Successful 40-Somethings Weigh In On How to Make Your Career Work For You


I always promote the idea that your opportunities do not have to narrow as you get older. To that point, watch out for the 2016 40 Women to Watch Over 40 List this week!

2016 was a new start for me. Since January I’ve been working at Forbes launching a new Women’s Digital Network. Check it out here. Just like my work here, it’s mission is focused on providing a variety of perspectives that gives younger women a head start on moving forward. So I’ve been talking to more Millennial women about what they want. One thing that came up in a some of my discussions was a sense of being fed up with the stereotypes of Millennials…especially the lazy moniker.

“I know so many people who have full time jobs and then they’re doing something really awesome on the side. I have a friend who is working for an investment firm as his day job, and then on the side, he manages his own nonprofit incubator. He gives pro bono consulting, helps fund raise money for 8 different nonprofits in the education sector. He is juggling these massive projects that are so massive, and also a full time job—I know a lot of people doing stuff like that.” – 20-something

For as many entitled Millennials there are out their living up to the reputation, there are Millennials founding startups that are contributing to the economy or nonprofits that are changing the world. Then there are a big number of those in the middle who are are changing the workforce and doing the best they can.

“People today are able to do remote work or make freelancing work. When people talk about Millennials, they say, “Oh, he’s a freelancer.” I know a lot of friends who are freelancers who hustle really, really hard.” I don’t think that people understand what that means.” – 20-something

I can relate to that! When I consulting on my own it always felt it wasn’t as valuable. That freelancing is something you do when you can’t find a job or in between jobs…not something you choose to do. And some of today’s Millennials are working on solving the problem of how to make flexible work more secure with startups around new work models.  It’s about what works for you. So today I’m sharing a little work advice from 40-somethigns past and present;

From a woman who believes it’s not about set schedules it’s about transparency:

“A good culture can get you through hard times. I had to fire people at my last startup when the financial world imploded in 2008, taking our investors with it. People stood by us despite the ultimate shut down of the company. It was horrible and traumatic, but it really impressed on me the sustainability of goodwill and the importance of having a respectful, transparent workplace. My mission now is to create a company that can integrate an exceptional business and a better lifestyle. The message I got when I was younger was that balance and business did not meet, especially for women. I think there’s still a sense in the startup environment that you have to be there working 12 hours a day. The key for me is transparency. If I go home for a parents meeting during the day, people know that I’m also working after my son is in bed. If it’s a perfect day for kayaking in the New York Harbor and someone can take advantage of that and still be responsible for their output that day. Great.

The key is making sure that people know what other people are doing and can see the output. People shouldn’t feel it’s a privilege to have flexibility. It’s about conveying a work ethic and making sure people know they don’t have to check their personality and lives at the door. – 40-something serial entrepreneur

From a woman who manages HR in a tough culture everyday…

Keep in mind that no matter what you say to anyone, even if they say they won’t tell, it will be heard by most people you work with. Assume you will be heard by everyone. – 40-something, HR director, Talent Agency

From a woman who got career handcuffed and wishes she had job-hopped:  

“Do more career shifts in your 20’s before you start making a lot of money. Because you may start off doing something that you don’t necessarily love.  And if you’re good at it you start making a decent amount of money and it’s harder to leave. It’s really hard to leave….even if you don’t love it. So I would say leave sooner if you don’t love and but know you are good at it because you can always come back to it if you are good at it. – 40-something, freelance promotions consultant

From a woman making her mark in a large organization in her own way…

We’re all wired differently. There are people who are visionaries. They need to be in a job where they get the opportunity to do that. There are people that are more tactical implementers and they can take very big picture ideas and narrow them down to something that people can go do.

So you’ve got to play to your strengths. I know that I’m not a visionary yet I gravitate towards people who are because I just love the way their minds work. I also watch how they’re paid attention to and see the respect that they get. I sort of want that but I’m never going to be a visionary and I’m okay with that. I’m okay knowing what my strengths are and how important I would be to a company because of what I can do. Because those visionary people, they can barely unlock the door to their car or do their email on a Blackberry. Not always …but you know what I mean. They’re just so forward thinking that day to day stuff becomes so difficult.

So you have balance between striving to be better and be respected for what you can do and trying to be something you are not. Know there is a level of respect that goes with someone who does what they do well. Trust what you’re good at — even if you see other skill sets that other people are good at and maybe you don’t have that skill set yet or you’re not just wired that way. Find a way to make your skill set one that’s used, respected, needed because if you’re not feeling that way —then you’re not in the right place for people to get it. – 40-something, intrapreneur, large organization

From a women starting her own business…in a field she loves

You know who is wildly successful at their job? People who love what they do. People who love what they do don’t even feel like they go to work. And the rest of us who work at jobs that make us unhappy, go to work. And felt unhappy.

It sounds so simplistic to say follow your happiness. And it is hard because it goes against society sometimes. It goes against your parents.  It goes against conventionality. Some people they can’t do anything but what they love. And those people are usually very successful and happy people. – 40-something, design / textiles business

From two women who know…once you find that passion, you have to work really hard…

If you’re doing something that you want to do or on the path to doing that, you have to work harder than anybody else. You need to establish yourself where you are and make it your priority. A career is a relationship. So I think it’s trying to consider that maybe it’s okay to work hard to get what you want. – 40-something, marketing

Work is hard. I love what I do but every day there are challenges. It’s work.  – 40-something, investor

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