Tag Archives: personal 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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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

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.

Time for a change….

Has the New Year brought change for you?  Some of us plan changes like, “Get a new job.” “Retire.” “Change my attitude toward food or wellness.” “Regroup  with my siblings on decisions related to my mother’s care.”  For others, change is thrust upon us unexpectedly, like the woman who shared with me that she had a miscarriage over the holidays. This wrenching event seemed to smother her plans for change in the New Year.  Still other changes influence us collectively, like those related to our new administration.

Change felt omnipresent this January. It was everywhere I turned. Or was it?  Was it change or something more that I kept encountering?

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Resolutions

“Can I finally start?”  It was a question that popped into my head unwittingly as I sat in my office last week.  I was trying to shake off the exhaustion from the holidays and begin an avalanche of work that I’d queued up for the New Year.  Start what?   In acknowledging the question, I felt as if I was on the edge of tears.  It took only an instant for this feeling to pass.  Even so I realized I’d crossed an important milestone for my transition, one that makes me think about New Year’s Resolutions and new beginnings a little differently. Continue reading

Voice Interrupted

I heard Hillary Clinton’s voice for the first time last weekend – yes, days after the surprising and heartbreaking outcome of the 2016 Election.  I heard it in Kate McKinnon’s moving rendition of Len Cohen’s Hallelujah on Saturday Night Live.  ‘How could this be?’  You might ask.  Weren’t we all party to a near continuous stream of voices from both candidates over the past months?   Even with all of that volume I was struck with the weight of the words conveyed by McKinnon.  It reminded me of the importance of voice, one of transition’s most critical tools.  Did we hear Hillary’s voice?  Do we hear yours? Continue reading

Our Elusive Self

Have you ever felt as if you are bumping into the same issue over and over again?   Everywhere you turn?   Such events may be reminding you that it is time to start your own business or leave a fallen marriage or pick up the phone to call a long-silent friend.  I am a little disturbed and amazed at how frequently I keep bumping into something of my own lately.   It keeps happening.  I can’t name it although I think it has something to do with identity.  My identity?   I’ve been transitioning for the better part of five years. Could there be more to do?

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Continue reading

Giving Ourselves Permission

“I gave myself permission – thanks to being a part of this group ,” said Stephanie.  She was crediting a multi-session working group that I put together to help me develop a workbook, a companion to my book, Women & Transition.    Over the course of our sessions together we learned that Stephanie had been laid off a year earlier from her job as a research and development manager for a tech behemoth, a job that she’d held in some form or another for almost twenty years.  We also learned that our work together helped her dignify a small voice in her head that kept leading her away from R&D and tech.  She was excited and scared about her new path.  I was really struck by her words.  I felt as if she and I were in the same place.   How could this be?   My transition is farther down the garden path than hers.   Isn’t  it?   What was it about permission that spoke to me?

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Knowing

“I don’t know,” said my twelve-year-old daughter earlier this week in response to a benign question I asked her about choosing a movie.  Her tone was light-hearted if not a little distracted.  My heart fell as I listened to her response.  How could she not know?  I hoped we’d avoid this unknowing if only for a few more years.  Have you ever heard yourself say a similar statement?  I don’t know. Continue reading

Big and Small Victories

“Be who you are in big and small ways,” said Colleen DelVecchio, Director of Alumni Engagement at Smith College.  She spoke at the close of a two-day Leadership Conference, a conference that had invited me to speak about my book!  She challenged all of us there to bring our voices to every stage on which we find ourselves – from paying for coffee at a local independent coffee bar; to landing a sought after contract; to shepherding a child through the college admissions process.  To her the size of the stage was irrelevant.  What mattered was bringing ourselves to every situation. No deferring or diminishing or denying our voices.  She implored us to bring them forward…in countless ways.

 

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She wasn’t aware of it but Colleen DelVecchio was talking about an important element of transition: exercising our voices.   She – like so many of the people I encounter – overlooked transition.  Or, was it that she lacked insight into this important topic?

As I listened to her I immediately felt the distance that I’ve traveled in transition.  A journey that is underscored today by an incredible milestone, Novofemina’s fifth anniversary!

To those of you who have walked this journey with me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  For those who are newer to our conversation, I thank you for choosing this topic.  To both camps, I am thrilled that you’re here with me.

When I began Novofemina I thought transition was a process that would allow me to reconcile conflicts between my professional and personal lives.  I approached it like a project management challenge.  I expected tasks and phases and gates and a final – albeit uncertain – deliverable.   A new job?  A new way of working?  I wasn’t certain what transition held for me but I knew that something had to give.

Today thanks to the voices of hundreds of women with whom I’ve spoken about transition my work is focused on a cause that engages my entire soul, a cause that I believe has positive implications for women.  The cause?  Transition.  Or more specifically, I am on a crusade to increase the capacity for transition in women – everywhere.

Transition occurs when there is a shift in what holds value or meaning to each of us.  It is a process that we choose when faced with the need to change.  It requires us to re-examine our assumptions about who we are – our identity, our capacity, our values.  The choice part is important.  A person can undergo hundreds of changes in their life and never transition.  The choice is ours.

I’ve concluded that transition is widely misunderstood in our society.  Few know it as a normal part of adult growth and development.   This mismatch leads many to misinterpret transition’s earliest stages as failure.

Women’s response to this – very often – is to draw inward.   This response can fuel feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, a treacherous cycle that can cause women to stall, disengage or retreat from living the lives they imagine.

I remember vividly the earliest days of my transition.  It started one day when I crossed an imaginary line – that day the bottom fell out on the meaning of my professional world.   That world was complex and all-consuming. Harvard Business School MBA.  Million mile member of American Airlines’ Frequent Flyer program.  Executive in the c suite of a Fortune 500.  All of a sudden one day I said to myself, “this couldn’t be all there is?” as I looked across the room at my peers – the ceo and the presidents of the company’s geographic regions.

It happened in an instant.

I remember saying to myself, “There must be more for me.”  This glint of possibility kept me going but it didn’t shield me from the instant onslaught of negative feelings.  Failure. Guilt.  Shame.  Isolation.  Fear.

Fast forward to Smith College just before Collen DelVecchio spoke.   I had just finished leading a seminar about transition with 60 women.  Thanks to my book, Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life, I get invited to this type of event more and more these days.

That morning a woman who sat near the back of the room caught my eye.  Why?  She had tears in her eyes for a good portion of my talk.  At the end of the workshop she smiled at me and then made her way to the front of the room where I was talking with a handful of other participants.  She interrupted us with a simple emphatic statement, “This was excellent.”

Another woman who had attended that day and also bought my book later wrote me an email.  She shared that she’d been in a difficult transition for more than a decade.   She said,   “This week I have felt better about where I’m at and what I have to work through then I have in a long time. I thank you for opening this door for me.”

These moments – while small – are incredibly meaningful to me.  They fuel me and offer me support as I explore how my transition will continue.  Even though a book and formal research weren’t on my radar screen as my transition began I know that they are not its end.  There is more….

At 5 I am ebullient and peaceful and open.    I’ve traveled an enormous distance.   The fear and uncertainty have been replaced by understanding and by optimism even in the face of more unknowing.  While difficultly is likely ahead of me as I take on more and more of my transition I am ever grateful of the path and its countless gifts.

I hope that soon Colleen DelVecchio and many others become aware of transition.  It is a journey that many of us will find ourselves on during our adult lives.   It is a journey whose course and pace you get to decide.  It is enlivening and energizing and freeing.

The only true risk in it all is that you begin.   An act that can happen in countless ways – both big and small.

Many many thanks…..

 

If you have another moment, please read my prior Anniversary Posts:

First Year:  Learnings & Laughs: One Year In

Second Year:  400 and 2

Third Year:  Three and Counting

Fourth Year:  Four and Foresight

 

Copyright © 2016 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.