Category Archives: Observations on Transition

Trusting Ourselves

Have you ever found yourself at a moment when you weren’t sure about your next steps?  We all get there at some point or another. It can happen suddenly thanks to an unexpected event like the death of a loved one. It can happen in a more planful way when we decide to leave a job or when a child leaves for college.  It can happen thanks to a recognition deep down that something just isn’t right.  I’ve been fascinated by these moments for the better part of the last five years. I’m convinced that it is these moments that leave us at the doorstep of transition. What do you do when you find yourself at a moment when you’re not sure how to proceed?

 

Some respond to these moments with nothing more than a dismissive shrug. I hear this crew say, “Life. It’s just life.”

I smile politely when I meet these people. I will never convince them otherwise.

For those willing to respond to uncertainty with an open heart, I’ve learned that these moments are enormously important opportunities in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.

Why?

It is at these junctures that we have an opportunity to grow; to re-calibrate our voices; and to contribute more of our unique gifts to a world desperately in need of such contributions.

The task?

A simple one. Trust ourselves enough to bring voice to those things that hold value and meaning for us. Whatever this is or wherever it may lead.

One woman in my research told a powerful story recently that spoke to this task.

Hers started with a wrenching and destabilizing moment.

By 26, Lizbeth was immersed in an extremely competitive academic research lab.  She realized, “This is not who I want to be.”

The realization was crushing.

“Up until that time, the package was defined. The package of me that is. It was stamped and it was on the truck going to its destination. I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling very confused and very lost and alone.”

Lizbeth toyed with leaving academia but was terrified by what that world might hold for her. “I was aware that if I don’t want academia, who am I? I had always thought that my attractiveness to other people was about being smart.  If I didn’t want to offer that and be in academia anymore, then who am I? Transition was such a whopper. It wasn’t just a positional transition it was like a massive identity transition.”

Lizbeth made a decision to move away from academia. She described that decision as momentous.  She wandered a bit. She needed to excavate and exercise her voice. It was circuitous. Messy. She got a little lucky. She slowly made progress. “I think I also got to the place of accepting not knowing.” She imagined all sorts of possibilities and gave herself the permission to try.

I now think of uncertain moments as invitations. We can accept or decline them. Accepting can be downright scary.

Could acceptance be viewed as an act of courage?

We live in a time that shuns those who are in a place of ‘not knowing.’ Think about it. How often have you felt the need to communicate to others that you’re on track? Heading in the right direction? Engaged? Successful?

These social norms can also direct us to ‘go quiet’ when our paths open up to uncertainty & possibility.  The irony in all of this is that our voices falter even more if we react to uncertainty with silencing our voices.

“I am finding my voice.” Said a 51-year-old woman to me the other day. Imagine that. Her comment was unprompted. I wanted to cheer out loud.

Next time you find yourself at a moment with no clear path forward, take a minute to recognize it as an opportunity. Trust your instincts about what may be at play. See if you can’t use your voice to take one step in the direction of an imagined possibility all your own.

Is it time to turn up voice’s volume?

 

Have another minute? Read some earlier blogs about Voice:

 

Thank you for reading.  Take a moment to comment below or tell me what’s on your mind: linda@womenandtransition.com

© 2017 Linda Rossetti & NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

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Reframing Our Decisions

This morning as I was walking our dog I found a painted rock by the side of the road. It had an inscription that read, Think Outside the Box.  The unexpected treasure is a part of our town’s kindness project. Up until this chance encounter I didn’t really ‘get’ the program. Now, I have a different opinion. I smiled brightly when I found the rock. The inscription felt as if it was meant only for me. Yes, outside the box is a place I inhabit comfortably. I’ve been amazed at the goodness I’ve met there. What awaits you outside of the box? Continue reading

No Clear Path Forward

I’ve learned over the past four years that the word, ‘transition,’ is a loaded term. We use it to describe everything from the vital first efforts of a new presidential administration, a.k.a. a transition team, to the heavily scrutinized transition of celeb, actress and athlete Caitlyn Jenner.  What does transition mean for you?

Continue reading

Away and Forward

“Thank you for being honest,” said a woman who introduced herself to me Thursday after a speaking event I did with Women Unlimited.  What struck me in our quick conversation was our agreement – both hers and mine – of how unusual it is for any of us to be so transparent.  She sought me out after a story I told about a moment that I remember vividly. I was sitting in my boss’s staff meeting, an all-day affair attended by the top brass of a Fortune 500. I had worked tirelessly for decades for a seat at this table. This moment is so memorable and bracing because I recall sitting there saying to myself, “you’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve worked this hard…for this?!!? There must be something more.” Continue reading

Terrible, Awful, No Good Barriers

It has been a long time since I fought back tears to get through a day. Have you ever had one of those days? Or weeks? It seems as if I am holding on by my finger nails of late. What could possibly be going on? And more importantly, why is this happening now?

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A Baseline and Learning

“Can you tell us why you chose this?” I asked at the end of an event I attended with my daughter. We were at a seminar for middle schoolers sponsored by the Math Department at Dartmouth College. It was fun if you like number theory and Euclidean geometry. I was hoping that my daughter would leave the event with more than a few cool math tricks. I hoped she would have some perspective on the choices made by the those who led the discussions. With this in mind, I asked the above question of a newly-minted math professor. I followed up with “What path did you take from middle school to college professor?”  His response was surprising although not unique. Continue reading

Choices Beyond Expectations

“You are an ever-moving mark,” said Jessica Donohue at the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA’s Leading Women Awards last week.  Ms. Donohue, who was recognized for her achievements as EVP of State Street, stood out from among the other awardees for her honesty and humility.  She  talked about a label ascribed to her as a young person, ADHD. While it has traveled with her, her vitality is outside of it. She was clear in her thinking about labels or the expectations that go along with them. “Don’t box me in. Encourage me to be more.  Learn more. Resist naming – everywhere.” Continue reading

How to Move Forward….II

One day I had two back-to-back interviews that ended with the interviewees asking me roughly the same question. It went something like, ‘I know where I’m at isn’t right, but I am not really sure what I want to do next.”  I found it incredibly interesting because the circumstances that brought these two women to the same question couldn’t have been more different. One was regrouping thanks to a harsh corporate experience and the other was challenged by an empty-nest. This coincidence got me thinking that their experiences didn’t differ all that much from my own.  After all, I arrived at transition with a deep belief that something more was possible for me. But what?  How do we move forward from moments like these? Continue reading

How to Move Forward

“How do I move forward?” Asked a mid-thirties woman who sat in an audience of leaders. “I don’t know what I want to do next. I know where I am now is not right.”  She had a great job, one that had instant credibility with everyone who sat in the room with her that night.  She told us that she knew she needed to explore something else. Her current role wasn’t right. But she had no answer to the question of, what’s next? That was the show stopper. She’d been facing that decision for quite a while. Stalled. Unhappy. Ready to move.  Or was she? Continue reading

Sponsoring Each Other

Have you ever sponsored anyone?  I keep bumping into this notion of sponsorship. Earlier this week, I spoke with a friend who serves in the military, in a rank that few women achieve. We were talking about why women transition out of the military. Her top reason?  Lack of sponsorship.  I know, I know. This is nothing new. We cite sponsorship, or lack thereof, for all sorts of advancement shortfalls. With so little progress, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t another way to approach this.  What if we are missing the cues for sponsorship?

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First let me level set our understanding of sponsorship.  The word is all around us.  It lives at the intersection of nearly every consumer brand and our sports-enthused society, like Gillette’s sponsorship of the home of the New England Patriot’s, Gillette Stadium.

While lovely for the Patriots, I am not interested in this type of sponsorship.

I am talking about personal sponsorship, or our willingness to advocate for another person in a setting or in a way that will be beneficial to the sponsored person.

It happens in big and small ways.

Like when my neighbor suggested that her retired mother run the Tag Sale at the annual fair.  Or when my study group mate was sponsored by a senior executive for an overseas assignment.  Or when my friend’s son, who thankfully is on the other side of a substance abuse problem, chose to sponsor another 20-something who was just starting his treatment.

When was the last time you sponsored another?

I have to come clean on this topic.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get my network to sponsor candidates for a Board seat.  I’ve been frustrated and dismayed by the experience.

I serve on the nominating and governance committee for the Girl Scouts in Eastern MA, a not-for-profit that serves >35,000 young girls. Since December I’ve been networking to identify potential new Board members. My net take-away after culling through layers upon layers of my contacts is simply this: people cannot be bothered to make the effort. They are too busy, too distracted, too important. Too….?

When I summon my best self, I skate away from these negative reasons and believe that we are ‘missing the cues.’   Without this rationale, I find my conclusions too unsettling.

Transition has taught me that sponsorship is a type of recognition.  It says to the recipient, ‘I believe in you,’ or ‘I believe in the value you can bring to a situation.’

Imagine how nice that message would play if you heard it on your worst day.

Anna Fels’, psychiatrist and author of, Necessary Dreams:  Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives, identified the real risks women face without recognition. “Women who are not supported by appreciative communities pay a steep price. They often fail to understand why, in the absence of such affirmation, they feel unmotivated and demoralized. They blame it on their lack of discipline or character or talent.  But if sources of recognition are unavailable or inadequate or outside of a woman’s control, the chances are dim that she will thrive in her chosen enterprise.” (Women & Transition, pg 64)

All of us can act on behalf of others, regardless of our circumstances.

If you are not sure how, here are some ideas:

  1. Take the Time to Understand:
    • Take time to understand what ‘reach’ might mean for those you plan on sponsoring.  A ‘reach’ is something that will bring energy and vitality to the person.  These ‘reach’ answers will differ…an advocacy support group for a full-time care provider; or a Town Committee role for a stay-at-home mom; or a coordinator role for the Job Seeker’s Coffee Hour for the empty-nester looking to re-enter the workforce; or a conversation with a lawyer for an aspiring recent grad who is considering law school. The specifics of what constitutes ‘reach’ don’t matter, gaining an understanding of another person’s interest does.
  2. Keep Your Eyes Wide Open:
    • Opportunities to sponsor another person come up everywhere.  Be on the lookout. You might initiate a conversation or steer a conversation in a particular direction. It can happen at the office, on the school playground, on your way into the grocery store, via email, or on the way to the airport with your work colleagues in tow.
  3. Be Ready with a Phrase:
    • Be ready to act.  I’ve found that being ready with a phrase is the simplest way to prepare.  “I wonder if….” or “I know just the person…” or “Could we consider…..”  Sponsorship begins with a positioning that you are comfortable with because you need to act 1st. Choose a phrase, be ready to use it.
  4. Practice Makes Perfect:
    • Sponsorship, like voice, improves with practice.  Start small.  Connect two people or connect someone to a group or connect a mid-level manager to a senior decision maker.  Begin.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’ve benefited greatly from sponsorship.  Without it, a tech entrepreneur like me would never have gotten the chance to work in the c-suite of a Fortune 500.  So too, I would not have had the opportunity to speak with countless audiences in the last year about my work in transition.

Maybe that’s why I am so beside myself that I am not able to find people willing to sponsor candidates for the Girl Scouts Board.

As you encounter the gift of a quiet moment, I hope that you think about sponsorship. I’ve come to realize that at its simplest level, sponsorship is our own voice in service of others.  Maybe its time to adjust the volume on yours….

 

 

For those willing to lend their voice my way, please send me a note if you’d like to sponsor someone for the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA Board opportunity (linda@WomenAndTransition.com)

 

Copyright © 2017 Linda Rossetti & NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.