Before COVID-19, women in their 40s and 50s faced hurdles if they wanted to make substantial career changes. Now during the pandemic, the hurdles are even higher.
Earlier this week, Ginny Brzezinski, co-author of “Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success - At 40, 50 and Beyond,” met with Ashley Wilson, executive director of the Women Taking the Lead Program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Joan Woodward, president of The Travelers Institute to chat about women who want to refresh or reinvent their careers.
“Comeback Careers” co-author, “Morning Joe” co-host and founder of Know Your Value Mika Brzezinski also joined to discuss ways women can achieve their career goals, even when they’re working remotely.
“It’s a tough landscape,” said Mika Brzezinski during the virtual conference. “Everybody is struggling to recalibrate.”
Ginny, who is Mika’s sister-in-law, outlined common types of “career pivoters,” from the experienced women who want to return to work after taking a long break to raise children, to the women in their 50s who are fed up and looking to overhaul their careers.
There’s also the newly-minted “pandemic pivoters” who are looking to change their careers amid our new economic climate. A COVID-era impact study found that 61 percent of women were planning a career pivot.
“It’s an Etch-a-Sketch moment in many careers,” said Ginny Brzezinski. “The pandemic has changed so many of our priorities and values...Clearly many of us are ready to shake that Etch-a-Sketch.”
The Brzezinskis offered advice for women who—against the currents of sexism, ageism and COVID-19 woes—want to pursue ambitious new career goals or take a break. Here’s what they said:
Do your homework.
Ginny Brzezinski recommended plotting out potential outcomes before diving into any major career decisions. Often, this is more complicated than an “income minus expenses” calculation, she noted. Ginny Brzezinski recommended a handy tool from the Center for American progress which can help people calculate the hidden cost of taking time off from their careers.
“Try to have a plan,” Ginny Brzezinski said. “If you're thinking about jumping out and you haven’t made that decision yet, you should not do it lightly. You need to think about this. You need to think about what the impact is going to be on your career. you need to know what the financial impact is going to be on your family.”
Update your skills.
Ginny Brzezinski recommended taking classes and staying on top of your industry as much as possible, especially if you plan on taking a break or pivoting into a new career.
“It all comes back to keeping your skills and knowledge relevant,” she said.
Refine your online presentation.
For women who want to succeed in their current roles, Mika Brzezinski suggested keeping the pipelines of communication open and beautifying your remote set-up.
“We’ve all gotta get our Zoom face on,” Mika Brzezinski said. “Work on your background and practice with your friends.”
COVID-19 has changed workplace methods of communication. However, the remote landscape should not stop women from networking, according to Ginny Brzezinski.
“We’re not going out and having coffee with people, but you can network virtually,” said Ginny Brzezinski, who recommended LinkedIn as a networking tool.
For women who want to succeed in their current jobs, Mika Brzezinski said that workers should keep the communication pipelines open with their managers.
“If you're working and you want to hold on to your job, you have to connect with your boss...Stay in touch,” said Mika Brzezinski. “We have to work at connecting.”
There is no shame in having a non-linear career path, according to Ginny Brzezinski, and it’s important to be up front about it. If you have a large career gap on your resume, for example, be transparent with your hiring manager.
“Be honest and up front, but don’t dwell on it,” Ginny Brzezinski said. “But you can't not address it...Be clear that the gap is over, and make it clear you’re ready to get back.”