I recently interviewed wonderful Naomi Caietti, about the important topic of women’s careers. I’m thrilled to be able to share our conversation with you about confident careers.
Naomi Caietti, PMP has recently launched her own consulting company to provide virtual services for clients that need a speaker, author, or coach. Naomi is a global speaker with 27+ years of public and private information technology (IT) project leadership expertise on topics such as leadership, project management and women in project management. She is a guest blogger and sought-after expert on leadership and women’s careers.
Online Naomi contributes her knowledge as an expert on the ProjectManagement.com community, is also noted as one of the TOP INFLUENTIAL project management professionals on Twitter (PMOT), and is a TOP CONTRIBUTOR to #PMChat on Twitter.
Elise: Naomi, I’m so excited to be interviewing you about how women over 40 can have confident careers.
Naomi: I am too, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about women over 40 feeling confident, empowered to rise up and embrace the life they want to live and lead. It’s a great year to do that.
Elise: I agree with you, and I’m passionate about helping women really get that buzz back in their career no matter what career they want to have!
Naomi: I absolutely agree with you. I’ve written many articles about my journey as a woman working in a male-dominated profession. Working in actually two male-dominated professions: information technology and project management.
Project management was a pretty male-dominated profession early on, and now more women are choosing project management as a career which is a great career path. I have to say that as women you have plenty of obstacles in your way, don’t become one of them, whether you’re an entrepreneur, work in an organisation or you have your own home-based business, you’ll have many teachable moments in your past and future at any time, you need to be ready to switch, shift and turn those obstacles into opportunities.
You need to focus on uncovering your greatest strengths and close any behavioral gaps that you discover that you may have. You may find that a mentor, coach, or a network with both internal and external communities, will help you propel your leadership forward.
Women don’t need permission to lead today. They need to step up and have a voice. They need to sit at the table and find good sponsors to help guide their career path. There’s no shortage of statistics and reports to indicate that inclusion of women on boards and in leadership roles improves an organisation’s bottom line.
Elise: What can organisations do to help women in the workplace realise that they still have a career over 40?
Naomi: I look at it from the perspective of how can organisations help women thrive in the workplace. In a recent report from DDI, they are talent management experts, they identified some things that women can do to help them thrive in their workplace. Here they are:
1. Seek out mentors and accept the invitation to mentor others.
One point in time, I was unsure who I might approach about finding a mentor to work on a next project, advice on politics or I was thinking about transferring to another business area. I wasn’t forthcoming and able to put myself out there to start having conversations with other women in roles that I was interested in, or maybe my own functional manager. Whether it be woman or a man, to say “I’m looking to branch out in my training plans and I’d be interested in volunteering to either work on this project or work in this initiative or see where I can find out more about working in a different business area”. I think that being able to put yourself out there is something that women need to do.
Additionally, mentoring others provides significant benefits as well. There’s as much you can learn from your mentees as you can learn as being a mentor, but it is a time commitment. It’s certainly something to consider.
2. Organisations need to build formal mentoring into their cultures and encourage women to participate, and this is how women are going to thrive.
Organisations now are paying attention. I have seen many Fortune 500 companies starting to do this. They have formal mentoring programs in their companies, and are inviting men and women to participate. One issue is that there is a shortage of senior women to mentor others. This is huge problem. I have experienced this situation myself, where there was not a senior female leader available to mentor me. You can be the only woman in your business area, in a male-dominated profession because either women have retired, they have chosen to leave because they’ve got fed up with the politics/other challenges, or they’ve moved on and launched their own companies. I think senior women where they are, inside or outside organisations need to make themselves available to mentor others.
3. Participate in women’s networks or create their own group of advisors.
I did this with the The Glass Breakers. But there’s plenty of women’s network out there. There’s a women’s network called Elevate out there which is doing great things.
Within your local area, there will be other women’s networks that will be able to assist you. You need to create your own group of advisors. In building my group of advisors, I focused on people that matched my vision, values and who were in the same certain economic fiscal status. You can have a group that meets in person or online via social media channels like Linkedin.
Having a group of advisors that you can tap into, that are there to support you, that have a common vision and that you’re going to work to and support each other, is essential.
If you are happy with your career at the moment, then that is fantastic. If you’re feeling that something’s missing then take steps to reignite your career.
I think that you shouldn’t ever get comfortable. Being uncomfortable is important. I think when you get comfortable you can get blind sighted by a layoff, by hiring a new manager or been assigned to work in a new team. You may be taken from your business area and plopped in another business area or office. There’s just all kinds of things that can force change on you.
Elise: How can women over 40 be successful in switching careers?
Naomi: I was thinking about the many articles out there talking about ageism, talking about diversity issues. Many women have left the corporate world and have decided to go just launch a business, to follow their passion and this is where they thrive.
Here are my tips on switching careers:
1. Define your success and don’t let anyone else define it for you.
In doing that, you’re going to be focusing on what problem are you going to solve and what value are you going to offer. Whatever you do, whether you are working in an organisation or you’re launching your own company – your clients, your customers need to know what value you have to offer.
2. Live your vision and values – daily.
I went to a coach at one point in time because I felt a little stuck, and when I went away from meeting with her, this is what she wanted me to focus on – to live my visions and values daily. Once I started to do that, I found that really turned things around for me. It required self-introspection on my part to do this. You do what you love, and you need to love what you do.
3. Find mentors, sponsors and advocates for you.
Surround yourself with friends, family, colleagues, or maybe you develop your own women’s group of advisors – but you need to surround yourself with men and women who are going to be there to support you.
4. Develop a Personal brand.
One of the things I’ve spent quite a bit of time doing is planning, designing, developing and launching the branding associated with my products and services. Unless you can identify what products and services you’re selling, be able to put it on paper and be able to describe it very clearly, people will not know what it is that you have to offer. It is important to get this done professionally. Get professional photos done of yourself. Find a designer who’s going to assist you to develop your brand. Whether it be business cards, website, speaker information or whatever it might be, you need to brand your products and services and put it out there.
(Note from Elise: If you’re looking for a professional designer, I highly recommend Louise Griffiths from Humanised for branding, graphic design, and websites.)
5. Join a variety of network groups where you will find referrals and clients.
Don’t under-estimate the power of your network. You can network with people, be invited to a cocktail party, attend a friend’s party, watch a football game – you never know who might have that next job for you, but you need to be ready. Be ready with business cards, be talking about your business – what services and products you have to offer and it will resonate with people because even if they don’t have an opportunity available for you, they may know someone who needs your services. You just never know.
Elise: It is important to put yourself out there. Be confident in yourself, or not be confident in yourself and do it anyway.
Naomi: You need to take that risk and just as you’ve said. I have made many, many network contacts that have turned into partnerships. In fact, that’s how I connected with my Glassbreakers. They are a global group of 10 women and I think I’ve only met one Glassbreaker but they’re all virtual and we just came together because of our common interests and vision. It just kind of made sense. We all do similar things and we all do some different things, and that’s the good thing about it – you can tap into your network based on your network’s different experience, and get some advice and coaching and mentoring, and maybe some client referrals. It can be very powerful, and it has been. Even though we haven’t met, I just feel like we have a connection as though I met them in person.
Elise: What are your tips for women over 40?
Naomi: Here are my tips for women’s network, mentors, internships and helping women think about a career change over 40.
1. Find your tribe.
Surround yourself with family, friends and colleagues that will support your vision and values. Joining a great networking group such as Elevate.
2. Attend a conference.
There are many great conferences available for women in person and online. I’ve also attended the TED Women conference. There’s so many great speakers. I’ve been to several local events, and it is a good way to just network, get out of the office, hear about someone else’s challenges. A lot of them are talking about some really great work that is being done with a variety of initiatives that is helping our global community. There’s nothing that I find more interesting than when you find that you can make a difference, and it could be a very small difference or it can be, you know a local regional or global impact – if you want to get involved that way.
The last one I’ll mention is Makers.com – they’ve done a lot of great work. What I really love about it, is that they have first developed a website, and they were going around interviewing women from all different professions. If you don’t have a role model out there that you can see, you can actually go to their website and see these women talking about challenges, opportunities and telling their stories from the different professions. It is set up so that you see women from all different professions. So say if you’re in IT and you want to find women in IT role models, and women talking about challenges in IT – you can go to that specific group and just see women speakers talking about those topics.
Elise: Here in Australia, business chicks have a breakfast series in the major capital cities. It’s not quite the same as what’s going on in other countries, but there are a number of Facebook groups that are good and quite supportive.
Naomi: Oh great, great. There’s so many, and actually I think I just saw a post and I shared it on LinkedIn, but on the Elevate website they put together a whole host of women’s resources from companies and conferences, to launching your own company – all kinds of resources from women to go to all on one page. I would definitely suggest that you go take a look at that. The other thing that I’ve seen happening out there too is there’s been so many great start-ups that have launched, that have helped make our lives easier, but there’s a lot of women owning companies who are launching start-ups, launching companies for women, and to specifically get women in jobs from their website.
If you are a woman, you’d sign up on the website (for example: CloudPeeps) and they’d have a whole host of jobs, and you would be included in just a group of women who would be looking for these opportunities on their job boards. I’ve seen a variety of job boards set up that way. These are some great ways for women who may not wish to put themselves in the mix, you can simply search for a specific skill set or type of work, and that these companies are looking to hire women from this website. I think it is a great, great idea. I know in Silicon Valley they exist. I’ve seen them spring up in Texas, over in the Kentucky area, I mean, they’re across the board. I’m sure there’s a lot in Australia, over in Europe, but there’s a lot of incubators that are launching start-ups all over and so if you’re into business or you want to launch a start-up or you have an idea of solving a problem, they’ll help you start-up your own company. And you can be a woman that has a great idea but you don’t know where to go to launch your idea. There’s local incubators that you can look into that might help you do that.
There’s just so many great ways for women over 40, and men over 40, to tap into opportunities locally, regionally and globally but you know, you have to look up, look out and look around. You really need to put yourself out there. Do some networking. Get very active on LinkedIn. Anybody who’s anybody is on LinkedIn, and if you really haven’t paid attention to LinkedIn yet, I think you need to. I think you need to go and really brand yourself. Go look for a profile that you really like and emulate it.
Start networking with who you know, and some other ladies and get some feedback on how you can improve your profile. You can certainly reach out to me, reach out to Elise – we could certainly help you in that area. I think that you have to start somewhere. Don’t try to take everything on, and believe in yourself. You really need to focus on you first before you can become a value to anyone else.
Elise: I agree with your top tip that you’ve got to understand you, and what makes up you, and what makes you happy because that’s going to change. What I thought that my business goals were two years ago, they aren’t today. I think that they’re more robust today.
Naomi: Yes, and I think you have to be open to the fact that things might change, so that you might have to change. That’s a shift. You have to switch and shift, but you have to have a daily focus on your vision and your values. That’s what’s going to drive you to doing what you’re passionate about and offering. Being able to provide that value, and the services and the products that you have to offer – whether you’re an author, speaker, project manager, consultant, entrepreneur, a start-up – whatever it is you want to do.
Naomi has contributed to a book about women and confident careers. Here is a link to Naomi’s website for more information. Please reach out to Naomi or myself and we’re happy to connect with you on LinkedIn. A big thank you to Naomi for taking time to be interviewed by Age Defying Careers.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elise Stevens is a careers coach and confidence-whisperer for women aged 40 and over. She’s a podcaster, author and speaker, and has worked with some of Australia’s leading organisations.