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
It’s my 50th birthday today and I have reason to be grateful to so many people who’ve enriched my life. And today my book has also been published and so copies will be winging their way to those who pre-ordered very soon.
As so often happens at important milestones, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned and what I can pass on to others. I’ve been remembering how much I benefited as a young woman from the wisdom of great mentors and teachers, and I’ve also been imagining what other advice might have helped me.
Recently I’ve been contacted by many young women who have asked me similar questions to help them discern their own path and direction. For this reason, it seems timely to share this advice and more with other young women, wherever you happen to be in the world.
So! Here are 50 tips for the journey:
- Think about whom you would most like as a mentor and then approach them – they may be younger or older, established or rising – and you may want several! So go for it!! Be clear about what you’re looking for and the role you’d like them to play as well as the logistics of meeting.
- Consider a liberal arts degree – it gave me the freedom to explore, test, expand, challenge and extend myself. I use what I learned there almost every day in my work.
- Do a Masters Degree in any field you feel drawn to – don’t try to second guess the job market.
- Monitor your reaction to different work environments – corporate, government, NGO, university, foundation – and, over time, understand where you do your best work.
- Embrace a cohort of ethical leaders as both peers and as a sounding board for your work.
- Seek out scholarships, fellowships, any opportunity for expanding horizons and testing approaches.
- Be proactive in asking about professional development opportunities in your workplace and be clear both about your immediate needs and mid-range plans and ambitions.
- Make contacts and join networks that will serve you and your work well – be bold…and also be strategic.
- Keep a compelling LinkedIn page as it is increasingly the go-to page for people who want to check you out (for jobs and opportunities) and for people in the know.
- Consider experience working in another country as it provides you an edge if you want to work in the international social justice arena.
- Stay close to what you love and find ways to integrate rather than separate.
- Look after your body – this may include practices such as yoga and Pilates, organic food – whatever keeps you feeling light, connected and energized.
- Find things you love to do with your hands as much as your head such as sculpting, kayaking, painting, music-making, cooking.
- Learn stillness – meditation is a life skill that will stand you in good stead in any situation.
- Keep things simple – keep consumerism at bay.
- Be discerning with media and information – read to open up your mind rather than to close it off or to affirm a particular viewpoint.
- Keep around you a circle of friends who are on your metaphorical boat for the journey.
- Stay close to beauty in all its natural forms.
- Heart to sky – walk tall and keep good posture, it’s great for your body and for your self-esteem.
- Take calculated risks that can open you up to new ways of doing and being.
- Don’t be afraid to fail –cracks allow more of the light to shine through.
- Embrace music in your life – play, sing, dance and honor your musical self in timbre, tone, melody and rhythm.
- Be authentic – don’t try to imagine how people want you to be or how you think you need to be.
- Keep close to nature and rituals that connect you to the natural world, whether it’s trees, the sea, soil, sky, mountains, bush, desert or river. It will sustain your sense of wonder.
- Breathe. Deeply. As often as possible. This act alone may extend your life and will certainly enhance your quality of life.
- Pay attention to your self-esteem and to your own potential — and then others will, too.
- Tell the truth – and keep the good karma flowing.
- Right livelihood is not just a Buddhist phrase, it’s the feel-good factor that helps you get out of bed in the morning.
- Practice the art of storytelling — another life skill and a form of narrative therapy. It’s like a blues harp, you can use it anywhere.
- Reading books is good for the soul.
- Kindness is perhaps the most important quality a human can possess.
- Replace every ‘but’ with an ‘and’ in order to open up options — so said my wonderful mentor, Stella.
- Think about alternatives to ‘should’ – another piece of wise advice from Stella.
- Listen carefully to opposing points of view before automatically dismissing them.
- Learn at least one language aside from your native language.
- Humor is power. I have learned this from my dear friend, Tuti Scott. If she weren’t in such demand, she’d be conducting Women, Power and Laughter workshops.
- Dress to express – your artistry is in how you communicate visually as much as verbally.
- Communicate to open up options and not close them off and so practice your conflict resolution skills. Check out crnhq.org for free resources.
- Commit to never smoking cigarettes – why harm yourself, pollute your body and most likely shorten your life?
- Know thyself. Find time to embrace solitude and stillness and tune into the energy zipping through you.
- Don’t tolerate bullying in any form. Check your own behavior, hold others to account and don’t stay in any environment where you are being bullied. Its corrosive and an affront to the soul.
- Learn public speaking skills so that you’re comfortable in any social and public situation.
- Don’t give up your own power – this to me is THE most important, and neglected, advice. In my life, and whenever I’ve overlooked it, I’ve always regretted it!
- Be generous to others – you’ll feel great.
- Be a mentor as well as a mentee throughout life. Another positive energy exchange.
- Deal with conflict; don’t avoid it. Again, go to crnhq.org
- Develop a leadership style that has at its heart listening and learning; and enriching and enabling others.
- Exercise forgiveness and compassion every day, in every way – for other people as well as for yourself.
- Pay attention to your intuitive self and your magic within.
- Stay close to your spontaneous inner child and that sense of play.
Often people attempt to live their lives backwards:
they try to have more things, or more money,
in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier.
The way it actually works is the reverse.
You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do,
in order to have what you want.
~ Margaret Young ~
Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.
~ Ella Fitzgerald ~
Jane Sloane – San Francisco