The statistics are everywhere — and they’re staggering. Women already accounted for the majority of jobs lost during the early days of pandemic. In September, four times more women dropped out of the labor force than men. That’s over 865,000 of the 1.1 million total! The “She-cession” is real!
If you’re like us, this picture instills fear, rather than hope.
Where do we go from here?
We know women are feeling squeezed — like there’s little time or headspace to focus on their professional life right now. We also know that in 2020, ageism in the workforce is alive and well, and many hiring managers don’t seriously consider applicants who have stepped out of the workforce for more than a few months.
Our company for women in midlife career transition, EvolveMe, is tackling this issue head on! Through EvolveMe’s signature group training program, the Reinvention Collective, we help women own the assets in front of them now — the strengths accumulated from years of experience.
The following is an interview with Michele Mavi, a positive psychology coach who joined us as a guest speaker in the Reinvention Collective this fall. Mavi shares her take on how women in midlife can make their candidacy more compelling and their lives happier — by zeroing in on their strengths, rather than getting hung up on their weaknesses.
EvolveMe: Why is tapping into your strengths important for women in midlife career transition?
Michele Mavi: Midlife can be a great time for women professionally. You’ve tasted success and accomplishment. Through different experiences you know what you want — or at least what you don’t want — for your professional future. Coupling that with strengths awareness and coaching can be tremendously powerful as it helps bring clarity to the process of moving forward.
Strengths training adds language to what could otherwise remain vague and nebulous. That language becomes critical to owning your value, embracing your uniqueness and knowing how to use your specific strengths to ultimately create better outcomes.
EvolveMe: How can a strengths vs. deficit approach give women confidence?
Mavi: One of the biggest hurdles women face is imposter syndrome. Traditional professional development operates on a “weakness fixing” model and assumes all successful people exhibit the same behaviors.
A strengths approach differs in that it assumes the same outcomes can be achieved through different behaviors. This debunks the theory that there’s a certain profile or character needed to be a successful leader. Instead, what’s realized is that the same success can be achieved through different approaches. This stops you from comparing yourself to others and encourages you to embrace your uniqueness.
The goal is to figure out how to maximize your strengths and stop beating yourself up over perceived flaws. When you accept that you’re awesome at some things and find other tasks more challenging, there’s freedom to embrace the special aptitude and talent you bring to the table while finding ways to confidently manage areas that don’t give you flow.
EvolveMe: You’ve spent a lot of time in the staffing industry. What strengths are companies looking for? Which are most important now?
Mavi: I hate to talk about strengths in ways that imply some are better than others because that’s really not true. Plus, which strengths are most valued depends on the position being applied for. But I can talk about soft skills that are in high demand these days. The top three are adaptability, communication and creativity:
Adaptability is critical. Clearly we’ve seen throughout this last year that regardless of your position and whether or not you were in the paid workforce, it was important to be able to adapt to a new normal quickly.
Communication can make or break you. Regardless of your role, how you communicate has a big impact on your career and your success within your role. Effective communication engenders efficiency which leads to greater productivity, which all employers want. It also determines how we’re perceived, which can affect how well we collaborate with others or maintain employee engagement. People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, and communication is usually part of the issue.
Creativity comes in all forms. It’s not about art but about artistry of thought. Being able to question how and why things are done a certain way is what leads to innovation and forward movement. Again, this can be applied to all roles and at all levels of an organization — it’s invaluable.
EvolveMe: Can you talk about how understanding what you’re good at can help women gain clarity for their next chapter?
Mavi: People who use their strengths at work are three times more likely to be satisfied and happy. Getting clear on our strengths provides a filter through which we can evaluate future opportunities.
It’s important to note that, in this context, we’re not talking about skill-based strengths like using video editing software or Excel. We’re talking about broad talent themes such as Intellection, Winning Others Over (WOO) and Ideation. When you’re in a role that allows you to use these talents you’re more likely to experience flow. You’re drawing energy from what you’re doing and it’s sustainable.
On the other hand, if you’re in a role where you’re not able to exercise your talents, your work may be draining to you, and over time you’re likely to experience burnout.
Once you fully understand your strengths, you can assess with more accuracy whether a role or career path will be a good fit for you. You’ll also be able to ask better questions and make an informed decision.
Strengths awareness also helps you to be more proactive in your search rather than reacting to whatever comes your way.
EvolveMe: What’s your best advice for how to use your strengths in a job search now?
Mavi: Other than using your aptitudes as a filter and ensuring the roles to which you apply allow you to exercise and develop these strengths, there’s a great deal of specificity that comes with clearly identifying your strengths. As a job seeker you have to be able to communicate your value and that can be hard to do.
Strengths work offers specific language that can help you define how you want to show up as a professional. These terms can be applied to your resume and LinkedIn profile and used in interviews.
But even more importantly, be aware that the odds of anyone having your top five strengths in the same order is one in 33 million. If you embrace your uniqueness, own your strengths, and become intentional about using them, it can have an anchoring effect on you professionally. And with that comes lasting confidence!
Are you looking to return to the paid workforce or pivot careers? Ready to clarify your path, explore your strengths and boost your confidence? Don’t go it alone! Join the EvolveMe membership community. Head to our website at https://www.evolveme.work/.