As a young woman, I thought that the path to success in life was simple -- invest in a great education, land a fabulous job in my chosen field and work obsessively to get ahead. Along the way, I hoped to find true love, raise a family, buy a house and travel the world. Climbing the corporate ladder, I measured my accomplishments by the new words in my job title. The elusive "glass ceiling" always shimmered in the distance, promising astounding rewards for my hard work. All I had to do was stay focused and do my job well.
For most of my career, momentum was on my side. Then, as I reached my 60s I realized something important that I believe every woman needs to hear.
No matter what you believe, except in rare cases when you are already at the very top of the corporate ladder, after 60, you have very little currency in the workplace. Don't get me wrong. You can still work successfully into your 70s or 80s. It's just that promotions will be harder to win and stereotypes easier to encounter. If you love what you do and you aren't particularly interested in breaking through the glass ceiling after 60, there's nothing wrong with staying put. But, if you want to continue to gain career momentum after 60, it may be time to forgot the glass ceiling and build your own house. It may be time to become an entrepreneur or start a brand new career.
Perhaps you're ready to build the career house that you always dreamed of. If you can finish the sentence "I've always wanted to...," then you are more than half way to starting your own company. You can do your own performance reviews, measure your own success and work the way you want. Most of all, you can build your house one brick at a time, doing the things you love, on your terms and with your own style.
Contrary to popular belief, older entrepreneurs can be just as successful as their younger counterparts. We are better connected, have a lifetime of experience and just know how to get things done. Unfortunately, many of us have great ideas, but, our own fears and insecurities hold us back. Now is the time to fix our mindset and give ourselves credit for our passion, skills and experience.
Or, if starting a business isn't your thing, maybe it's time to consider an encore career gives you the chance to do the things you love with people who share your passions. I could list dozens of amazing job ideas for women over 60, but, this has already been done well by people like Kerry Hannon, who have turned reinvention into an art. I also value the work of Encore, which helps older women to connect and support each other as they try to make money from their passions.
On a practical level, there has never been a better time to try something new in your 60s. We just need to stop saying "the only problem is..." and start saying "the opportunity is..." There are so many resources available for people who want to start their own business or make a fresh career start. At 100startup, you can find templates for writing a simple business plan. Project Eve is also a great resource for women over 60 who want to build their new career house.
There are definitely women over 60 who positively love their jobs and can't imagine doing anything else for the rest of their lives. This is fantastic! But, the majority of the women that I have spoken to in the Sixty and Me community want to start writing the next chapter in their life. We understand the practical realities. We know that seeing the world, staying healthy and staying independent require money. By starting a company around our passions or finding an encore career that we love, we can have the best of both worlds. Instead of fighting the glass ceiling in our 60s, let's build our own house.
What do you think? Do you think that older entrepreneurs can compete with their younger counterparts? Has anyone that you know started a business or found an encore career in their 60s or 70s? Please add your thoughts in the comments or in the Sixty and Me forum.