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Why A Physical Attractiveness Stereotype Crushes Opportunities

Nearly everyone understands by the time they’re adolescents that appearances matter.  You see beauty and sexuality emphasized consistently in ads, movies, television shows, and social media.  Dating services portray people on their sites as attractive and eager to meet you.  Anti-aging products are hocked to women by twenty-something-year-old models with no spots or wrinkles.  Viagra ads suggest to men if they take the pill they’ll be able to bed a gorgeous woman, just like the one in the commercial.  We’re barraged with messages that reinforce the notion looks trump substance.

The pressure to be attractive extends to your professional life as well. But, landing a job you’re qualified for or getting the promotion you’ve earned shouldn’t depend on the size of your waistline or the prominence of your nose.  After all, you don’t comb your hair with a fork or require a formal introduction to dental floss!  However, growing evidence supports the theory that looks play a significant role in your career development and income.  Therefore, it’s imperative to learn why a physical attractiveness stereotype crushes opportunities for most people.

Who’s The Fairest Of Them All?

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new job.  You get your resume reviewed and edited by a professional and eagerly apply for several positions.  This, along with a snazzy cover letter ought to secure you a few interviews.  Beauty isn’t a consideration at this point, right?  Alas, most companies have been using ‘social screening’ for years to evaluate applicants.  It’s a process where hiring managers use your social media accounts to determine if you’re a viable candidate.  And unless you have picture-free profiles, your appearance is part of the package.  According to a recent poll conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder, sixty percent of employers surveyed used social networking platforms for hiring purposes.  Maybe this is old news to you.  No biggie.

Well, there is an abundance of research that emphasize the advantages of being good looking.  In a field experiment conducted by the University of Buenos Aires, researchers found that resumes submitted with photos of attractive applicants were 36 percent more likely to be given a callback.  If that’s not discouraging enough, studies by economist Daniel S. Hamermesh found that beautiful people are often offered higher salaries.  In fact, Hamermesh wrote a fascinating, yet disturbing book on the topic, Beauty Pays.  In it, he explains how companies can justify and afford to pay a premium for attractive employees.

 

 

Eyes Without A Face

Obviously, hiring based on a person’s looks is wrong.  The practice squanders human resources and reinforces stereotypes.  We can only wonder how often brilliant applicants are passed over for eye-catching mediocrity.  You also have to wonder how it affects office morale.  How can we reduce this type of discrimination?

Both businesses and governments have shown increasing interest in implementing blind or anonymous processes to review applicants.  This means more companies are attempting to reduce cues for conscious or unconscious bias in hopes of hiring more women and minorities.  It stands to reason this approach will also benefit older and less attractive prospects as well.  Current trends and strategies used include:

  • Omitting name, gender, and photos from resumes

  • Offering online questionnaires

  • Conducting telephone interviews

  • Positioning a candidate behind a screen during an interview

  • Eliminating social screening from the hiring process

Perhaps these tactics bring more diversity to the workforce and result in better positions and more money to those who have previously been discriminated against based on their looks.  However, instituting these procedures is purely voluntary on behalf of companies.  There are currently no laws mandating blind or anonymous hiring practices in the United States.  Also, businesses may be reluctant to change existing systems based on the added expense.  As a result, progress in the area is bound to be slow.

Related Reading: 11 Breathtaking Cindy Gallop Quotes About Equality

It’s easy to see why a physical attractiveness stereotype crushes opportunities for job seekers.  Pretty people continue to have the upper hand for now.  Perhaps in time, the statistics will change.  In the meantime, we’ll have to continue keeping up appearances to receive the highest pay possible.  Just like Mom always said, “Life isn’t fair.”

What are your thoughts?  Should companies be legally obligated to use blind interviewing to reduce stereotyping and increase fairness in hiring practices?  Share your experiences.

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How To Write An Elevator Speech That Rocks

To be honest,  I don’t like the term ‘elevator speech.’  It sounds aggressive and triggers memories of cheesy, fictional salespeople like Joe Isuzu and Herb Tarlek. Can you imagine being trapped in a slow moving, metal box listening to a sales pitch from either of those guys?  Ew!  Though, if you’re not careful, that’s the experience you’ll give potential clients when you approach them.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point.

Your conversation with a new contact should develop into a natural give and take that moves the relationship forward.  If you’ve been practicing a one-sided spiel in the mirror, hoping repetition will make you successful, ditch that pitch.  It’s time to learn how to write an elevator speech that rocks.

Maybe you’re saying, “I’m not in sales or a business owner; I don’t have to worry about selling myself to anyone.”  Well, job interviews are the ultimate forms of self-advertisement.  Convincing decision makers you’re the best candidate for a position is selling yourself.  Heck, even first dates and social gatherings call for personal promotion.  So, you might as well put some time and thought into your elevator speech, whether it’s for professional purposes or otherwise.

By the way, if the idea of speaking to total strangers makes you feel faint, check out this post on Overcoming Shyness.

 

First Things First

According to a study performed by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, you have a fraction of a second to make a first impression.  That means your prospect is making several key assumptions before you open your mouth.  Therefore, it’s imperative to give yourself an advantage by:

  • Smiling – It shows you’re welcoming and approachable

  • Making eye contact – People will perceive you as more intelligent and engaged

  • Dressing smartly – This communicates your level of confidence

 

Know Your Audience

Most people will ask what you do out of obligation.  Don’t engage in premature spamification.  Nobody likes that!  Remember the Golden Rule here.  Not everyone is open to hearing about you, your products, and your services.  They may not want to know your company’s history or the reason you started your business, especially thirty seconds after meeting you.  Guage the situation.  Have a different version of your speech tailored to each type of audience and occasion.  Networking events and interviews will obviously call for a more lengthy, overt elevator speech while casual meetings and social events require brevity and subtlety.

 

Pitch Perfect: The Components

  • The Introduction: You Had Me At ‘Hello’

Some call the beginning of an elevator speech ‘the hook.’  Why?  That implies you’re a hunter and the other person is prey.  It’s impossible for you to build a long-term, professional relationship based on the principle of winner and loser.  It might seem like a minor detail, but your frame of mind is important.

You can opt to introduce yourself with only your name and title (yawn) or consider opening with an attention getter to captivate your audience.  It could be a surprising statistic, an anecdote or a mysterious reference to boost interest.  The objective is to encourage them to say, “Tell me more.”

For example, If your niche is businesswomen,  You can surprise them with the results of a recent study by saying “Research at Stanford University has found that women who include ‘PTA member’ on their resumes are 79% less likely to be hired.”  That’s a startling statement that will almost certainly get a response.

  • Offer A Solution To A Problem: I Built A Better Mousetrap

Now that you’ve piqued their curiosity, you should identify your niche, a problem that group has, and your unique solution(s).   Keep it brief, focused, and simple.  You might say, “I help women who want to re-enter the workforce identify and quickly start a career they love.”  This will naturally encourage your prospects to ask, “How?”  Then, you can get into a few details of your product or service.  “My three step program does this by…”

 

 

  • Define Your Purpose: Inspire And Light A Fire

At this point, you should state the overall purpose of your company, career or product.  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to mention why you do what you do.  While what you offer is useful, why you offer it is compelling.  Prospects are excited by a cause.  “I was inspired to develop my service because I identified the need to…”

You may have heard of Simon Sinek, the author of the best-selling book Start With Why.  Many of his popular Ted talks focus on the fierce customer loyalty Apple garners due to its purpose and core beliefs.  It’s all about messaging.

Perhaps you’re asking, “If I’m supposed to start with the why, then how come it’s third on your list of elevator speech components?”  Good question, smarty pants.  It’s a tall order to dive into your purpose before you’ve properly introduced yourself.   But, if you can figure out how to do that without seeming abrupt or awkward, go for it.

 

 

  • Call To Action:  Keep That Ball Rolling

Well, you’ve managed to keep your contacts’ attention and bowl them over.  Good job!  Now you have to take this relationship to the next level.  You should always offer your business card and encourage prospects to visit your site and email you.  Truthfully, though, the odds of this happening are slim.  Inquire if you can follow up the next day.  Then the ball is in your court.  Politely ask for a card or take down contact information.  At the very least, get a company name and web address.

 

A Few Final Thoughts: The Loose Ends

In the end, it comes down to writing out your pitch and practicing until you can confidently communicate it to anyone at any time.  Remember to move and speak naturally.  Start by talking to the mirror if you must, but then move on to friends and family who will give you honest feedback on your performance.  In no time at all, you’ll be impressing audiences with the perfect pitch.

Now you know how to write an elevator speech that rocks.  I’d love to know how it works out or if you have any tips for the rest of us.  Please feel free to share your advice or thoughts below in the comments section.

Life is better when we lift each other up.

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5 Easy Ways To Boost Your Tech Savviness

Not that long ago, I was contemplating starting my blog.  I was dutifully writing my business plan and taking an in-depth course to make certain it would be a viable business.  Yep, I am organized and disciplined like that.  However, there was this 800-pound gorilla in the room I was ignoring; building and maintaining my website.  Gulp!  My stomach would tighten every time I thought about it.  I looked forward to it as much as a root canal.  At that point, I would have given my tech savviness a low grade, indeed.

It seems, with each year that passes, I’ve gotten braver about trying new things, but not technology.  I resist it.  For example, I put off opening a Facebook account as long as possible, and I don’t know how to use the camera on my iPhone sufficiently.  If you are like me, you have relied on the tech wizards in your life to save you from digital disaster.  And I’m certain they just loved fixing your problems, right?  Fortunately, I’ve discovered other resources available to reluctant learners and late bloomers.  Here are 5 easy ways to boost your tech savviness:

1. YouTube Videos

YouTube.com is my go-to for computer and website issues because I need visuals to comprehend instructions of a technical nature.  It’s difficult for me to follow a technician’s direction over the phone.  Frankly, it fries my brain.  With YouTube videos, I can pause when necessary and proceed at the pace I want until the task is complete.

With technology, you’re going to want to filter your search on YouTube.  I don’t bother with anything older than one year.  Although, I suppose it could be nostalgic to watch a tutorial about flip phones from 2007, but not relevant.  I also look for a good thumbs up to thumbs down ratio, so I know it’s informative and high quality.  However, most videos don’t have many viewer ratings when they’re new.  Below is an example of an instructional YouTube video on how to start a subscription box business.

 

2. Read All About It

So, you’re saying you don’t need images or video to broaden your skillset or graduate from digital ninja school.  All you require are daily or weekly posts to keep you in the know.  Lucky for you, the web is packed with quality articles from trusted tech blogs, each with a different personality.

  • Women Love Tech blends product and app reviews with industry news and tips about social media.

  • Mashable mixes tech, social media, and entertainment into a bit of a “tech stew” that is quite digestible.

  • Gizmodo is funny and snarky and caters to a youngish audience.

  • TechCrunch profiles startups and up-and-coming companies and reviews products.

  • Girl About Tech offers how-to articles, buying advice, and product reviews.

  • Social Media Examiner brings you the latest news about platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

3. Take A Class or Two

Maybe you’re not intimidated by technology, but your skills are questionable.  Your friends have shown you amazing pictures or movies produced on their devices while you take ho-hum photos that impress no one.  Family members share messages, invitations, and calendar events with ease while you struggle with the same.  Coworkers create presentations quickly, and you find it difficult to compete.  Well, there’s a simple solution to those dilemmas.

CreativeLive is an online streaming education provider that supplies free and low-cost classes on topics like photography and video to website and WordPress.  The sheer number of courses for you to choose from is impressive.  Blog Village offers writers hundreds of video lessons to browse, live chats to participate in, a private Facebook group to join and more.  You can choose from beginner, intermediate, and advanced workshops to suit your needs.

Several large retailers offer free or inexpensive courses for their smartphones, tablets, cameras, and laptops.  The Apple Store holds classes for all experience levels on Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, photography, videography, iCloud, and Keynote presentation software.  Best Buy provides training seminars to help master your digital camera and many Samsung devices.  Verizon offers Wireless Workshops for Android, iPhone, and tablets.

Related Reading: 7 Innovative Sites to Help You Crush it in Business

4. AARP TEK

Most of you who are fifty or older are familiar with AARP and its services.  But, did you know the company has an online education program called AARP Academy that can boost your tech savviness to new heights?  Best of all, the courses provided are free and available to all ages.  Most of the training is targeted to novices and newbies.  However, the number of videos and webinars accessible is impressive.

Not surprisingly, there are the standard classes on social media, tablets, and smartphones.  AARP also offers courses about online safety, including wifi, email, and passwords.  Interestingly, the company also promotes informational webinars on topics like medical apps, wearable health devices, and on-demand access to medical experts.  Pretty thorough, don’t you think?

 

5. Listen Up

Okay, so you’re not into watching videos or reading posts (except mine, of course).  I get it; you’re an auditory learner, also known as a good listener.  Perhaps a few weekly podcasts will pique your interest and raise your tech IQ.  Plus, you can enjoy them in the car which is not recommended for blog readers.  Here is a sampling of a few great shows:

  •  Nerdette is a “safe space for nerds.”  The hosts explore the digital universe through compelling interviews and interesting chats.

  • TedTalks Technology is exactly what you think it is.  Speakers give inspirational and informative talks about research and breakthroughs in tech.  Think of it as an uplifting, educational, and perhaps geeky speech.

  • This Week In Tech is a popular, long-running show with roundtable discussions about trends, the latest products, and new technologies.

  • Rocket is hosted by three clever ladies who focus their energetic conversations on books, movies, games, comics, and a litany of other topics.

So, there you have it; my list of 5 easy ways to boost your tech savviness.  These resources will improve your digital skills in no time at all. You might even be entertained along the way.  Perhaps you have suggestions on how I might take my game to the next level.  I’de love to know.  Please share your ideas in the comment section below.

Life is better when we lift each other up.

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Overcoming Shyness After 40; Why Now Is The Right Time

Have you ever scheduled an interview, a date, or a meeting and needed to give yourself a pep talk before the big moment?  You took a deep breath and swallowed hard, telling yourself, “I can do this.”  Suddenly a wave of nervous energy crashed over you, and a familiar voice flooded your mind with doubt.  “What if they don’t like me?  I’m going to make a fool of myself.  I can’t do this.”  Then reluctantly, yet with a sense of relief, you canceled the event.  By not overcoming shyness you have missed out on countless life experiences as well as business opportunities.  You are not alone.

According to Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci, P.h.D., head of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, about 40% of adults worldwide believe they are shy.  And as a result, they are less likely to advance in their careers and not surprisingly, have fewer social connections.  Does this scenario sound familiar?

 

Don’t Play Coy With Me!

At this point, you might be asking, “Was I born this way?”  That’s a good question.  While Scientists debate whether there’s a gene that causes shyness, Carducci does not believe people are born with it.  He writes, “shyness is characterized by three major features: excessive self-consciousness, excessive negative self-evaluation, and excessive negative self-preoccupation.  All three characteristic features of shyness involve a sense of self.  And the sense of self does not develop until approximately 18 months of age.”  And there doesn’t appear to be one single cause for this affliction either.  Perhaps your shyness stems from your temperament, personality, upbringing or a combination of all three.

Keep in mind; I am not referring to a social anxiety disorder.  That’s significantly more serious than being bashful.  If you hyperventilate or need to make a pitstop for adult diapers at the thought of attending a social or networking event, you should probably get some professional help.  I battled both shyness and panic attacks in my life.  And I assure you, they are completely different.  You can read about my struggles here. 

I’m not talking about introverts either.  They feel comfortable spending time alone and prefer solitary activities.  Timid people, however, long to interact and participate in activities and gatherings, but don’t feel capable.  So, what’s the secret to overcoming shyness as a mature adult?  You have probably tried to conquer it in the past or hoped to outgrow it by now, but shyness isn’t going away on its own.  Perhaps the time is right to consider a few new resources.

 

Podcasts: Keep Calm And Listen On

I listen to several podcasts on varying topics each week.  I find them to be educational and entertaining.  Whether in my car, on the treadmill, or cleaning the house, hitting the play button on my phone makes these mundane tasks seem more enjoyable.  Here are three highly rated podcasts that may help in overcoming shyness.  You can find them on iTunes.

 

Shyness.com: Plant Food For Shrinking Violets

Shyness.com is a comprehensive catalog of resources for those seeking treatment for this problem.  Sponsored by The Shyness Institute in Berkely, California, this website is packed with helpful information.  You can find suggested books, research, therapists, training programs, meditations, and more.  Dr. Lynne Henderson, P.h.D., is the director of this research facility.  Listen her speak about shyness in the workplace in a fascinating radio interview here.

 

Hypnosis: You Are Getting Very Sleepy-

The fair-minded part of you may be intrigued by this potential remedy while your skeptical side may have a few doubts.  As it turns out, clinical hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and sleep hypnosis have been used successfully to treat everything from shyness and anxiety to asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.  Famous athletes and top business people have used this focused, guided imagery for years to enhance performance.

The British Medical Association has concluded that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for phobias and anxiety-related issues.  While it does not work for everyone, it may well be worth a try.  The National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists can help you locate a professional near you.

 

 

Related Reading: Midlife Reinvention; Is it Time for a Professional Pivot?

 It’s never too late.  You don’t have to live your remaining years on the sideline and continue to miss out on social experiences and business opportunities.  What have you got to lose?  Overcoming shyness after age 40 is possible if you are willing to be open-minded and consider trying new techniques.  Or, perhaps you have already conquered this demon.  If you have, please help us all and share your secret in the comment section below.

Life is better when we lift each other up.

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How Delaying Gratification Results In Remarkable Success

Is waiting for something I want worth it?  That’s a question you ask yourself daily.  If you overeat, the jeans may not fit later.  Although you don’t have enough money saved, that new laptop could go on the credit card.  Your family wants to go on vacation, but that money could go toward business classes to improve your resume.  These are uncomfortable choices for most of us.  However, you probably know people who are quite adept at using their willpower.  They seem to turn off desire like a light switch.  And, as a result, they are successful in nearly all facets of life.  Those perfect jerks!  You want this power, don’t you?  Yeah, me too.  Why are some people better at delaying gratification and how does it help them become successful?

Like Giving Candy To A Baby

Standford professor, Walter Mischel published the marshmallow experiment in 1972.  His team tested hundreds of small children for self-control.  A researcher sat each kid in a private room and placed a marshmallow in front of her.  The child was then offered a choice.  She could eat the candy after the assistant left the room for several minutes or wait until the assistant returned to give her a second marshmallow.  As you can imagine, most of the children fidgeted and pondered and quickly gave into temptation.  But one-third of the kids held out for the bigger prize.

The research team conducted follow-up studies for decades.  They found the children who used willpower and waited for the second candy grew up to demonstrate more tolerance for stress, earn higher SAT scores, and exhibit greater social competence than those who gobbled down the first candy.  In 1989, the study concluded, “To function effectively, individuals must voluntarily postpone immediate gratification and persist in goal-directed behavior for the sake of later outcomes.”  Those who were capable of putting more value on the greater reward were effective at delaying gratification and benefitted academically and socially because of it.

To be truthful, I don’t know that I would have held out for the second marshmallow as a child.  But only because I hate marshmallows and wouldn’t have wanted another one.  I have my weaknesses, though.  Offer me a nice glass of wine or some dark chocolate, and I’ll squirm like one of the kids in the experiment.  My point is, people are more complicated than any study will show.

Perhaps you’re a dedicated worker, but you are a compulsive eater.  Maybe you exercise like a champ, then follow it up by blowing your monthly budget on clothes.  Professor Mischel refers to these reoccurring weaknesses as “hot spots,” and he believes we all have them.  If your hot spot is spending money, click here to find out how I paid off 40k in debt within two years.

 

It’s All In Your Head

I won’t get all textbook-y on you here, but it’s important to understand how the willpower process works.  The ventral striatum is the pleasure center of the brain.  It is the part of your mind that responds to the potential for immediate reward.  To bypass impulses from this area, the prefrontal cortex (in charge of rational thought), must be active.  As a person grows, the reasoning portion of the brain matures, and he or she learns how to deal with or avoid temptations.  This is why adults are better at self-control than children and adolescents.

However, we are all born into different environments.  If you were raised by people who frequently broke promises, you might have realized waiting for a fictional reward was useless.  Additionally, if you grew up poor, scarcity may have prompted you to choose immediate gratification.  One in the hand is better than two in the bush!  But that kind of thinking won’t help you reach your goals or overcome your indulgences now.

What’s She Got That I Haven’t Got?

It’s amazing to me how some people command incredible control over their desires.  They save money, exercise daily, eat right, and never make impulse purchases.  What’s the secret?  It’s all about the way they look at temptation.  People who successfully delay gratification believe they’ll be rewarded for sacrifice.  In addition, they’re able to put more emphasis on future pleasures than immediate ones.  Well, YIPPY for them!  I know what you’re asking; How does that help me?

According to Professor Mischel, both our biology and our psychology contribute to our overall self-control.  It’s not all predetermined by our DNA.  That means there’s hope for all of us.  We can learn how to increase our willpower and train it like a muscle.  However, this muscle can be fatigued.  According to the American Psychological Association, people who are subjected to repeated temptation are less likely to continue resisting the temptation.  They are “willpower-depleted.”  None of us make good decisions when we’re tired.

Can You Spare Some Change?

There are many different strategies to boost self-control.  You have probably tried several.  I’ll list the more common tactics I’ve used over the years that resulted in moderate success in delaying gratification:

  • Writing down both long-term and short-term goals

  • Having a daily schedule and routine

  • Eliminating exposure to temptations

“Been there, done that,” you say, “What else ya got?”  Those are great approaches, but you need more to get the ball rolling.  I know I feel the same way.  Here are some actions that you may not have tried yet:

  • Get an app to assist you.  There are numerous software programs designed to make it easier to reach goals and resist temptations.  Gympact rewards you with cash as an incentive to achieve your fitness objectives.   Level alerts you when you are overspending.  Quit That helps reinforce healthy habits and banish unhealthy ones by tracking your progress and updating you on how much money you’ve saved from quitting smoking or drinking coffee or alcohol, etc.   

  • Read The Willpower Instinct, by psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.  In the book, I found useful advice and exercises to help me make better choices through nutrition, fitness, and sleep.  Buy this one for yourself or a close friend.  I’m not so sure gifting this one to your boss or mother is such a great idea if you know what I mean.  It is a great read, though.

  • Get some help already!  If you’ve tried everything else, why not seek outside assistance?  Enough with the stigma about seeing a mental health professional in order to tackle this or any other recurring problems in your life.  The American Psychological Association can assist you in locating a qualified psychologist in your area.

At this point, I hope you are inspired to increase your impulse control and willpower.  It’s not just a talent given to some at birth.  Delaying gratification is possible if you understand and change how you think about temptations.  If you begin to choose anticipation over immediate reward, you’ll strengthen this ‘muscle’ and perhaps conquer a bad habit or two.

Do you have any tips or advice to overcome chronic indulgences?  If so, let me know in the comments section below.

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11 Midlife Career Change Ideas That Don’t Suck

Want to know what’s wrong with most lists of midlife career change ideas?  They SUCK!  That’s right; I said it.  That is unless you inherited a large sum of money, don’t need to rely on a realistic income or you relish the idea of starting a four-year degree program in your forties or fifties.

Many similar lists describe great, high paying positions requiring a bachelor’s or master’s degree or are full of jobs that almost anyone can qualify for, but the pay is lousy.  My guess is, you have a pile of bills to pay.  I understand.  There’s a mortgage, car payment, food, medical insurance, and cell phone plan to contend with every month.  Some midlifers are also footing the bill for their kids’ college tuition.  Ouch!

So, let’s get real.  In order for the majority of midlife career changes to be possible, they have to be long on financial rewards and short on educational requirements.  Face it, if you’re reading this post, you’re no spring chicken.  Sorry.  Yet you still might be looking at over twenty years of full-time employment.

How do you make the most of the time you have left in the workforce and still make a decent wage?  By choosing a new profession that pays at least $40,000 annually and won’t take more than two years of additional education to qualify for.  That’s a tall order, but not impossible to fill.  So, without further delay, here are my 11 midlife career change ideas:

1. Surgical Technologist:

Scrub techs, as they are sometimes called, prep patients and operating rooms for surgery.  In addition, they sterilize instruments and supplies and hand them to surgeons during procedures.  Obviously, to be a good candidate, the sight of blood shouldn’t make you light-headed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for this position is a surprising $44,330 and the job outlook for the next several years is good.  Training programs of one or two years are available at community colleges and vocational schools. Learn more from the Association of Surgical Technologists.

2. Wind Turbine Service Technician:

You weren’t expecting that one, were you?  With the expansion of the green energy industry, job openings for this position are on the rise.  If you don’t mind working several hundred feet in the air in tight spaces, this could be the career for you.  There are even offshore wind turbines to be fixed and maintained if that tickles your fancy.  The typical annual salary for technicians is $51,050.  An associate’s degree from a tech school or community college is required.  Most companies will offer and require additional on-the-job training.  For further information, go to WindTurbineTechnicians.net.

 3. Paralegal Assistant:

No, you won’t get to make objections in court or make an emotional closing argument to a jury as a PA.  They work behind the scenes conducting interviews, drafting documents and verifying information for lawyers in their firm.  While the legal field is not as glamorous or dramatic as shows like Law & Order would have you believe, this is a respectable position with a median pay of $48,810 .  An associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies is required.  ParalegalEDU.org has additional details on the courses and training you may need.

4. Licensed Practical Nurse:

LPNs usually work in hospitals and are supervised by registered nurses.  Duties include taking vital signs, administering medications, changing dressings, and performing CPR in emergencies.  Is it just me, or does this sound remarkably similar to the job description of a parent?  Yes, but the pay is better.  The median salary for an LPN is $43,170 per year but varies by region.  Training programs at colleges take one or two years to complete and most states require licensure.  Due to shortages in certain locations, employers may even offer a signing bonus, tuition reimbursement or other incentives.  Get additional facts from the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses.

 5. Computer User Support Specialist:

That title is a mouth full, don’t you think?  Otherwise known as help desk technicians (HDTs), they troubleshoot and provide assistance to computer users, usually via phone or email.  These specialists identify and solve hardware, software, and operating system problems for people within their company, clients or end users.  HDTs are the techy super-heroes you call after banging your head on your keyboard in frustration.  They make a good median salary of $51,470 per year.  Education requirements vary widely.  Many employers ask for a bachelor’s degree in computer science while others only require a two-year degree.  For information on how to become a computer user support specialist, click here.

6. Social Media Manager:

Yes, you can earn a decent living by becoming media and tech savvy.  That will be handy when you want to spy on your kid’s Instagram account.  A thorough understanding of programs like PhotoShop and social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest is a must.  Larger companies will require a bachelor’s degree in marketing or communications.  However, some smaller businesses will accept a two-year degree.  Classes can be taken to fill in any skills gaps you have.  For a list of several certification courses, click here.  Candidates with little experience or education should not expect to make the median salary of $47,190.

 7. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer:

This might be my favorite of the health-related jobs on this list because it pays well and involves almost no handling of body fluids.  Yay!   A medical sonographer operates equipment that creates images through the use of sound waves.  The images are recorded and given to a physician to aid in the diagnostic process.  This field requires at least an associate’s degree and certification or licensing from your state.  The median salary is a whopping $63,630 per year.  Learn more through the American Registry for  Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

8. Court Reporter:

Stenographers or Stenotype operators, as they are often called, produce transcripts of court proceedings using voice writing equipment or machine shorthand.  The 2015 median pay for this position is decent at $49,500.  Great listening skills are a must.  In other words, chatterboxes need not apply.  Candidates must complete a court reporting program at a community college or dedicated court reporter school.  CourtReporterEDU.org can answer any additional questions you may have.

 9. Occupational Therapy Assistant:

OTAs work under the supervision of an occupational therapist.  Duties include guiding patients through exercises and making them cry.  Or, perhaps that was just my own personal experience.  In any case, they provide treatments to clients, monitor progress, and report the results to the therapist in charge.  OTAs earn an impressive median salary of $54,520 and need only an associate’s degree in occupational therapy assisting and state licensing.  Not a bad return on investment.  The American Occupational Therapy Association has more details.

Related Reading: 25 Fantastic Facebook Groups for Midlifers and Boomers

10. Criminal Investigator:

Remember the campy detective shows you grew up with like Magnum P.I. or Charlie’s Angels?  Well, this career rarely involves car chases, black-tie events, or bathing suits.  Bummer.  Private investigators gather information through interviews, court records, surveillance, and the internet.  They report their findings to law enforcement, corporations or the individuals who hire them.  The median pay for this job is $45,610 per year.  The education needed can vary from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.  Professional Investigator Magazine lists the license requirements for each state.

11. Dental Hygienist:

I personally get the heebie-jeebies when I think about reaching into someone else’s mouth, but maybe you are mentally tougher than me.  If you are on the fence about this one, know that the median pay is an eye-popping $72,330.  That might get you to say, “Open wide!”  Hygienists clean teeth, make dental impressions, remove orthodontic appliances and perform a host of other tasks.  You will need to complete a two-year degree in dental hygiene and get a state license.  Learn more through the American Dental Hygienists Association.

Well, there you have it, my list of 11 midlife career change ideas that don’t suck. What do you think?  Did I leave off any well-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree or more?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Remember, life is better when we lift each other up.

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7 Deadliest Sins of the Struggling Career Woman

I can be a decent listener, capable of encouragement and guidance.  But, sometimes, it becomes evident that my role in a conversation is not that of a problem solver, but of a sounding board.  Uh-oh!  That’s when my thoughts drift, and I must mentally resist the urge to retreat to my ‘happy place.’  It’s not a lack of compassion that compels me to disengage, but an unclear understanding of the other person’s expectations.  What’s my role in this situation?  Admittedly, I’m more comfortable rolling up my sleeves and finding a solution than offering comfort or lending an ear.  I’d have made a lousy bartender.

This familiar scenario played out for me recently.  A young career woman confided to me her professional woes, and I began to cringe mentally.  As she spoke of office politics and dilemmas, I realized she was committing the same work-related sins I had in years past.  Her penance will likely be fewer opportunities for advancement and less money than her peers.  Was I supposed to offer counsel or merely listen?  Perhaps I should have posed that question, but I didn’t.  She didn’t solicit input and I didn’t volunteer it.

Now I can’t help but wonder if I let her down.  As a more mature person, I could have offered to mentor her.  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but it was clear she needed assistance and might have learned from my years in business.  Although, in my defense, nothing is more eye-roll worthy than unsolicited advice.  I didn’t want to be that person.

Still, I do want to pass on what I have learned through experience, research, and advice from the older career women in my life.  Missteps can be avoided if a person is made aware of sins that can halt her career or trap her in the purgatory of middle management.  By the way, my use of the word sins is soaked in sarcasm, if you hadn’t noticed.  I don’t believe women are behaving immorally or poorly at work!  Saying that, it’s time to get on with it.  These are, in my judgment, 7 of the deadliest sins of the struggling career woman:

1. Perfectionism: Can I Have Another Eraser?

Ah, my Achilles’ heel.  I regularly fight the overwhelming temptation to commit this sin.  You can read more about my epic struggles with perfection and anxiety here.  I am a master at consistently tweaking or delaying projects because they need to be precise.

I used to consider this trait a virtue.  As if it were noble and I should highlight it on my resume as one of my top skills.  More often, it has worn me down and stressed me out.  You can’t receive a negative review if your work is flawless, right?  Exhausting.

Perfectionism is ultimately a productivity killer and results in procrastination.  Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, says, “Trying to do it all and expecting that it can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment.  Perfection is the enemy.”  Accept your flaws and move forward in spite of them.

 

2. Humility: Aw, Shucks

Let’s face it; females are taught to be nurturing and supportive from the time they can crawl.  Society encourages cooperation and teamwork from little girls while flaunting and exhibitionism are discouraged.  As a result, women have difficulty boasting or taking credit for achievements.

For example, the college diploma I worked so hard to attain is mounted, not so prominently, on the wall behind my office door.  Why?  I didn’t want to seem like a braggart.  Palm meet forehead!  Maybe it’s time to display that diploma on my front door with flashing arrows pointing to it.  Okay, maybe I’ll hang it above my desk where everyone can see it.  Yeah, I earned that.

Not surprisingly, women often claim to have been lucky in their careers rather than duly rewarded for performance.  This is the exact opposite of how men feel about their success.  Recently, the American Political Science Association released the results of a study called Gender Inequality and Deliberative Participation.  In it, the authors asserted, “Women, who tend not to be as self-promoting or even as boastful as men will, are often promoted for past and proven experience rather than the belief in their potential.”

That makes climbing the corporate ladder tougher for us.  If you are going to successfully compete for the top jobs, be bold.  Get comfy with tooting your own horn.

3. Immobility: Your Tree Roots are Showing

Nobody expects to work for an employer for decades anymore.  Corporations are sold, layoffs happen, companies move.  Some people do manage to keep their jobs in spite of all the changes. But what are they sacrificing?

The reluctance to leave a stable position for a new one every few years could be hurting women in certain work environments.  If you look up after thirty-six months on the job and there aren’t more women in middle and upper management than the day you started, it might be time to exit, stage left.

According to a LinkedIn survey of over 4,000 women who recently changed jobs, their top reasons for leaving were “concern for the lack of advancement opportunity” and “dissatisfaction with the work environment/culture.”  These women were demanding opportunity and voting with their feet.  Don’t be afraid to move on.

4. Inauthenticity: You Big Phony!

This sin drives me crazy.  Are we supposed to be real or fake it till we make it?  Either way, many of us frequently feel like frauds and fear we will be found out at any moment.  I can just picture the blogger police barging in and seizing my laptop right now.

This prevalent anxiety has a name.  Back in the late 70s, it was dubbed the Imposter Phenomenon by psychology Professor Pauline Rose Clance.  The premise was that women suffered from this so-called syndrome because they could not easily accept praise or compliments and thought themselves unworthy of status and position.

It may offer some comfort to know, recent studies have shown that men often endure this same insecurity.  They simply don’t talk about it as frequently.  Women seem far more likely to acknowledge and discuss their feelings of self-doubt.  But, just how much that openness damages women’s careers in comparison to men’s is not yet known.  As a precaution, be careful who you confess your fears to at work.  They could be seen as weaknesses.

 

 5. Autonomy: I’ll Do it Myself, Thank You

What has feminism taught us over the years?  I’m not talking about bra burning. That’s a bad thing.  I’m referring to self-reliance.  That’s a good thing.  We are every bit as capable as men, after all.  But, are we sacrificing the critical skills of asking for help and delegating tasks all for the sake of independence?

Martine Van den Poel, executive coach at INSEAD Global Leadership Centre, surveyed fifty-one certified executive coaches to determine if women had a more difficult time delegating than men.  She also asked what ‘blocking factors’ kept women from assigning responsibilities to subordinates.

While 51% of these coaches felt men and women had similar challenges with delegating, 41% felt women had a ‘bigger’ or even ‘much bigger’ struggle with appointing duties to others.  Based on their experiences, the experts determined men and women had different reasons for resisting the task.  A high sense of personal responsibility and a fear of failure were the top two blocking factors for women.  A need for control and the feeling they could perform a task more quickly were the leading reasons men avoided delegation.

The bottom line is, poor leaders micromanage.  Great leaders reduce overload and empower others by entrusting important duties to them.  Learn to let go.

Related Reading: 15 Motivational Podcasts for Women Who Love Business

6. Apprehensiveness: Wallflower Syndrome

Even when women are involved in high-level decision making, we don’t speak up enough.  In part, because we are often outnumbered by men.  Researchers at BYU and Princeton found women speak 25% less than men do when they are in a collaborative group assigned to solving a problem.  Interestingly, this divide was virtually eliminated when the group was instructed to vote on a solution based on a unanimous decision rather than majority rule.

Companies could change how they come to big decisions by making it a consensus-building process and not an up or down vote.  I’ll just drop in a reference to ‘when pigs fly’ or ‘a snowball’s chance’ on that happening soon.  Cindy Gallop, a former ad exec and brazen advocate for women in business points out, “You can’t be satisfied with just a seat at the table; you have to actively participate in the conversation.”  You must be willing to speak up, even when you are in the minority.

7. Complacency:  Curb Your Enthusiasm, Please

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.  Women are not complacent!  How can I suggest otherwise?  While it’s true they typically start a new position with the same level of excitement and career expectations as men; women can experience a drop in aspirations by more than sixty percent in as little as two years.

According to a study of over 1000 men and women conducted by Bain & Company, the professional ambition of males examined held steady after twenty-four months while it plummeted for females.  Why the erosion of enthusiasm?  The ladies questioned didn’t feel their bosses supported or were aware of their goals.

The solution to this problem is two-fold.  First, management must make more of an effort to engage female employees and acknowledge their ambitions.  Honestly, though, no woman in her right mind would expect corporate change to come quick enough.  By the time your boss gets around to asking you where you see yourself in five years, your answer might be “In a retirement village in Miami.”

Second, and more importantly, you must be vocal about your short and long-term goals.  Schedule a sit down with a supervisor or discuss your aspirations during an annual review.  It could open new doors.

 

So, that’s my list of the 7 deadliest sins of the struggling career woman.  Obviously, corporate America has to implement major changes to level the playing field for us.  However, my hope is that these tips compel you to evaluate your work situation and perhaps, alter the behaviors that could be holding you back from an amazing professional life.  What sins did I leave off the list?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Life is better when we lift each other up.