Let’s Hear From an Expert: Marci Alboher, Encore.org

You are one of the nation’s leading authorities on career issues and workplace trends. What challenges do you see for women in midlife who are seeking to re-enter the workforce or to change careers?
I see two main issues — confidence and ageism, and they are quite related. When you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, everything seems different, and everyone seems younger (it is and they are!). People work in new ways, are using new tools, and even if you’re returning to a field you worked in previously, it’s very easy to feel out-of-date. So that’s why women (and men too) who’ve taken time out from the paid workforce can feel insecure as they prepare to return. On top of that, anyone over forty knows that ageism is real; and it’s not just what others think, we tend to question our own ability to keep up with younger folks, who just seem more plugged in.

All that said, I think the solution to both issues is the same: Figure out how to develop new skills that will ensure you’re ready to work in new ways; and begin to re-cultivate a network filled with people of all ages, who can help you navigate what work looks like today. For many parents, this is where grown kids can come in very handy. I don’t have kids of my own but am constantly learning from younger friends and relatives. Of course, they learn from me as well, about things like how to navigate relationships and manage tough situations. Those cross-mentoring relationships are crucial.


Why is this a time filled with opportunity for these women as well?
As we hit midlife, life feels precious and there’s a new sense of urgency many of us experience. So often we’re drawn to work that has greater meaning. It’s very common to think about legacy — work that will live beyond today. And often, with that new work comes new roles, new learnings, and new ways to be a student or beginner again, while also passing on life experience to younger people. If you have the right mindset, it can be invigorating.



You work with Encore.org. Tell us more about this organization and what it seeks to do.
Encore.org is a small nonprofit building a movement to tap the experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve society.
We do three things:

  1. We’re helping to reframe extended midlife as a time to be a change agent.
  2. We’re creating and promoting new pathways to pursue purpose-oriented work in later life, like our Encore Fellowships, a one-year program to help people nearing retirement move from corporate jobs to roles in nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations.
  3. We’re building a movement of like-minded individuals and organizations. One example of that: Our Generation to Generation campaign, which seeks to mobilize a million people over the age of 50 to stand up and show up for vulnerable young people.


Can you give us a few examples of success stories of midlife reinventions supported by Encore.org?
So many. For ten years, we awarded the Purpose Prize, a $100k award for social innovators over the age of sixty (that prize is now operated by AARP). Ysabel Duron is a great example. As a successful news anchor, she began to change her focus and priorities when she was diagnosed with cancer. She turned the camera on herself and became a subject — documenting her treatment as a journalistic project. And she started a nonprofit on the side, Latinas Contra Cancer, to bring cancer awareness and support to Latina women. Once she retired, she dedicated herself full-time to that venture. The Purpose Prize helped her to do that.

We have a rich storytelling section of the Encore.org website that has examples of so many everyday people using their life experience and skills to make a difference in their second (or third) acts. If you have a story like this, we’d love to hear from you!



What resources do you recommend on the subject of midlife career reinventions?
A few favorites:
Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life by Chris Farrell
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith
Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash Your Talents, Reinvent Your Work in Midlife and Beyond by Mark Walton
The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption by Farai Chideya
Anything by Kerry Hannon, such as:
Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills
What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond
Getting the Job You Want After 50 For Dummies


Connect with Marci Alboher

The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life
One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash Career

Twitter: @heymarci


Marci Alboher is a leading authority on the changing face of work and a Vice President at Encore.org, a nonprofit making it easier for millions of people to pursue second acts for the greater good. Her latest book The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life (Workman Publishing, 2013) was hailed by the AP as ‘an invaluable resource.’

Prior to joining Encore.org, Marci worked as a journalist, creating the Shifting Careers column and blog for The New York Times and the Working the New Economy blog for Yahoo. Her articles have appeared in scores of national publications. Her earlier book, One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash Career (originally published in 2007 and re-released in 2012), popularized the term “slasher” to refer to those individuals who can’t answer “What do you do?” with a single word or phrase.

Marci makes frequent appearances in the media, offering advice and commentary about slashing, encore careers and other workplace trends. She has been featured on numerous broadcast outlets – including NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News and National Public Radio – as well as countless print and web publications. Marci is on the board of Girls Write Now, which mentors underserved high school girls in NYC; she also serves as a mentor-editor for The Op-Ed Project, which focuses on increasing the number of women and minority voices in public conversations.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from The University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University. Earlier in her career, she spent a decade as a corporate lawyer.

 A bit of the personal: Marci grew up on the Jersey Shore, living above her family’s motel, and has lived in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong. She always finds her way back to New York City, where she has spent more than 15 years. In her free time, she reads, travels, walks (excessively) and plays low-stakes poker. She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband, an entrepreneur/designer, and their French bulldog, Sinatra.


Le’ts Hear From an Expert: Alan Alda, The Women in Business Project

You are the Founder of The Women in Business Project, part of Alda Communication Training. What need did you see that you were looking to address with this project?

I find it amazing and stupefying that women still get interrupted in meetings (way more than men, and even on the Supreme Court), they still get things explained to them that they already know, they still see their ideas appropriated by someone else, right under their noses, and — that old standby — they still get harassed. This is stupefying because studies show that the more that women rise in a company, the better the company does with its bottom line. Even if people never heard of these studies, don’t they notice that ignoring and even blocking the strengths of women is not all that profitable?

How do you work with women to address these issues?
In our Women in Business workshops, participants get to go through a set of exercises based on improvisation (which sounds scary but is completely comfortable and fun). Then they go through role playing exercises, where they relive and succeed at those difficult moments they tend to experience in the workplace. Each step in the day’s work leads to the next.

The end result is that participants leave with more confidence in their own strength. They often tell us they feel transformed. Partly this is because they haven’t been lectured to, or given some tips and a pep talk, but, instead, they’ve had experiences that change them. And it doesn’t end there. They leave the workshop with techniques to practice on that reinforce the experience they’ve gone through, and they’re encouraged to keep up contact with at least one person in the group so they can mentor each other, providing support and encouragement.

What advice do you have for women in the workplace who feel their voice is marginalized?
If it’s not possible to get into one of our workshops, I‘d say write down the obstacles that are being put in your way, then get a friend to play out those moments with you over and over until you know you can handle them easily. And keep encouraging each other, especially before a crucial event, like asking for a raise.


What resources do you recommend on this topic?
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is terrific, as is Deborah Tannen’s Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work. And it might be helpful to read my book on communicating and relating, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?.


Connect with Alan Alda:
Website: www.alanalda.com

The Women in Business Project

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlanAldaFanPage/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alanalda

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned



Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his films include Crimes and Misdemeanors, Everyone Says I Love You, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bridge of Spies, and many more. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learnedand Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.

Let’s Hear From an Expert: Romy Newman of fairygodboss

You are the Co-Founder and President of Fairygodboss, a “community of women helping women.” Tell us more about your company.

Fairygodboss is a business with a social mission: We want to help improve the workplace for women everywhere. Our goal is to engage a conversation between women about their careers and jobs, and get candid information about the challenges that women face.

Often, we find that there is a cone of silence around the daily workplace challenges that women confront. We want to open the dialogue so women can find camaraderie in their experiences and companies can get a more accurate picture of what women experience.


What challenges did you see for working women, that you are seeking to address with Fairygodboss?

We hear from our users that they face challenges in terms of unequal promotion, unequal compensation, and unequal evaluation. In addition, we hear often that they face “microaggressions” (a word I’d never heard before)—meaning, the struggle with lots of small cultural and institutional slights that add up over time. We hope that by allowing women to share their experiences, they can draw strength and support from our community. And we hope that by highlighting these challenges, we will help support companies to make effective change.





What is the range of information and insight your site provides to women seeking professional positions? How do you get women to contribute?

We ask women lots of different things: We ask them to evaluate their employer and we ask them to give advice to other women. We also crowdsource data about maternity leave policies and salaries. To get women to contribute, we use a lot of social media—and we ask our users to share us with their friends. We’re so excited about how viral we’ve gone!


How is this information relevant to women in midlife and older?

Since starting out with Fairygodboss, we’ve come to realize that there is something that we call “The Aha Moment.” Often, younger women are not aware or subjected to gender bias in the workplace. Yet when they reach midlife, become mothers, or achieve more senior positions, suddenly their experience changes. They have a harder time getting promoted, face discrimination, and have to manage work/life balance in a different way.

Fairygodboss is a site for women at all phases in their career. But we certainly find that it’s women who’ve reached “The Aha Moment” who most often seek us out.


How does this work? Is this a membership program? 

Anyone can access most of the data on Fairygodboss, but we do ask users to register and leave a review before they access our user review content. There is no cost to join.


What resources do you recommend?

We love Ellevate. They are a great organization and they publish highly useful articles every day.

One of my favorite books is Personal History by Katharine Graham. She was such a brilliant lady who achieved so much and broke a lot of barriers. I highly recommend that every woman read it at some point in her life.

And Allyson Downey recently published a great book called Here’s the Plan.: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood.


Contact us at info@fairygodboss.com

Website: www.fairygodboss.com


Twitter: @fairygodboss

Instagram: @fairygodboss


Romy Newman is president & co-founder of Fairygodboss, a business with the mission to improve the workplace for women everywhere. Previously, Romy ran digital advertising sales and operations for The Wall Street Journal, and working in marketing at Google and Estee Lauder. Romy is the proud mother of 2 children, and spends her precious spare time doing yoga and crossword puzzles. She is motivated by helping other women have the same wonderful workplace experiences she’s been lucky to have.