, and individual career strategy formulation. Bova has written more than 50 articles on building engaged organizations. She received a Masters Degree from Columbia's School of Social Work and completed the Organization and Systems Development Program at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. She participated in a five-year Action Research Project on the Development of Leadership and Authority in an All Female Group, and completed a yearlong program in Feminine Power Mastery. Connect with Bova on LinkedIn or on her BE site.

Learn more about the Columbia Career Coaches Network.