After I published 50 tips for young women in the world, I received emails from several women asking if I had any specific tips for older women wanting to engage in social justice work.
Yes! Of course!
And so here they are – 25 for women:
- Think about the kind of person you are and thus the kind of work that would suit you. For instance, are you more a social entrepreneur or more an activist? The former may lead you to development work, the latter to more rights based work.
- Be clear about the stage of life you’re at and where you want to make a contribution. Often, at midlife, we can deal with the managerial and then suddenly we crave a creative life – with time for creation, reflection, mystery, myth and imagination. Know where you’re at and how you want to contribute.
- Recognize that you have a cluster of talents that can be applied in different ways, and in different fields. Think about what will give you the most satisfaction and then construct your resume to highlight these talents.
- When you’re clear about what you’re seeking then ‘throw your hat in the ring’ for any position that excites you and seems like a strategic fit for what you seek. Don’t hold back on opportunity.
- Tell your story to illuminate your resume (talent and journey). This may involve reknitting your narrative.
- If you can afford to do so, volunteering is a great way to get noticed if you’re seeking to change direction and wanting to work for a specific organization or focus area. You’ll need a great resume for this too.
- If you’re not social media savvy then find a digital coach or mentor.
- Join Women on Boards (if you have a professional association like this near you) and research the boards where you think you have a lot to contribute and that will fuel your interest and passion.
Seek out someone in the know to do an assessment of your resume and to advise you on making the pitch.
- If you’re looking for positions in the international social justice space then sign up for Devnet and OneWorld Jobs and check out the Association of Women in Development’s (AWID’s) online job space.
- The person leading the organization is as important as the organization itself. Do your research if you’re considering a role with the organization – and pay attention to the Board members too.
- If you’re dropping in the level of position in order to enter a new field then find other ways to retain your leadership and voice – and thus your influence.
- Work from a generosity mentality rather than a deficit mentality. There are lots of opportunities out there and so if one path closes, another will likely reveal itself.
- Seek out brokers – those people who can help open doors to new opportunities. Research those organizations you’d like to work for and determine the people of influence. Ask to interview them for 15 minutes or, if they’re nearby, see if you can buy them a cup of coffee.
- International women’s clubs and women’s organizations are vital connectors. These include Zonta International; Soroptimists International; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and YWCA.
- If you want to know what’s happening in the international women’s rights movement building space then plan on attending an AWID gathering (every three years) and the NGO sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York. The annual Women in the World Conference in New York will also give you an immersion experience.
- There are some great (free!) online courses, with great lecturers, from Harvard, Stanford and MIT now available to give you greater connectivity with fields you’re attracted to – head and heart.
I spliced a Harvard Global Health and Society Course with a Harvard course on Poetry in America: Whitman. Check out EdEx at https://courses.edx.org
- Be clear about where you are in relation to the idea of ‘home.’ Do you want to stay where you are because it gives you what you need or are you happy to relocate and travel often for work?
How does this fit with your family and wider family of friends? Knowing where you’re at in life in terms of the question of home and family is crucial to knowing what feels right to pursue.
So much energy is involved in an application and recruitment process, and then in relocating, that you need to be clear about your needs and the ramifications of beginning such a process.
Having said that, if it doesn’t feel right when you’re offered the job then go through a discernment process with someone you trust, or a circle of people, before making a final decision.
- Think carefully about how you want to give your time – at midlife you can often be seen in, or assume, the role of mother and caregiver and so be aware of how you’re using your energy and if you’re feeling depleted or re-generated in that particular role.
- If, like me, you don’t have children and you wonder about your connection to mothering, think about how you want to recast your role as mother – of creative projects, of being a mother to the world – such as mentoring and coaching young people. And of course you may not think of mothering at all!
- The Tao approach of ‘maybe or maybe not’ is a gift of equilibrium that will serve you well in all your seeking and doing.
- Commit to sustaining your inner self while re-launching your professional self. Being lit from within is precious fuel for the journey.
- Embrace the role of curator – and of magpie. Do a wide scan, of organizations, writers, thinkers, leaders, activists, poets, artists and muses, and find ways to bring all the elements you wish to your life, and to your nest.
- Confidence is sexy.
- Give yourself the gift of a retreat or a sabbatical every couple of years – it may be the best investment of all.
- Journaling is valuable, for you and for others. It may be a diary, sketch book, scrap book, poetry book or ipad – whatever form, capture your experience, your feelings, your sense of self -gleanings, glimmerings and learnings. Be true.
Jane Sloane – San Francisco