Overcoming Ageism & Career Gap Traps During Your Job Search

Woman on laptop in video interview

In this virtual session, Susan Rietano Davey and Kelly Biskupiak of Prepare to Launch U discuss strategies to overcome ageism in the workplace and how to address career gaps on your resume and in interviews. Check out their top tips in the video below. 

Susan Rietano Davey and Kelly Biskupiak are co-founders and owners of Prepare To Launch U, a learning company that guides women through challenging work-life transitions. Women from all over the U.S. have successfully navigated maternity leave, working motherhood, career relaunches and career pivots with help from Prepare to Launch U courses, webinars, speaking engagements and coaching. 

Transcription  

  1. What is Ageism?
  2. Challenges to Ageism
  3. Bad and Better Advice
  4. Euphemisms for “You’re Too Old”
  5. Think Like the Hiring Manager: Does (Old) Age Even Matter?
  6. Defining Boundaries and Mantras
  7. Q&A

0:00 Colleen Curtis: Alright. Hi everyone. Just doing a quick tech check here, if you can hear me, please just tap into the chat there and let me know... Tell us where you're from. We're very excited to have so many of you here with us today. So just wanna double-check that you guys can see us going live, and then we'll get started shortly. Alright, we've got enough of a good signal here, so thank you all for being my tech support here, and we are gonna get started. One second here. I'm so excited for this one.

0:55 Colleen Curtis: Alright, so hi, everyone! The community team at The Mom Project welcomes you for another installment of Unity Hour. This is a series designed to keep us moving together while apart... Yes, still apart. My name's Colleen Curtis, the Chief Community Officer at The Mom Project. I'm joined today on screen by my colleague, Tiffany, who is here just in case my tech...tech falls apart. Hiba, our usual host is enjoying some much-deserved time with her family, so we'll try to bring our A-game and make her and you very proud. Martine is womaning the YouTube chat, so we will have time for questions about 15 minutes at the end of the prepared session by Kelly and Susan, so please listen, learn from the session and then place your questions in the chat. And we'll get to as many as we can. 

As a reminder, the entire session will be recorded and can be accessed via the YouTube channel as soon as we conclude. You'll also receive an email with the link and follow-up items from Susan and Kelly if you’ve RSVP’d to the sessions, we've got you covered, and we know things come up if you have to jump, we will have it here for you, we intend these to be evergreen and you will be able to access them later. We are so thrilled to see so many of you here today.

2:05 Colleen Curtis: Unity has become increasingly important as we all navigate layers upon layers of challenges, the only constant is change, and we're grateful for your participation and acknowledge that just showing up is an ambitious effort. The Mom Project was founded to build a better workplace for the future, for moms for everyone, and a big part of this mission is the powerful community that's formed around this purpose, and each of you play a really important role in that, so while we all may be showing up individually today to invest in ourselves and to continue on our paths along the roller coaster of motherhood and working motherhood, we really are all in this together, and our collective success does depend on us doing whatever we can to make our fellow moms and the workplaces that need them very successful. 

So on today's topic, it's a big one. We had over 3000 people indicate that they were interested in this session, by and large, the most we've ever had, so if you've ever heard, Well, you're great, but you're over-qualified or... Wow, you've been out a very long time, I don't think this will work for us. Or even more seemingly innocent remarks or discounts to your value that can be traced back to your experience level, age or career pauses, you've come to the right place.

3:14 Colleen Curtis: The Mom Project is not simply for new moms or young moms, it's for all moms, we believe strongly all moms work while fully recognizing that all moms do not face the same exact issues when it comes to obtaining and maintaining an employment relationship where they can thrive both at home and at work. So we've called in the experts: Susan and Kelly. So without further ado, I'm super thrilled to introduce you to these two incredible women. 

They are coaches and business partners, we've had the distinct pleasure of growing with over the past few months. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that they have stepped up very generously to provide much-needed coaching and support and guidance to moms who were impacted by Covid-19 layoffs, furlough and unemployment and their investment in women and moms is the gold standard, and they are here today to do what they do best. 

Kelly Biskupiak and Susan Rietano Davey are co-founders and owners of “Prepared to Launch U,” a learning company that guides women through challenging work life transitions. Women from all over the US have successfully navigated maternity leave, working motherhood, career launches and career pivots with the help from Prepared to Launch U. So without further ado, I am thrilled to hand over the floor to Kelly and Susan and are so excited to kick this session off. So I'm gonna mute myself, but if you guys need me, I'll be over here, I'm gonna take myself off camera too, so it's not distracting.

4:29 Susan Rietano Davey: Awesome, well, you already took our first slide, so we're gonna jump right into this. I'm Susan Rietano Davey. 

Kelly Biskupiak: And I am Kelly Biskupiak, so you can distinguish between the two of us.  

Susan Rietano Davey: Yes

Kelly Biskupiak: We are beyond thrilled to be here with this robust group of women talking on a topic that we love, love, and have such a passion for. 

Susan Rietano Davey: And a topic that we also have lived. So Colleen and Tiffany, thank you so much for inviting us. We're gonna start just really briefly with a little bit of information about us... 

Kelly Biskupiak: Yeah. So cool, who are we? Well, we're both moms of four. Susan and I have eight children between the two of us. We both actually have taken career breaks ourselves and we have opted back in. We started our company when we were in our 40s and 50s.

Susan Rietano Davey: I'm the older one.

5:31 Susan Rietano Davey: And I'm just gonna add a little footnote here, and that is that Kelly had really dynamic career in education as both a teacher and administrator, a consultant, when she took her time off from work, she came back and reinvented herself as a women's leadership coach, becoming certified. And having a quite successful practice for almost 10 years before we met... In my background, I started 10 years before Kelly in big tech, and then took some time off to raise my four children, and then I ended up working as a partner in a firm that's kind of like...kind of the first iteration of what Mom Project is doing. 

It was a company that advocated flexible work policies for companies and also did placement of moms returning to work. So we are... We kind of represent the personal and professional side of this journey, and we've got a plan today to help you deal with some ageism issues in the workplace. 

Kelly Biskupiak: Yep, and so what are we gonna do for this hour? Well, first, we're going to debunk that bad advice that you've heard. And we're gonna offer you some really good advice that once you get off of this webinar today, you can start to implement it immediately. And then we're gonna identify the common ageist traps, and we're gonna teach you how to respond to those things.

6:45 Kelly Biskupiak: And we're gonna define the mindset traps that might be keeping you stuck, it might actually be in your own head, pieces of this, and we're gonna help you create some really healthy boundaries and mantras to counter them. And then we're going to answer all your questions about ageism and career gaps and whatever else you got for us. So let's dive in. 

What is Ageism?

7:06 Kelly Biskupiak: Well, what is ageism? Well, defined, ageism is stereotyping and or discrimination against individuals or groups based on age. And here's the deal, everybody, it is alive and well in the workplace. And it affects people of all ages, so, Sus, I'm gonna toss this over to you because I really just... I think we should just dive right into it.

Susan Rietano Davey: Yeah, so if you think about that definition, it doesn't say that it only affects old people. It actually affects people across the continuum, and so two of my children are recent college graduates. They're young 20s and navigating the workplace, and I know that when they walk in somewhere that they're being looked at through the lens of, Well, they're probably always, always plugged in, they don't have good attention spans, they're lazy, they’re disloyal, they're gonna leave, they're easily distracted. 

By the same token, when I walk in as their mom, I might be automatically assumed to be low tech, mabe tired, maybe past my prime, not innovative and flexible, stuck in my ways, low energy. And then there's this big group in between: The people who are right in the midst of that getting married, starting a family sector. And they're often looked at as too busy. So, many times we hear from women and even men in our private practices who say, I've been overlooked for the job...overlooked for this position, because it's just assumed that because my kids are little, I can't take a job that has travel or I can't relocate, or I just don't have enough time to take that executive role.

8:32 Susan Rietano Davey: So it affects us all, and frankly, we all contribute to it, and we perpetuate it because we're kind of wired to make generalities about everything, whether it's race, gender, lifestyle, or in this case, age. And social media really exacerbates it. So it was so interesting, Kelly and I were reading this article recently by a psychologist in New York City, who was saying that some of her young executive clients in their late 20s and early 30s are now feeling that they're aging out and becoming irrelevant at that age, which is just astonishing to me.

9:19 Kelly Biskupiak: Well, I have to say, Colleen, we had this conversation with you not too...not too long ago. So... so New York Times is uh...you know. 

9:31 Susan Rietano Davey: Yeah, exactly. So, because of this phenomenon, social media just feeds it, because the images we see become younger and younger, and of course, nobody mentioned that most of them have been doctored and edited to be... to be made to look even better.

9:43 Susan Rietano Davey: So all of these things, all of these things can create some intense pressures on us, and again, because of the image piece of it, it is more perceived by women than men. So a very recent study by the AARP, found that 72% of professional women felt that they've been age discriminated against, and 57% of men. So far more women, but still more than half of men are experiencing this too. So this is a... This is a broad issue that affects really the entire population of people who are whatever we consider “older.”

Another interesting study that was conducted by Xerox, which is my old employer and The Riveter, which is a Seattle-based women's research firm, found that 25% of women at all ages felt that they had lost a job or an opportunity because of something physical about the way they look. And this is not something men experience. So all of these things combine to create these age issues that we feel internally and we also experience externally. But the good news is that ageism today now in 2020 is facing more challenges than ever before. 

Challenges to Ageism

10:52 Susan Rietano Davey: So some of the challenges to ageism, and these are the favorable trends for us who are older. And again...the New York Times...29 is older. In my world, 60 is older 'cause I'm not there yet, but I think it just all depends on our perspective. But we have a new population. So, our population now for the first time in history, has more people over 60, then 18 and younger. So and with that comes a population of people who are working over 60 and fewer under 18. 

We have an expanding lifespan. From 1900 to 2000, the average lifespan of an American was 47...47 to 77. So 30 years in one generation. Probably won't move that much... in one century, it probably won't move that much in this century, but I think it's important to remember that a lot of the workplace paradigms that we have in place were established in the later part of the 20th century. So, from 1950 to 2000. And one of the most common ones is the practice of retiring... in some cases in a mandatory way... at 62 and a half or 65, depending on the organization. So think about that, that made sense in 1960: to retire at 62 and a half or 65, when you're only gonna live to 69. 

What kind of sense does it make if you're a woman and you're gonna live to 90, that's 30 years. How much golf can you play, how much tennis can you play? So that paradigm is shifting as our lives expand or lifespans become longer. We also have a multi-generational workplace. For the first time in history, there are five generations working all at the same time, so I mentioned that I have two young sons in the early 20s that are working and two that are on their way up. 

12:44 Susan Rietano Davey: My mom is 82 and she's a psychologist in a private practice, seeing lots of patients via Zoom, 'cause there's no shortage of anxiety and depression in this Covid age. But at 82, she still has a robust and full practice. and everything in between. So because of that, there's an imperative on managers and senior leaders to understand the benefits that each of these generations bring, to do their best to enhance and exploit those benefits and create strong, high-functioning multi-generational teams. The average age of a new business owner in the US is over 50, and the rate at which women owned businesses grew in the decade of 2008 to 2018 was 114%. In that same period of time, the overall growth of new businesses was 40%, so you can see who's really driving new businesses in the US. 

And then of course, there's a Me Too mandate because of all of the issues brought up by Me Too it's really opened the eyes of our senior leaders, of our hiring managers, to become cheerleaders for women in business. And that means looking along the continuum and saying, What are we doing to attract women? What are we doing to develop and support them? What policies in place do we have to retain them?

14:10 Susan Rietano Davey: What are we doing to continue to promote them? And because of this time and place, women really can reap the benefits. But then of course, because of this time and place, we’re in the middle of Covid. So we all know that that has had some effect... Some diminishing effect in the hiring area because people are laying off or furloughing or at this point, hopefully looking at how they're going to build back, but at the same time, it has created this new openness and hopeful, hopefully even excitement over flexible work. 

And this is really important because one of the top three factors for women across the arc of their careers in choosing an employment situation, one of the top three is flexibility, and as I mentioned earlier, I worked for almost two decades in the flexible work space, and I gotta tell you, this is like sweet justice for me, seeing some of these business leaders come out now say, “Oh, you know, remote work, flexible work, all the rage is great,” 'cause these are the same people who 10 and 18 years ago were saying that they wouldn't even consider it. 

And then lastly, we're seeing individual industry leaders step up in a really meaningful way. So in The Mom Project, they have business partners, these are companies who have pledged to hire women who are older to not worry about or even consider the fact that someone might have taken a 5, 10, 15, 20-year gap to raise a family. And this is a wonderful vehicle for bringing the awareness to other leaders and also to create spaces where women feel free to not just admit that they're older and that they might have a big career gap, but to own it and to celebrate it.

Bad & Better Advice

15:52 Susan Rietano Davey: So Kelly mentioned we're gonna give you some bad advice and some good advice, and I wanna just couch this by saying, not all of the advice that I have in the bad category or column is really all bad. It's somewhat incomplete in some cases. So I'm gonna take you through those and then offer some better alternatives. And these...I’m sure that these will sound familiar to you and you can certainly comment in the box if they do. 

The first one is: Cut your resume off at... pick a year. 2000, 2005, 1999, whatever it is, cut your resume and your LinkedIn profile there, and I'll explain why that's no good. Hide your age by creating a functional or skills-based resume where you put a list of your skills and accomplishments separate from the list of where you've worked... Right, that's another way to hide your age... Another thing that often people of a certain age are encouraged to do is just dump a lot of ATS keywords into their resume or they sound current. 

ATS, for those of you don't know, is the acronym for Applicant Tracking System. It's the algorithm that companies use to screen your resume in place of a human being screening it. And what it looks for our keywords. But we'll talk about why just dumping them into your resume doesn't make sense. Build a robust network of executives, of recruiters, of decision-makers, make that your focus on your LinkedIn and on your physical networking. And that's incomplete advice. And then the last is to apply indiscriminately. It's a numbers game.

17:28 Susan Rietano Davey: The more you apply, the more likely you're gonna have an opportunity... Well, this is a little adage I learned from my kid's guitar teacher, he used to say, practice makes permanent, and that replaces the practice makes perfect, 'cause the fact of the matter is if you're practicing the wrong things, those habits become permanent. Doesn't necessarily mean you're doing the right things to have a perfect outcome. So our better advice from hiding your age is to own it, and we're thrilled that The Mom Project absolutely embraces this philosophy too.

So if you look, just in the case of resume and LinkedIn profile… that's an essential document that tells your story, and you need to remember that your experience is an asset, and experience is more than just the work that you've been paid for, it's paid and unpaid work. It's work that you've done as a volunteer, it's work that you've done in the short-term gigs, it's work that you've done pro-bono, it's also work that you may have done as a caregiver, so just remember that your experience ... Regardless of how much you were paid or paid at all is an asset. And that you need to not only own that gap, but pitch it, pitch it aggressively.

18:42 Susan Rietano Davey: So I use myself as an example, and Kelly is a good example too. We both have significant career gaps in our history. If we were interviewing for jobs, I know if I were interning for a job tomorrow, I would highlight certainly my experience in the corporate world and big tech, my time as an entrepreneur, but I would not overlook all of the volunteer work that I've done, because in some cases, those experiences are even more valuable than some of the work experiences that I've had. 

19:10 Kelly Biskupiak: You know Susan I just wanna jump in here for a second and point out to everyone in the follow-up email, we are actually going to give everyone a freebie and it's called our Gap-Buster guide, and that really helps you do what it is Susan is talking about, it brings you through a whole process and we're gonna give that to all of you, so I just wanted to... 

19:32 Susan Rietano Davey: No, I’m so glad you brought that up. So, your job when you're creating a story, whether it's a LinkedIn profile, a resume, an elevator picture, your conversation and interview, it’s all a story... is to connect the dots. So if you're creating this resume that makes it hard for me, I'm a hiring manager, I have to look at it, I've looked at resumes for the last 30 years, right. If I get a resume where I can't tell where you did what, I'm gonna dump it, you have eight seconds to catch my attention. Make sure you're telling me a good story, make sure you've connected the dots and created that arc of a story for me, don't make me try to figure it out. Present it to me using compelling language and in a logical, readable format so that those eight seconds that I invest will end up with your resume being put in the “To look at” file and not in the garbage file. 

So this piece of advice about networking is not wrong, but I mentioned earlier, it's incomplete. I recommend that your network is much broader than just hiring managers, execs and people at or above your level, because let's face it, the person who is most likely going to be hiring you is going to be younger. There's a chance that at 55 years old, you could be working for someone who's 35. So you need to have a network that represents the population that you'll be working with, for and also that you'll be managing. So I recommend... And especially if you're in my age group, if you have kids who are in college or just out of college, connect with them and their friends. Connect with your friends’ kids, connect with the baby-sitter, connect with the kid who's your camp...young person who's your kids’ camp counselor. And look at all of these people as different ways of you creating a network that's going to get you into your job or your next opportunity.

21:22 Susan Rietano Davey: And then, yes, I totally believe in numbers games, and to some degree applying is a numbers game. But applying indiscriminately for jobs will never help you. You need to be strategic about it. So we want you to consider The 90-10 Rule. And this is how we've come up with that rule. In the last few years, polls that have been done of Americans to show where they've gotten the job, where they've gotten their job, reveal this: 25% of Americans get their jobs by applying online, so by putting their resume into those... one of those ATS’s and having it pop out with a red flag on it, and getting an interview and then making their way through. That means that 75% of American professionals did not get their job that way. They got their job through networking, not through ATS. 

Now, consider us, all of us, we have career gaps, we have unconventional experience, we might be pitching a volunteer experience. We might have a longer career, we might be older. All of those things make it that much harder to get through the ATS. So if you, like me, like Kelly, and like most of us watching, have an unconventional resume, you've got about a 10% chance of beating that algorithm. So your activities have to reflect that mathematical reality. If you're spending all of your time perfecting your resume and reworking it for every Applicant Tracking System and every job posting that you're applying to, you're wasting your time. Because you should be flipping those activities.

22:56 Susan Rietano Davey: Now, one caveat to that, of course, is a site like The Mom Project. Their employers have already said, we're open to job gaps, we're open to people with unconventional skills and maybe a longer career history. But the fact that the matter is... Even though you're dealing with a friendly or warmer group of people, you still have a lot of other women that are competing for the same jobs. So it becomes your job to try to beat the algorithm and beat the competition by telling the best story and using the strategies that we just mentioned to them. 

And then lastly, make sure you're not cutting your nose off to spite your face. Make sure you're not focusing so closely on finding that perfect full-time job that you take yourself out of the running for all of the other opportunities. Low commit, high-yield work basically means project work, interim work, consulting work, contract work, temporary work, leave coverage work, all of those things where you're not making the employer make a firm commitment to you, nor are you making a firm commitment to him or her. It gives you an opportunity to try each other out, and I'll tell you right now, 'cause I've lived in the placement world through two major recessions, one in 2001 after 911, where everything halted.

Susan Rietano Davey: And then again in 2009 after the crash, and in both of those cases, our clients who were coming to our flexible work company, normally to hire a full-time or a part-time regular employee, weren’t doing that. They were hiring people as stop-gaps to cover this project, to cover this lead, to help during crunch time. But guess what? 70% of those women that took those stop-gap opportunities were either hired permanently, once things, once the economy recovered. 

Or they were offered project after project after project, so make sure you are casting a wide enough net. So, these challenges you're going to face are all a result of this, you're too old. And no good manager, no self-respecting manager is ever gonna sit across a table from you and say, Kelly, you know, I really like you but you're too old, right? They're gonna find these creative ways of saying it, and here are some of them. 

24:21 Susan Rietano Davey: And then again in 2009 after the crash, and in both of those cases, our clients who were coming to our flexible work company, normally to hire a full-time or a part-time regular employee, weren’t doing that. They were hiring people as stop-gaps to cover this project, to cover this lead, to help during crunch time. But guess what? 70% of those women that took those stop-gap opportunities were either hired permanently, one things, once the economy recovered. 

Or they were offered project after project after project, so make sure you are casting a wide enough net. So, these challenges you're going to face are all a result of this, you're too old. And no good manager, no self-respecting manager is ever gonna sit across a table from you and say, Kelly, you know, I really like you but you're too old, right? They're gonna find these creative ways of saying it, and here are some of them. 

Euphemisms for “You’re Too Old”

25:20 Susan Rietano Davey: One of them is, “This job is way too junior for you.” Another is, “Someone as good as you is gonna be bored in this role.” So both of these are kind of making you feel good 'cause you're so great, but the bottom line is, they don't want you. Uh… “we could never afford you.” Just don't even waste your time 'cause we are so cheap...we’ll never be able to pay you. 

I love this one, this one came to us from one of our students in one of our course cohorts. It was an early 30s manager looking at the 55-year-old women and saying, “You know what, this job is even too tech-heavy for me.” As if it was completely out of the question that this 55-year-old could have better tech skills than this 32-year-old. So the last one is... “So much has changed since you left,” as if you have been under a rock for the 15 years you've been raising children.

Now we'll talk about that later, 'cause there's a chance you were under the rock and then you're gonna have to do some work to catch up. But these are all different ways that a hiring manager can say, you're too old without saying You're too old. The good news is, when they actually say it, when they say it to you on that networking call or in that interview, you have a chance to go to bat with them. To try to find a different narrative, to overcome that objection. We're gonna talk on the next slide about how to do that. But if they don't say anything, then you have no chance to make your case.

26:50 Susan Rietano Davey: So we advise, and I'm sure there are people out there, they'll say, this is risky, but you gotta trust me, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Be sure to call out the elephant in the room. So here's an example. We had a student who came through one of our courses, and she came... The way our courses work is we deliver the instruction digitally, the women watch the coursework on their own throughout the week on their own time, and then every Friday, we meet as a group, like this via Zoom and we talk. 

And this woman was telling the group, I had this awesome interview, it was so great, he never even mentioned my gap. So everybody's politely clapping like... Awesome, that's great. Except for me, 'cause I look at it, I say, Okay, so you've been out of work for 18 years, and it never came up in the interview? She goes, no, he didn’t even care. I said, That's not right. That's just not true. He isn't one of those “woke” managers that signed up for The Mom Project. This is just Joe regular manager who’s 42. I said, He's not even interested in you. I promise you, he just took your resume, gave you a polite interview...I bet he gave you no tough questions.

27:50 Susan Rietano Davey: She said, right. And moved on. If it doesn't come up, you have to bring it up. There is no way that no one...that this person isn’t thinking, this person hasn't worked since 1992 or 2002. So this is how you bring it up. He says to you, thank you so much, you did a great interview. I really enjoyed meeting you. You say, Thank you. I think this was a great conversation too, but you know what, I don't wanna leave without talking about something really significant in my experience. 

I love fact that you respect and value my really great experiences back when I worked at Xerox, but for the 18 years that I've been that I opted out, I've done some really great work there too that I think is actually even more relevant and more important to this role than what I did back in the late 90s. So if you don't mind, I'd like to talk about that with you a little bit. That might seem bold, it might seem like you're bringing something up, they hadn’t thought of. Don't fool yourself. There is no way they haven't thought about that, and you need to own the narrative because if you don't, they're going on to the next level to the hiring committee and say, You know what, she was really sweet, I liked her a lot but she hasn’t worked since 2002. And then your resume goes in that pile... 

Think Like the Hiring Manager: Why Does (Old) Age Even Matter?

29:00 Susan Rietano Davey: Okay, so let's talk about why age even matters, because I think to overcome the objection of, “You’re too old,” you need to understand what that means to the person who doesn't want to hire you because you're too old, or maybe is just concerned. So I have the advantage of having been a young hiring manager who didn't hire someone named Nancy, and this was probably in 1991 or 1992. I was a young manager, and it was wrong of me not to give her the chance, but Nancy didn't do a good job of explaining to me...I was...whatever, I was, 28 years old...I didn't know. 

So these are the reasons that a young hi...or any hiring manager doesn't wanna hire you because you're too old. The first is expense. So there's a perception that you might be more expensive because you're more senior or you were more senior or you worked at a really big company way back when, and now you're applying for a small company, but then there are the very real expenses. So as someone in her late 50s who is very fit and very healthy, I still statistically and actuarially, am more expensive than someone who's young, when it comes to my benefits, I'm going to cost more.

30:07 Susan Rietano Davey: Just based on those numbers. That's a real perception. It's a reality. That's a concern. The second is culture fit. If I show up at the interview in a suit and everyone there is wearing jeans and hoodies, they're gonna perceive right away that I'm not the right fit. And this is something that you can overcome just by doing your homework. I recommend whenever you're interviewing somewhere, especially if is... Even if it's... Well, now it's a little harder with Zoom...I mean with Covid, but if you had the opportunity to drive by the office when people are arriving or walk into the building as people are going to lunch and just kinda see what they look like, you want to make sure you present yourself as a good cultural fit.

Another could be longevity. Well, if she's already 60 or she's already 50, pick your number. How long is she gonna stay here? If you're 35... You look at someone... like me like I'm a dinosaur. You can't even imagine you'll still be working. I started a company in my...what was I, 54 when we started this company Kelly? I mean...I’m gonna work for a lot longer. I promise. Kelly always panics when I bring this one up ‘cause she thinks, is she really gonna work a long time? But the other piece is career path.

31:18 Susan Rietano Davey: Alright, not only is she not gonna stay very long, but is she gonna crowd the ladder for me? You know, I wanna move up, is she gonna be like the person in my way? That's something they're concerned about. Which leads me to the next one, you could be a potential job threat to this person because you're good and because you have the experience. That could be something they're concerned about, And lastly, it could be just a skill deficiency. It could be perceived. But it could also be very real, and these are when you need to have these honest conversations with yourself. So once you understand the mindset of the hiring manager and why age might matter to them, you can apply our strategy for working through it and overcoming that objection in an interview or in a networking call situation. 

So let's talk about that. First thing you wanna do, and I'm gonna run through these 'cause Kelly and I are gonna role play them real-time. You're gonna clarify and qualify what their objection is, you're gonna empathize with it and show that you understand, you're gonna refute it and make the case for why it shouldn't matter, you're gonna make sure they understand it and test for their agreement, and if you don't get anywhere there, you're gonna start all over and do it again. 

32:27 Susan Rietano Davey: Alright, so Kelly is... We're on our interview. Okay, so Kelly is one of the hiring team, she's the right person... You always wanna make sure you're talking to the right person. I am, I made it through the recruiter on some of the early screens, and now I'm kind of in my final phase, maybe there's one more interview to go, and so Kelly's gonna close the interview now and tell me why she doesn't want me. 

Kelly Biskupiak: So Susan, I have to tell you, you have had such a dynamic... You have such a dynamic background and you really had a high-level career... I just don't think that this is gonna be enough for you. 

Susan Rietano Davey: Hmm, okay, well, so what is it that's not enough, 'cause obviously, yes, I did have a pretty hefty career earlier. Well, what is it that concerns you about me taking a job that’s not enough?

Kelly Biskupiak: I'm gonna be honest with you, I think you're gonna be bored and I think you're gonna be under-stimulated. 

33:20 Susan Rietano Davey: Okay, well, I totally get that. I get it on a lot of levels, 'cause I've also been a hiring manager and I know... I know how important this role is. So you gotta get someone in here who’s gonna be fully engaged, and if someone's not interested or bored, they're not gonna be engaged. I think there's also probably the risk of someone maybe not being fully into the job and then leaving for something better, so I get it. 

But I wanna make sure you know that I'm not that person. So you're right, I was a director in my old job, my last job and this job as a manager, and that was back...you know, I was climbing the ladder, that was kind of what we did back then, but I've had this time during my opt-out years to really look at what I love to do, and I'm in a really fortunate situation, Kelly, because I did well financially. I have a really good retirement. So I'm at the point now where I can choose a job that I want to do, not the one that's gonna pay me the most, and I don't really like being a director. 

I don't wanna be in charge of the PNL, I don't wanna run operations reviews, I don't wanna run a staff, I don't wanna be budgeting, forecasting. I wanna be feet on the street, I wanna be working in the place where the product is built and where the customer is being one-to-one with the client...with the rep. And I wanna be developing those reps and mentoring them. 

34:33 Susan Rietano Davey: And that's the work I love to do. In fact, it's the only thing I've applied for. I've been recruited on LinkedIn and elsewhere for director roles, I don't want them. So I kind of look at this as being... You can see I'm kind of morphed to step three here. I kinda look at this as being actually an advantage for you because I'm not gonna get in your way. I have no interest in climbing the corporate ladder. 

I don't have any need to financially... I’m financially set. I'm working mostly because I want to and because I have to. And I would consider it a privilege and the best evidence of my success if I just help you do your job better. And I think because of my experience, I can do that. Does that make sense to you, Kelly?

35:16 Kelly Biskupiak: You know, I actually have to say, I'm seeing the picture clearer now and... Yeah, yeah, I do. 

Susan Rietano Davey: Good, good. Well would you be comfortable recommending me to the hiring committee? 

Kelly Biskupiak: You know, after... you made some really valid points and I would encourage you, when I push you on through this process, to make some of those valid points there as well.  

Susan Rietano Davey: 'Cause, do you think maybe some of them might have the same concerns? 

Kelly Biskupiak: Yeah.

35:41 Susan Rietano Davey: Great, okay. Now, for time’s sake, I told her she had to go easy with me on the last one, but if Kelly said, No, I still… I’m still concerned...That's when we just go back and go back through these steps, and you have two... And say that... And you have two possible outcomes, and they're both good in different ways. 

The first outcome is, I've handled all the objections, and I made the case and they hire me. The second...second ending would be, they either...they never tell me why they won't hire me, or they just keep giving objections and objections and finally, I just... I call it and I throw in the white flag. Because in that case, at least I know. And that's important. It's very easy to not ask these kinds of questions because it's scary.

Because you could get a no. But I can't tell you how important it is to know if it's a yes or a no for moving forward. Because insight and knowledge are power. And without that power, you don't know where you're going. And it's very easy to just kinda give yourself this false sense of confidence that way about all of these things... 'cause I'm in the final interview, or they're just thinking me over, but that's wasted energy, wasted optimism and wasted time.

37:03 Susan Rietano Davey: You need to be able to ask these tough questions to get that insight and knowledge so you can move forward. And the biggest challenge to asking these questions is going to be your confidence. So I'm gonna tee it up now for Kelly who is gonna talk about helping you create a good inner voice, because sometimes the worst message that we're hearing are those that we're hearing in our own heads. 

37:25 Kelly Biskupiak: Yeah, thanks Sus. So, you know, here's the deal. Mindset is everything when it comes to thinking about navigating your career transition, and it's often what will hold you back, and it’s most certainly the foundation of what's gonna propel you forward when things get overwhelming or difficult. And I just wanna take a moment and I wanna say this to all of you: If you are feeling off of your game... That is okay. 

If you are feeling lost, that is okay. If you don't even really know who you are right now, that is okay. If you are asking yourself the question of, what happened to that confident woman I once was...That is okay. It is normal and natural to feel that way. And here's the best part: If you create awareness around that and you take the time to acknowledge it, you can begin to navigate around it.

38:30 Kelly Biskupiak: You can go in there, and that woman is still there. She is still there and she is so ready for you to go in there and find her and bring her back out. And she's wiser and she's more experienced now. So let's do that, let's go in there and let's find her... Let me give you some tools to be able to do that. So we are super clear now that ageism does exist, and it makes... The fact that you check in to see if your own internal dialogue is feeding that reality one of the most powerful tools that you have in combating it. 

You know, Susan and I hear all the time from our students things like, I can't learn that social media stuff or I'm too old to start a business or going back to school makes really no sense to me, or... This is a good one...my LinkedIn profile picture is stressing me out, I don't know what to do, I feel like I look... old in the picture. Oh, here's another one, I can't connect with so and so about possible work because I have this huge gap on my resume, and they're probably gonna think I'm too old anyway. Thinking about connecting with, like Susan said, some of those younger people in your life feels totally impossible.

39:51 Kelly Biskupiak: Does any of that sound familiar? And I know that every single one of you has something that you're saying inside your head and you can share that in the chat if you would like to. But hear me when I say this to you, if you hear nothing else that I say to you today, hear me when I say this to you. When we speak to ourselves this way, we're doing one thing, we're sabotaging ourselves. You must be your own best cheerleader, you must have your own back, and if you focus on the playground of negativity, then feeling stuck and victimized is exactly what you're gonna get.

But if you focus on the playground of growth and learning and opportunity, well then guess what? It rains possibility there every single day. And so I want you to really think about that, like what playground do you wanna be playing on? And I really hope that you guys are saying in the chat, I can't see, but I really hope that you are saying that it's that positive playground. So how do we do this, how do we even make this happen?

Well, what we begins with awareness, and so what I'm gonna do today is I'm gonna take you through the most common mindset traps that we can fall into, and then I'm gonna give you some real helpful boundaries that you can set and some mantras you can put into place so you can lean on them as you're navigating your journey. Susan and I have had the opportunity, which is such a privilege, we see it that way as a privilege and this opportunity of working with countless women over the years, navigating both career and life transitions.

And in doing this work, I found that although everyone's stories are different, there are three common mindset traps that we all can tend to fall into. So we're gonna define those and then we're gonna unpack them, and then I'm gonna give you some really helpful tools to navigate around them.

41:48 Kelly Biskupiak: So the first one is pleasing, and this is really about always being the good girl, you know, somewhere along the lines, we... Somewhere along the way, we got the message that being the good girl, being a pleaser... doing what was right all the time...was what you should be doing. Yeah, I think back to my teaching days. And I think back to this little girl, Alexa, and I would look at her and I would say everyone look at Alexa look how nicely she's sitting in her seat and look at how she has her stuff organized, and I'm using it as a behavior management tool, and I am feeding this girl this false narrative in her head that pleasing is what gives her her worth. And so you have to be really, really careful of the good girl trap.

42:33 Kelly Biskupiak: The next one is perfecting. And this one is very black and white. It's... I can't do this until like If I do this, it has to be that this and this and this are in order before I make that happen. It all has to be perfect. If I could do one thing, I would wanna create a world of recovering perfectionists. Having four boys has done this for me. But truly, truly, there is so much beauty and growth that happens in not being perfect in just the doing it good enough. That is worth it. 

43:14 Kelly Biskupiak: And the last one is procrastinating, and that's really about hiding, it's that flying under the radar, doing a ton of busy work, but passing it off as impactful work when it's really not, because you're avoiding something that you're fearing. 

Defining Boundaries and Mantras

43:29 Kelly Biskupiak: So we're going to do a quick and dirty lesson on what a boundary is and what a mantra is, and these are tools that you can use to really combat what's happening in that mindset if you find yourself dipping into any of these places. So here's a boundary, quick and dirty, this is how it is. This is what is okay. And this is what's not okay. And then a mantra is real simple. It's just an empowering statement that gives your negative mindset... Just a positive spin. 

So when we think about pleasing, this often manifests itself, I find, in two ways, and the first way is so sneaky and so dangerous, and here is what it is. We put ourselves on the back-burner in service of everyone around us, we're pleasing and meeting the needs of everyone in our orbit, and the danger here is this: We stop being the visionaries of our own lives in service of being the visionaries for everyone else.

44:37 Kelly Biskupiak: And let me tell you something, when you're talking about navigating your career, you absolutely need to be the visionary of your own life. That has to happen, it is not a luxury. And you know what, you may be out of practice with it, but make it your new practice. I love Susan's thing: Practice makes permanent. Practice being the visionary of your own life, it will pay off, I promise you in tenfold. Just being aware of this trap is the first step and the second is creating some boundaries. 

So we see this with our students all the time when they come to our course because they'll say, Okay, I'm like, I'm all in, I am doing the Return to Work thing, or I'm pivoting in my career, and I'm gonna put the time and energy into this and I am dialed in. And so they fill up their calendar and we say to them, Okay, mark off time for you to be able to do that, and you'll say, Okay, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I'm gonna work on this and this is what I'm gonna put the concerted effort because here's the deal, it is work pivoting your career or going after or returning. It is work to do that. It's not just putting your resume together, it is not that, there is a lot of work that goes into this.

45:50 Kelly Biskupiak: So they'll put the calendar, they're all gung-ho, and then they'll get the call from their daughter who's in college, who's panicked because she needs X, Y and Z faxed to her ASAP, and so they'll shut their laptop and they'll go off and they'll do the work.

46:08 Kelly Biskupiak: Now, I want you to put yourself in those shoes. So the old you, would shut your laptop and go and get whatever your daughter needed done, ASAP, because that's the role you've been in for a long time. But this new you, this visionary of your own life, you... Is not gonna shut the laptop, you're actually gonna say Not right now. And here's the boundary you're gonna set: It's okay to want to help others out. That's actually great. It's a gift that we have oftentimes.

What's not, okay, is doing it at the expense of the greater... Bigger goal that you have for yourself. You are done with that. You're done with that. So saying, Not right now, I'm not gonna shut my computer and go off and take care of this issue. I'm not doing that right now. So by saying Not right now to them, you are saying yes to yourself. And that is very important. That combats that mindset trap you get stuck in. 

47:13 Kelly Biskupiak: Number two, with the pleasing is it manifests itself this way. It's what I like to call... I will say yes to any bone that's thrown my way. And this came up with...we have a 66-year-old communication executive that we work with... that came to us and she came to us in our workshops and everything, and before she came...arrived at our doorstep, she was really struggling with rubbing up against a lot of those objectives that Susan talked about before, and then when she actually came to our doorstep, she was in a really bad place, she was extremely defeated. 

And now this was a woman who flew all over the country, she was... She had teams of people that worked for her, and what had happened is she interviewed for a job, and it was for an auto body repair, like admin-type position, and she was rejected from this position and it killed her. And she actually said, How can I even begin to think about a communications position if I can't even land that job? And I was like, Oh sister, we are gonna back you right up and we are taking your power back. Do you even want that job? And she said No, but I didn't wanna say no to the person who connected me to the position because she's really a great networker. And I said, alright, cool, great.

48:51 Kelly Biskupiak: We've got this. It's a huge opportunity for you to learn. Number one, you do not take every bone that is thrown your way. And number two, here's how you can utilize that great networking relationship. You can say to her, Joan, thank you so much for thinking of me and although that position isn't a fit for me, here is what I'm really good at... Here's what I really want to be doing. Can you think of anybody who might need that skill set?

What happened here is, this boundary, when you set that up for yourself. It's okay to network with friends and great connectors, but what is not okay is to take any bone that's thrown your way. You can say no, and you can use it as an opportunity to educate them about who you really are. That is an important fact, educate them about who you truly are and the work that you really want. And that's where that narrative that Susan talks about and really knowing your narrative arc is so important.

All right, the last one that we're gonna move into is that... I'm sorry, the next one that we're gonna move into is perfecting, and this is a real big trap for my overachievers out there, and Susan and I in our course, we call them are our thoroughbreds, and they're the students with really high achieving jobs their the capacity for precision was something that served them really, really well, it probably helped them up the ladder, except here's where it stopped serving them: When they're doing their LinkedIn profile, and when they're trying to pump out their resume, they will spend all day long trying to make it perfect, perfect, perfect.

50:31 Kelly Biskupiak: And here's the deal, you have to learn to play in the... “It's really good enough” arena, and that's a hard thing to do, because it's vulnerable. We cling to perfectionism because we are trying to avoid judgment and criticism. Well, we can set a boundary around this, and it goes a little like this: To feel vulnerable, it is absolutely okay. It is human to feel vulnerable when you're putting yourself out there for possible judgment or criticism. What is not okay is putting yourself... not putting yourself out there and being held hostage to your own perfectionism. You can play on the playground of “good enough.” I promise you, especially if you're a recovering perfectionist or you have that high achieving place, it's probably better than the average Joe, much better. 

The last one that we're gonna look at is procrastinating, and really this is about a form of hiding from your fear. And this plays out with leaning on those excuses like, I'm too old, or I've been out too long, or... I don't know if I can really learn that techy stuff or I'm trying to connect, but no one wants to get back to me, and they probably think I'm too old.

51:54 Kelly Biskupiak: So what you do is you bury yourself in doing everything else that is more busy work and tell yourself what I'm doing is enough. But really it's about avoiding what it is that scares you: Networking, putting yourself out there more, connecting with people and having an uncomfortable conversation and being a little clunky and feeling a little weird about it. That is not okay. So let's set a boundary around it. So, it's okay to acknowledge that I might fall into the ageism and trap sometimes myself, it's okay to acknowledge that you might be doing it to your own self. But what's not okay is to give the possibility of ageism the power to stop you from getting yourself out there, you know, Susan, you have a little come to Jesus about this. 

52:46 Susan Rietano Davey: Yeah, I do, just to wrap it up, 'cause I think this happens a lot. You need to be able to be honest with yourself and determine how much of it is legitimate ageism and how much of it might just be the fluff around it. So the example that we give is, if you have a background in Strategic Marketing and you believe you come from an organization where it was highly hierarchical and you really didn't have anything to do with the hands-on tactical stuff, realizing that that's not the way the workplace is anymore, it’s much flatter.

So if you go into an interview and you tell them, I'm not interested in doing digital marketing or someone else to do that for me, or you're going into a career where your skills are really dated… you knew Excel or maybe you worked in Lotus, and now you know how to work with a spreadsheet, but you don't know how to do pivot tables, and you don't know how to create Macros, and these are key skills. 

You need to be able to have that, as Kelly said, the come to Jesus meeting with yourself. And know if you're hiding behind the veil of ageism and saying, Well, no matter what I do, no one's gonna hire me. Make sure that you're clear, that you're doing everything in your power, everything you can control, to make sure that you're not... feeding into the ageist myth with truth. 

Kelly Biskupiak: Yeah, and you know, I think I just wanna reiterate again: It's not okay for you to give the possibility of ageism the power to stop you from getting yourself out there. You guys are worth it, and this workforce absolutely needs you. 

54:11 Susan Rietano Davey: So true. Okay, so we're gonna open up for questions now, while Mom Project is organizing that, we have our contact information here, as Kelly mentioned earlier, we wanna make sure you open that email that you get because in it, you'll get two really valuable free documents that will help you work through what we've talked about today.

54:28 Susan Rietano Davey: And also, we're offering a special webinar, actually an information session session just for Mom Project members and attendees who are interested in our 10-week Return to Work Career Pivot course. We do take applications for that course up until the middle of September, maybe the third week of September. It starts on the 28th of September, but there's a lot to talk about, so we'll invite you to that too, and the link to that information session will be in the email. But thanks guys. I think we’ve got 10 minutes for questions, so... Shoot.

Q&A

54:59 Colleen Curtis: Hi, you can hear me now? Awesome, okay. We have way more questions than we're gonna have time for, but I do wanna let everyone know we will send the follow-up resources and invitation from Susan and Kelly. We will have the recording of this as well, so if you wanna replay it and then we'll also be taking the transcript from the chat to be building some additional resources for everybody.

So... Okay, so many, many questions, but wanting to try to get to the heart of, Okay, we've called out the elephant in the room, but what if I can't get into the room... Right? So like I can't even get into the room to call it out, like How do I get over that... Obviously, you gave some of the traps that we can fall into, like how do we effectively network to get into that interview to be able to talk about our experience and articulate it?

55:51 Susan Rietano Davey: So I think I'll take that. A lot of...The same strategy can work when you're trying to network. So the key is to have a big enough network to begin with. So we’ll have clients come to us or students when they're going through the course, one of their jobs is building their LinkedIn profile and connecting. If you don't have well over 500 connections, you just don't have critical mass to reach as many people. And I think what we like to do is take the easy way out, shoot a little benign message or send an email. 

I'm a big believer in picking up the phone, and I'll give myself as an example, I am someone who everybody wants to talk to to help. I mean I have more pro-bono clients usually than I do paying clients 'cause I'm sucker and because whatever. But so I get lots of requests to help people, I get lots of requests for references, and I don't... Like the other day, I just opened up my LinkedIn, I had someone who replied to or wrote to me two weeks ago that I didn't even get back to. I get so much of that.

56:43 Susan Rietano Davey: My phone never rings, I used to have a landline in my office, I shut it off 'cause nobody ever called it... If you call me, I am much more likely to respond. So I would say be a little bit more direct in the way you network. But also, if you're getting that feeling in the networking call that you're not gonna get in the door, then use the same strategy and on it just say, Look, I know I'm not your conventional candidate, and it might be...seem kind of weird for someone like me at 55 to be looking for a job, but let me tell you why, and let me tell you what kind of assets I bring.

And then, please help me just get in the door. Just give me the recommendation or give me the name. But I would argue that if you're really negotiating...networking strategically and using the right strategy and using it well, and again, that goes to the Kelly part, making sure that you're using that confident voice and you have that good story to tell. You're gonna get in the door. I promise you there. You will not get in the door if you apply online.

57:41 Colleen Curtis: Yes. And we also had one of our chat members coin, elephant in the Zoom instead of elephant in the room, to refresh the word into the Covid era. So I wanna thank that person for contributing that. Okay, so, as we start to think about the narrative of ourselves, we're in a good mindset, we're thinking positively, we know the workforce needs us, when I get into that room, how much information do I give about my family, my kids, and that's me offering it... We understand it’s illegal to ask about it, but how important is that piece of the story to articulate and at what point in the interview process does it start to become more relevant or interesting as that conversation develops? 

58:29 Kelly Biskupiak: So, this would be a great place to teach an, “Acknowledge and Pivot.” 

Susan Rietano Davey: Yeah, so we've started to be using the course called “Acknowledge and Pivot.” And it's kind of acknowledging in this case, that you're a parent, because it's not illegal... It's illegal for them to ask if you have children, but if on your resume, it shows that you were the soccer coach, they’re gonna know you have kids, so it's not illegal for them to ask questions. So very often, they'll use this strategy to kind of derail you, it's also a little bit arrogant, it's to dismiss your experience. 

So “Acknowledge and Pivot” is... Yeah, I’m a mom and then pivoting. An example would be ... Gee, Colleen, I see that you were a youth soccer coach... Oh man, that's a tough one. I mean, the parents call in, you gotta worry about who's bringing the orange slices, and so they're kind of derailing you, and it's very easy... most women just take the bait and they start talking about it. And now they’re wasting precious interview time talking about something that doesn't even matter. And at the end of the day, it's presenting them as someone who's still thinking like the mom who's slicing the orange quarters for half time at the soccer game.

59:00 Susan Rietano Davey: So Acknowledge is, Yeah, I was a soccer coach for a while, but you know what I ended up doing? I ended up realizing that my real talent is on the administrative side, so I became the treasure of the soccer club. And so, what you can see is, that's where I learned how to do pivot tables as I was doing pretty sophisticated stuff, 'cause the president of the soccer club is an actuary, so I wanted to make sure I impressed him. And that's where I really kind of got my experience, kind of hands-on financial experience and doing the accounting, doing the bookkeeping, whatever. I just pivot. So I acknowledged it and I brought it right back around. 

Do not fall into that trap. And I'm kind of old school, I would say there's really no place for talking about that in an interview. It just doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. And I don't know if I'm interviewing somebody and they're talking more about that, then I don't feel like they're ready. So I know it seems a little sacrilege to not bring it up, but I just don't think you should... You have a precious amount of time, make sure you're spending it on making the best case for yourself. And unless acknowledging and talking about those volunteer roles that you had that were related to being a parent are related to what you wanna talk about, then I just probably wouldn't talk about it a lot. Yeah, that's my advice.

1:00:44 Colleen Curtis: Makes total sense. Should we do one last question? 

Susan Rietano Davey: Yeah, of course. We can say as long as you want. 

Colleen Curtis: Okay, we'll do a couple. Okay, right, I just wanna make sure. There's so many. Okay, so I'm later in my career. I'm thinking maybe it's time to go back to the workforce. How do I know I'm ready? Right so, I feel tired. I've been home with my kids, it's Covid. I'm tired, I don't even know actually what I wanna do or I want to make a pivot, but I don't know to what. I just know I didn't like the job I left five years ago.

1:01:22 Susan Rietano Davey: That’s a Kelly question.

1:01:24 Colleen Curtis: How I know I'm ready? And how can I get to that point? 

Kelly Biskupiak: Well, I think number one, you have to start with your self-care because oftentimes women will show up to us and they're asking a big question like that of themselves, like what is next, for me? That's a big question to ask yourself. You better make sure your self-care is in check, that you are not exhausted and depleted... And you can really just do that in a couple of ways. Number one, how are you taking care of yourself physically? Start with the basics. Are you drinking enough water? Are you getting enough sleep? 

Putting a regime around that is really important, how are you stimulating yourself emotionally, what support do you have around you emotionally? What support do you have around yourself...mentally? Do you have that intellectual stimulation? Are you reading good books, are you online reading? Are you reading the New York Times? Are you hearing about what's happening out in the world? And then spiritually, where is your peace, where is that quiet space in your life? And once you have your self-care under wraps, then you can ask me that big question.

1:02:33 Kelly Biskupiak: Then you can take the time to say... Okay, well, it really is this, Who do I wanna be next? Who do I wanna be next? What parts of me that have gone to sleep and I want to wake back up, who do I wanna be next? And it begins with really taking action...you’ve done your self-care. It begins with taking a good look at your values and your strengths and tapping into all of that. Your personality and your aptitudes and your interests. Spending some time there. You will get the answers and the clarity that you need by actually slowing yourself down, taking good care of yourself, and then asking yourself the right kinds of questions about what are my values? What is important to me? What matters most?

Susan Rietano Davey: Kelly does a really good job in the first module of our course taking you through that, lots of those different things so you can envision...and then once you've really got this map of yourself, and it sounds so silly, but most of us aren't really doing that 'cause we worry about everybody else. 

Kelly Biskupiak: No one is doing that. No one has time for that, right? 

1:03:40 Susan Rietano Davey: Once you get to that point you kind of say, Okay, this is who I am, and then we teach you a strategy called “Explore and Assess,” and it's a specific line of questioning to explore what options are out there. So, if this is who I am, where can I best bring this? Where am I gonna be the biggest asset? So there are specific questions, and it really is just the practice of meeting with people and people love talking about themselves, you're basically giving people an opportunity to talk to themselves, and we have found from our students that in Covid it’s actually easier. 

Because pre-Covid, I'd have to come to your office and bring you lunch, and now I can just hop on a call for 15 minutes and take my little template of questions and ask you know, tell me what you do. What do you like about it, what don't you like about it? What brought you here? What credentialing do I need if I wanna do this? What makes some successful in this role?

Kelly Biskupiak: I call this wildly curious. Have lots of conversations because if you go back to your former colleagues...because when you start having conversations with former colleagues too, that sometimes wakes things back up and you're like, Oh yeah, I did that, I forgot I did that. And I loved that, you know?

1:04:45 Susan Rietano Davey: We also find that when women take our course, we have them set up office hours so they're really working, as Kelly said, getting back to work. And sometimes they will find in the process of the course that they're not ready. They'll take the course and they’ll say, No I'm gonna take another year, I'm gonna do some self-development, but I'm not ready, and I think the other piece to remember is that... 

The process of getting a job is a job. And there are some things that you can do in the interim, and in that guide that Kelly mentioned, the Gap Buster Guide...I'm pretty sure the last couple of pages are for people...it's a pretty long document...are for people who aren't quite ready to go back in, and it gives them some very specific things that they can do to give them a place to prepare themselves in a better way to go back. So I think that we'll get some value there too.

1:05:36 Colleen Curtis: Incredible, thank you. Okay, so I know we're already over time and there are many questions, so we do have the transcript, we will be following up with people with the research, but I wanna end on one thing... 'cause I think seeing is believing, and I think a lot of both the tactical and the mindset advice that you guys have given has been incredible, and so we'd love to feel the proof of someone who you have each worked with, and you don't have to give any identifying information, but your gold, shining star, so that we can have something to sort of celebrate and hold on to that this really can work if we put the work in, we can overcome some of these biases...

1:06:14 Susan Rietano Davey: Yeah, I think we do Lynn. Yeah, we had a student from South Carolina who came to us.

1:06:17 Kelly Biskupiak: Don't use the name. 

1:06:21 Susan Rietano Davey: That’s true, I already did...she wouldn’t care though. She came to us in our Spring 2009 cohort, so our courses are offered three times a year, and she had been home for 20 years, she had two autistic sons, one severely autistic, one more mildly. And I guess she’d been home 18 years, 'cause when the oldest was two she realized he was not gonna be served by public school, and she had been a very high level administrator at a major corporation, generous six-figure income, really bright woman, I mean we used to crack up 'cause we'd be in the middle of the call saying, Gee, I wonder how you do that, and then she'd be in the chatbox saying, This is how you do it. 

While she was home though, she'd been homeschooling her children. So she did not... keep a lot of business connections going. I mean, homeschooling two children with special needs is a full-time plus job. And her husband traveled a lot. So when she came to us, she had a lot of great raw material, she was lacking confidence, and it was really hard to try to capture her gap years in a meaningful way. And she was really cute, 'cause she said to me, 'cause we were working on the resume, she paid to have a little extra one-on-one help on the resume, and she said to me, I don't wanna look like “woman in overalls and braids, homeschooling her kid.”

1:07:38 Susan Rietano Davey: I had a corporate job, but it's been a long time. So the beauty of her story is watching, as Kelly mentioned earlier, the privilege it is of watching these women grow throughout the process. She was able to not hide the fact that she homeschooled her kids, but to focus on the advocacy work that she did at the State Capital in North Carolina. Was it North or South? I forget now, I think it was North. 

And the curriculum development work that she did for other homeschooling parents and really focus on those things and take what could have been... And I think she was right, it could have been looked at negatively and make it into a positive... She was very nervous about networking because she was living in a community where she had no connections, she was very nervous about even just putting herself out there and having to meet with people because she'd been living in the world of young children and autism for so long. But at the end of the day, and we're kind of skipping over all the messy part, at the end of the day, she graduated from the course in June, the first week she was given a job offer, which was insulting to her, so she declined it.

1:08:42 Susan Rietano Davey: The second, maybe later in that month, she was offered another job, which she declined only because she just didn't really feel like she liked the culture, and then the third one was the fit and Kelly, what did she say? What was that euphemism she used? 

Kelly Biskupiak: She said, I feel like I'm testing out prom dates and which one's good enough to take me to the prom and she really, she had the confidence, she had the clear understanding of, Here's who I am now, and let me get... Let me get in front of you and tell my compelling story that's gonna make you want me really badly.

Susan Rietano Davey: And the confidence to say no because the offer wasn't good enough, 'cause you mentioned earlier that grabbing at any scrap that comes your way, she wasn't gonna do that, and she said, I know the old me would have grabbed that first job in a heartbeat. So the other interesting thing about her is that she's now working for a major, major aerospace company, working in the C-suite in a very visible job, and the way she networked for the job was she put out to our students, Hey, I'm looking for this job.

1:09:48 Susan Rietano Davey: And one of our students’ husband, although he works in Connecticut, works for this company. And was able to make a connection. And it was that warm connection, because I think her resume might have made it through, but who knows? It was that warm connection, saying, Hey, this woman is worth looking at... My wife knows her well, take a look. So she kind of used really all of our strategies, right Kell?

Kelly Biskupiak: Right, yeah.

1:10:11 Colleen Curtis: That's amazing. I think we should end it on that, I like... Okay, I like to end on the feel-good story that these are very real obstacles, but we can't overcome them. We know that this exists, and so how are we gonna get people through it? So thank you both so much this has been an incredible session. We are so grateful for your time and investment in our community, and then just the community at large for women in the workforce. So we're just so grateful to have you aligned with us on this mission and appreciate your time today. 

So we will be following up everyone, like I said, via email, the recording will be made available to anyone that would like to use it, and so keep an eye on your inboxes. I think early next week, we'll have that ready to ship out to all of you, and we really appreciate you being here this week. We are gonna take next Friday off for Labor Day and so we will not be doing a unity hour and so then we'll be back on the following Friday, and thereforth... So thank you all so much. And have a great weekend! 

1:11:14 Susan Rietano Davey and Kelly Biskupiak: Yes, thank you everyone. Bye everybody!

▶️ Watch Mother's Rights at Work to learn about laws that protect against ageism

Find Your Fit with The Mom Project.

Join The Mom Project to create your talent profile and browse career opportunities from vetted companies that support work and life integration. Sign up or log in

Recommended Articles

Subscribe to discover more resources, programs and events

Get on the list

New to The Mom Project? Sign up for our emails and discover more resources, programs and events!