Why Women over 40 Should Connect With Women Under 40
- Employment, Future of work, Networking, Career pivot / transitions, Brain & mind, Staying active, Community, Multigenerational workforce, Ageism
The power of continual learning regardless of your age or career stage
Charlotte Japp, Founder, CIRKEL
“Could you explain to me what the members of our community could gain from meeting your younger members?”
This was a question posed to me by someone running a community for women in midlife moving into new life and career stages. It was a simple question and yet it came as a shock to me. Was it really so surprising that knowledge sharing could flow in both directions, from an older person to a younger person and younger to older?
It dawned on me that even in the “aging space,” intergenerational connections can still be considered novel. While I could wax all day (or month) about the benefits of intergenerational connections, I specifically want to talk about the importance of knowledge sharing across generations for women.
Studies show that women experience the impacts of ageism more than men do and that women have historically been pitted against each other for the limited roles at the top. These tensions exist across generations. Women remember what it was like to sharpen their elbows to get a promotion in the 1980s, often competing with other female peers for those coveted roles. Now with five generations in the workforce, there’s potential for an additional layer of competition between women across different ages.
I mention this dark level of woman-to-woman competition as a reference point for a worst case scenario. However, I believe that knowledge not transferred is wasted. As Madeleine Albright famously said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” I’m fairly certain Ms. Albright intended that statement to be inclusive across generations.
When the CIRKEL team set out to bring professionals from different ages together, we had no idea how powerful some of these curated introductions would be. In fact, some of the most striking stories have resulted in the connection of two women who are decades apart in age but deeply alike in so many important ways.
In one recent introduction, we connected Susan, a 64 year old Creative Director who runs her own creative advertising agency, with Aubrey, a 29 year old Founder of a femme care startup. Though they live on different coasts, work in different industries, and were born 55 years apart, there was a spark of CIRKEL magic!
Before the meeting, Susan was nervous about what a “blind Zoom call” with a millennial. She wondered, “Would Aubrey find me a valuable source of wisdom, expertise, and creativity or just another older woman who wants social media guidance and occasionally pees when she sneezes?”
Aubrey was a little more optimistic! “When I read through Susan’s background and her career journey, I was impressed to say the least. I couldn’t wait to hear more about her experience co-founding her marketing agency for women 50+, Grace Creative!”
As business owners, there were some invaluable insights they shared about honing their respective audiences online and establishing an authentic voice that would connect with their customers. As Aubrey remarked, “With CIRKEL, it’s treated as a two-way mentorship, a way to support each other and our businesses.”
Let’s back up for a second. What exactly is a CIRKEL “two-way mentorship” you ask? It’s a relationship between individuals from two different age groups, where each person brings a sense of curiosity and humility to learn, as well as confidence in their lived experience and skills to teach. It’s an even exchange where there is no hierarchy and everyone wins.
In his book Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, Chip Conley wrote about his experience as a “mentor in residence” to the founders of AirBnb. They needed his decades of experience building his hospitality business, Joie de Vivre. However, what unfolded was a two-way learning structure where Chip gained a whole new understanding of what it means to work in tech and build digital products. He later coined the term “Mentern” as someone who is “as curious as he is wise,” or rather: a mentor and an intern at the same time.
Just as Susan and Chip are rockstars in their careers, they had the open mind and commitment to lifelong learning that allowed them to connect with — and learn from — someone younger than them. It’s not just about learning how to use Tik Tok or whatever social media platform is hot next week, it’s about sharing generational perspectives and getting inspired with fresh ideas.
I’ve learned a lot from matching hundreds of professionals with the CIRKEL team. Some of the most impactful and long-lasting connections we’ve made have not only learned key lessons from each other, but they’ve also had a lot of fun!
Here are some tips for a successful two-way mentorship with a younger professional woman:
- Know what you know.
After a few decades on Earth, you have a TON of valuable knowledge — not just in your career, but in life. Meditate on what it is that you love to teach or share and be ready to offer it.
2. Know what you don’t know.
No one has all the answers, and the most productive meetings happen when both people have a goal or sense of what they’re working on. Be direct about your focus and ask questions that will be helpful in moving forward.
3. Pretend you’re meeting a new client.
One trap that many people fall into is treating their younger mentor like a mentee. Power moves like asking them to send the calendar invite or provide the video conferencing link creates a sense of hierarchy before you’ve even met. Be respectful and treat your match as an equal, not a direct report.
4. Have fun with it.
We all know the joy of connecting with other women, so open up and share! The best professional relationships come from a personal connection, so find something human to relate to each other with before moving into more serious topics.
Interested in CIRKEL? Join now and get 15% off your first month: www.cirkel.world/membership
CIRKEL also has a fun Instagram: www.instagram.com/cir.kel
This article was originally published on Nov 11, 2020 on Medium.
Charlotte Japp is the founder of CIRKEL, a company that connects older and younger professionals for mutual personal and professional growth. After graduating from Georgetown University, Charlotte started her career in creative marketing and saw the consequences of age segregation in the workplace. Older and younger professionals needed to connect and learn from each other, but had no way to meet. CIRKEL makes networking across generations seamless, inspiring, and impactful — working with both individuals and corporations to bridge the gap. Charlotte has been featured in publications like The New York Times and spoken internationally about the magic of connecting generations.