5 Steps Women Over 40 Can Take to Rule the World
Davia Temin has made a name for herself advising major corporations on how to build their reputations, but her real passion is advising women on their careers.
As the one-time head of marketing for General Electric Co.'s multibillion-dollar finance arm, GE Capital, Temin helped shape the company's public image and traveled the world doing damage control when crisis struck. She left 14 years ago to start her own strategic marketing consulting firm in New York City.
Today, Temin regularly lectures about women and leadership at conferences. Temin, who's in her mid-50s, also sits on the boards of advocacy groups such as The White House Project and Girl Scouts of the USA. "I like to say I support women from Daisies all the way to president," she says.
Here are five steps Temin recommends for 40+ women who want to advance their careers:
1. Take care of yourself financially. If you're over 40, your No. 1 priority should be maximizing your earnings potential so you're set for retirement. It doesn't matter if you're single, married or divorced. "The best advice my dad ever gave me was to not assume someone else was going to take care of me," Temin says. If you don't have enough money saved, take the most lucrative job you can find to build up your net worth, even if it means doing something that's not totally satisfying--you can always find satisfaction by doing volunteer work or something else on the side.
2. Learn the rules of the game. There are lots of unwritten rules in corporate life and women don't always pick up on them, partly because they haven't been in the game as long as men, Temin says. Knowing the rules is important because it could be what gets you that shot at CEO, a board seat or an invitation to join the executive committee. One way to learn the rules is through a mentor. The right mentor can clue you into the way things works and also be advocate for you in upper-level discussions. "Sometimes all it takes is someone to say, 'I've been working more closely with Jane and she's fabulous. It might be a stretch for her but I think she can do it.' So Jane gets a chance instead of being passed over."
3. Build mentor relationships. If mentors are so important, how do you find them? Companies are setting up formal programs, but Temin prefers informal relationships that forge when people share certain characteristics: "You're both go-getters, strategists, have kind hearts or work 25/8," Temin says. Meaningful mentor relationships can last a long time. Temin met her mentor, businessman Robert Lear, more than three decades ago and they continued meeting several times a year until he died last year at 91. Now she's mentoring a friend's 30-year-old daughter who runs a nonprofit in India. If you've identified someone a possible mentor, don't ask, "Will you be my mentor?" Anything so direct is off putting, Temin counsels. Start by inviting would-be mentors for coffee and asking about their careers, how they got to where they are now. Be genuine. If a bond forms, you can gradually turn more of the conversation to your career goals.
4. Make a big move. If you're financially set for retirement, after 40 is the time to make a big career play. It could be moving up in your present company or enhancing your reputation in the community by joining a nonprofit board. Or it could be leaving the corporate world behind to start a business. Whatever it is, have a plan, and "fill it out as boldly as you can without ignoring money," Temin says.
5. Be prepared to work hard. If becoming an entrepreneur is your calling, realize what you're getting yourself into. "If you think you're working hard now, it'll be three times as much work," Temin says. "You have to have the energy and ability to devote that much time. You probably have to have a certain workaholic-ism." Hire smart people who you genuinely like, have fun with and who are good team players. If you're up for it, entrepreneurship can be immensely rewarding, Temin says. "I've found the most satisfaction I could ever imagine running my company."
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