Exchange Your Experience and Expertise, Over 40!

I had a wonderful generational “Exchange” yesterday with a young female colleague who was helping me prepare for a Skype meeting with a high-energy executive not known for his patience with technology glitches.  I assured her that I would not feel as if she were doing a “Skype for Dummies” session, but rather that she was imparting a valuable lesson in how I could be astonishingly productive so that I did not have to travel across the country and away from family obligations over a weekend.   I also suggested that she could ask me to teach her anything she thought she might want to learn from me, to which she replied that the list would probably be way too long.  Definitely the sweetest response I could ask for, considering this young woman is smart, thoughtful and very professional. 

What many women over 40 learn is that there are literally thousands of ways, means, organizations, individuals and causes for which they can exchange their experience and expertise – and you benefit in ways you would not begin to imagine.  The possibilities are so numerous, you’d have no time for anything else! Your maturity and wisdom afford you the credibility as well as confidence to assist the next generation of professionals in your field of expertise, your immediate neighbors and local communities, your local school children, and the world at large. These acts of exchange range from the very basic (e.g., “Share”), to DARE–ING ways that you could alter the future of a social cause or an organization, to even launching a nonprofit of your own.

Every day, whether you work full-time, inside or outside the home, you have the power to Exchange your wisdom, generosity and talents with others.  I DARE you!

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1.) SHARE:

a. Invite someone to spend a holiday with you who would otherwise be alone.

b. Think of your talents that a local school, sports team or children’s organization would appreciate, whether or not you have children. If you’re an artist, writer, businessperson, or whatever your expertise, think of ways that you could turn your career and/or other interests into a classroom lesson in life.

c. If someone close to you, whether family, friend or neighbor, suffers from a chronic disease, consider getting active in their cause via a marathon, annual dinner, auction, or other fundraising event. Not only will you be contributing an exchange of your time and resources toward a valuable solution, but you will become part of something much bigger than yourself.

d. Find the time and means to visit and engage an elderly relative in a meaningful way.

e. DARE give praise where praise is due. Write and send cards or emails of thanks and praise as much as possible, with sincerity, wit and context so that they’re well worth your time. The same goes for writing letters of recommendations for individuals you know and respect. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to receive excellent recommendation letters. Of course, I am grateful for all of them but the ones I loved the most were those that demonstrated the writers had put as much thought and consideration as possible into their recommendations.

2.) DONATE SOMETHING: Start with the things that no longer fit into your life, or that no longer make you happy, or clothing, furniture and jewelry that you know you’ll probably never use again can create an exchange of cash, a tax write-off, or just a warm feeling of altruism because you parted with something that could benefit someone else more than it’s benefiting you.

a. If you’re hoarding clothing in unflattering styles, or in three different sizes, or from two decades or lifestyles ago, it’s high time to exchange all that! At the very least do it to get some additional room in your closets, not to mention breathing space in your psyche! Take inventory so you decide easily what to keep, what to alter, what to give away, and what to throw away. You’re already aware of all the places where you could give away or sell your unwanted clothing and furniture.  If possible, purge your life of unwanted jewelry, though jewelry might have even more of an emotional pull than clothing. Many women have jewelry that reminds them of a particular person, event or time in their lives. If the reminder is so painful that you can’t see beyond it to the growth and development you’ve attained, then for sure donate it or try selling it on a reputable online site, or to a consignment store.

b. Donate, instead of dumping, all those books and magazines you think you’re going to get around to reading some day, or any technical textbooks older than five years (whether they’re yours or your children’s). All they’re doing is creating clutter and a fire hazard. Face it, you’re just too busy or too disinterested to read or reference them, ever! DARE to admit that, and make room in your life to pursue more pressing priorities or interests. Or order E-versions of the books you really treasure or want to have readily on hand.

3.) VOLUNTEER. Whether it’s an exchange of your time, your experience and expertise, or financial resources, volunteering in general is an excellent way to exchange your generosity over 40 and doesn’t necessarily involve a huge infusion of time or money. Remember, volunteering is an excellent way to engage and network if you are looking for full-time paid employment either at a corporation or nonprofit, considering that corporations and small businesses contribute time and resources to nonprofits.

A good place to start is by identifying those organizations whose mission and vision resonate with your personal or professional interests. Determine how much time you can donate, and what you’d like to do as a volunteer. For example, if hunger relief is an important cause to you, decide whether you want to work in a soup kitchen, or become part of a fundraising task force, or join a board of directors. Then determine how best to access and approach the charities – via personal introduction, letter and follow-up call.

4.)  MENTOR. DARE-ING to become a mentor is one of the most fulfilling ways to your exchange your experience and expertise with peers as well as the next generation. Because of my teaching work at NYU, I’m often asked to mentor students and other professionals who are in career transition. Just remember that you can – and should want to – learn from your mentoring experience.

5.)  FUND. If money is your method of exchange, develop a plan for how you can become a nonprofit donor. Before you skip this idea because you think you need to retain as much money in your life as possible, don’t assume that philanthropy is only about donating your own money. Philanthropists and other altruists are confident individuals who know that what they have to exchange by way of time, experience and expertise should and will make a valuable difference, often beyond the value of a quickly jotted check or text donation. They are the people who think carefully about what kind of community and what kind of world they want to create, for now and for their legacy. 

6.) DARE TO JOIN THE STAFF OF A NONPROFIT. One of the best ways to transform a nonprofit’s capacity to deliver on its mission is to guide its vision by joining its staff as a paid employee, or becoming a member of its Board of Directors (BOD). Or even start your own nonprofit!

There is a great deal more information on exactly how to do this in my book, Get DARE From Here, in chapter 12.

7.)  TEACH THE CHILDREN WELL. Teaching children is a tremendous responsibility that only the most qualified and passionate individuals should pursue. It also happens

to figure high on the list of potential second careers for baby boomers.

At the very beginning of my career, in my early 20s, I taught sixth grade for four years. It was rewarding, but for me it was also extremely frustrating and stressful. Now that I’ve matured, I suspect my youth was a liability for me as a teacher. Considering that I advanced through a two-decade career in the corporate arena, I probably was not meant to teach young children in a classroom, unless it’s for an hour or two as a volunteer or guest speaker. If you feel you have the technical skills, emotional intelligence and financial means to teach children, here are suggestions for exchanging your experience and expertise as a teacher in midlife.

a. Research local and online universities that specialize in teacher education, and also be sure to look at the wonderful work that “Teach for America” (www.teachforamerica.com) does. Also look at an organization called Civic Ventures, (www.civicventures. org), which is committed to helping boomers make more productive and long-lasting contributions via exchange in the second half of life. Assess the teaching opportunities or try out the job by working as a classroom aide, paid or unpaid, or by offering to speak to classes in your community about the particular expertise and experience you want to exchange.

Alternately, go to your local PTA meetings; if you have children in school, this is an excellent way to exchange your time and effort for the benefit of your own family. Observe and learn the challenges that public and private schools face today. Determine what you could contribute and whether you could enjoy doing it.

There is a great deal more information on exactly how to do this in my book, Get DARE From Here, in chapter 12.

Remember: the potential is high for you to exchange your expertise and experience as a woman over 40. If you have the interests, time, education and other resources, DARE to exchange! Through donating, volunteering, funding, leading, mentoring, teaching and other methods of exchange, you will be fulfilling one of the most DARE-ING feats of all: growth for yourself, while sharing your resources with peers orthe next generation.  Who knows, you might even get so good at Skype that you could run your own mini-seminar on your favorite topic!