How does blogging fit into career transformation? What’s a “pivot”and what does it mean for your blog, your career, your life? What do you permit for yourself? And what do you allow to continue in your life, your blog, your career?
In this post, I open up a bit about myself and how I got into this blogging life, my efforts to mentor women in technology, especially women over forty –and that old aphorism:
What your permit, you promote.
What you allow, will continue.
This is my entry into the DailyPost’s prompt on the word Permit.
Finding my Niche, Making My Pivot
When I started this blog, I thought I would be writing about careers and career transitions for the over-forty crowd. I do this in my real life–mentor women over forty in the world of technology. Having pivoted from one major to another in college, having gone from field researcher, to research professor to university teacher to innovation lead in corporate America, oh, my—I’ve pivoted so much since I was eighteen. It’s been a life of being driven by necessity, economic pressure, and the desire to find happiness and satisfaction from my work!
I thought blogging would be a natural extension of those interests in mentoring women. (I mentor men–young and old, as well. They just don’t ask as often.) I ended up as sought-after mentor because I permitted myself to become a leader. I allowed myself to think of myself in new terms: as a (future) female founder of a start-up. I studied (very hard) to learn the ways of leadership in a way that fit me and fit the problems I was solving in my day job. There were so very many books involved; I am a walking library of books on career transformation, collaborative leadership, and innovation. Following the ideas behind The Lean Startup, I thought that a blog would be a “minimum viable product” for establishing a future career as a writer–perhaps launch a career as a coach as so many have done. Or create training weekends–or even a leader of educational cruises (wouldn’t that be something). And so I gave it a go.
There were many discoveries along the way to creating this blog–and some fails. I discovered that the kind of real-life mentoring I do does not translate easily to the online world. What I do for free was not going to be something I could do for pay, not easily. Mentoring “women in technology” is just too vague a notion. “Niching down” to women over forty meant figuring out how to find that audience. Women over forty are a special group. They are typically women who are ready to be leaders — but getting those opportunities are super tough. And if you haven’t made it by the time you’re fifty, well, damn, you’re in a very difficult spot. Most women I encountered in this age group-–my age group– were definitely not ready to think of themselves as leaders, innovators or female founders. In order to grow in income, in reputation, and in rank, this was going to have to change. The road blocks are very real. The “pivot” concept is very important here–and the side-hustle may be the one key to getting beyond one’s present roadblocks. But I was having a hard time getting other women to understand this.
In the old, failed blog, I kept wanting to talk about blogging as just a part of an overall business mindset–a mindset women can develop. The thirtysomethings are making tremendous headway in this area. For forty-somethings (and better), they have the opportunity to develop their voices and figure out what they have to market, what they want to market and what they enjoy marketing. Because like it or not, this is the decade of the hustle. I just do not intend to lose my soul, my ethics, or my values to marketing my skills, talent and knowledge, but I, too, have to learn to hustle.
It helps me to think of the hustle as a creative act. Jenny Blake’s book, Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next Move, helped me to think of my journey in those terms. Today, Blake is a career coach with her own brand, a successful author, and a former Google star. At first I was a bit turned off by this book. It’s written for the thirty-something technical worker, for the talented young people already suffering career setbacks, burnout, and frustration– for the young people who have already been driven to over-achievement, but found the experience wanting. In the beginning, her story doesn’t seem to include the hard-scrabble women ten years their senior, who fight everyday for their place in the sun in the world of technology. And her advice isn’t quite as hands-on and useable as Joanna Penn’s book, which is more directed as bloggers and writers.
However, Jenny Blake is not just discussing the problem of young people: she’s talking about the problem of people she calls impacters. Impacters come in all ages, genders, and packages. Impacters are those of us who want to change the world, grow, and see a project through to the end. These are the people who are most likely to be looking at engaging their careers more creatively, but truly, it’s good advice even for those who just want to have a more meaningful, fulfilling job. Or any job. People are throwing themselves into the world of the hustle just to have a future. This advice is spot-on for for those of us who are, at base, creative “impacters.”
Disclaimer: The links go to Amazon, where I have an affiliate membership. I’ll get a few pennies if you order these books through my links. I’ll let you know when I finally get my ten dollar gift certificate from Amazon–if that ever happens. 🙂
The Special Situation of Women Over Forty
Women of my fiftysomething generation often do not permit themselves to be leaders. This is just as true of the fortysomethings, who continue to allow themselves to frame themselves according to worn-out templates left over from the 1950s. We are our mother’ daughters. The notion of the female founder is a new one–and women in their forties and fifties struggle to conceive of themselves as businesswomen. Personal branding for ourselves seems scary and foreign. We fail to sit at the table in business meetings, sitting in that outside perimeter of chairs for the “secretaries” and the youngsters, and the old men no longer in line for leadership. We allow ourselves to be marginalized, rather than finding our voice — and asserting our power, knowledge, and capability. Women in their forties and fifties often are impacters-or they want to be impacters. Allowing oneself to see oneself anew–permitting oneself to take a seat at the table–those are big steps.
Finding the road to leadership can be seriously difficult — and many women look at what leadership gets them and turn it down. The way the corporate world has structured leadership–its requirements for breaking commitments of time and energy for children and spouses, for example, to devote to often pointless tasks and meetings–don’t seem to be worth it to many women. Because hey, we’re smarter than that. The toxic corporate cultures often are even more toxic up there on the top floors of the building. At the same time, if we don’t get to those top floors, it gives the organizational culture permission to continue as it is. (I sit at the table. I invite other women to the table. In many cases, in these times of change, new voices and new ideas are welcome. We cannot know until we try.)
Blake’s trip out of the “dream job” at Google to find something more satisfying for herself is in itself a great story about the struggles and the trade-offs of Silicon Valley corporate America. She is a poster child of the new thinking and new roadmaps for female founders and women entrepreneurs. The book is worth a read if only for those stories.
Blake’s advice to try things, put in the research, and experiment –these are all part of the new blogger’s best practices in finding a good niche and developing a personal brand. She takes a positive, constructive approach to career transition that dovetails well with some of the advice from The Startup Of You. The same building blocks are discussed: getting more education, formally or informally; shadowing people whose careers interest you; working with hobbies and “side-hustles” or “side-gigs” to develop skills, experience, and a better understanding of a new career direction–these are the same building blocks that career coaches everywhere offer their clients as the pathway out of their current roadblocked situation. Blake’s book, however, goes beyond just good advice. She offers a roadmap, or, more precisely, some ideas and tools you will need for building your own roadmap.
Drawing on earlier work, (The Lean Startup by Eric Ries), Blake is specifically discussing one idea: the pivot, the change in business strategy without a change in vision. She defines a career pivot as doubling down on what is working to make a purposeful shift to a new, related direction. Pivoting, she writes, is “an intentional, methodological process for nimbly navigating career changes.” And learning how to pivot effectively is the key goal.
Blogging as a Means of Evolving as A Female Founder
I’m far from through with pivoting. Even in this blog, the multiple topics I cover: SEO for beginners, blog design, social media marketing–they all come back to that same vision of empowerment and finding a way forward, the joy of learning and the thrill of teaching–the genuine fun of online technologies, art, and self-expression that underpin the things that satisfy me fundamentally. Today, in my real life mentoring, blogging is now an important part of our discussions. How shall we use it to find our voices? To serve our audiences? To develop and show our talents and skills in a way that can be folded back into our careers, our friendships, our communities? How will it help us to develop our business models? How will we create our side-gigs?
Building a business through blogging and becoming a female founder means pivoting all the time, fine tuning the product, and steering carefully through the challenges. Next week, I’ll talk more about two books,The Lean Startup (Eric Ries) and Give and Take (Adam Grant) for more on these topics.
Thank you for reading. 🙂 Warm regards, Lola