As I searched for parking during the height of lunch hour in NYC, I was disgusted. Here I was meeting yet another fresh faced thirty something that was just hired as my new boss. In the ten years or so that I worked for “the company” this new hire was my 5th manager. As I circled and circled the taxi laden gridlock commonly viewed as the perimeter of Penn Station, it dawned on me that with each new hire there were two striking commonalities, their decreasing age, I had children older than the last two, and their education, I was master’s prepared and they were not. How did this happen? This was not supposed to be a defining moment in my career. With each frustrated loop around the block I decided that the ball was in my court. I had a decision to make or did I?
By the time I entered my first corporate job as an entry level sales professional, I had enjoyed a twenty plus year career as a Registered Nurse. Nursing is a unique profession. Patients in your care are often at the most vulnerable point in their lives. Nurses have to manage all phases of life whether it’s a brief moment in time such as an acute episode, helping families and patients adjust and cope with chronic illness or provide palliative care as patient’s transition during the end stages of life. When I decided to change careers, I wanted to bridge my health care experience with the recent acquired business knowledge I gained through my graduate degree studies so when a headhunter suggested medical sales, I leaped at the opportunity and became a nurse consultant for a fortune 500 medical device company. Oh…… I forgot one significant part of the story. I was 40 years old, was married with three school age children and was hungry for success. I never viewed myself as a type A person although I did acknowledge that I’ve always strived to do my best whether in school, home or at work. From the very onset of my entry into the world of corporate America, I was driven to succeed. I was very successful in learning the business, penetrating existing accounts and being the “go to” person for my customers. Shortly thereafter I was promoted to Medical Sales Consultant and I was elated. Fast forward 10 years. The corporate climate continued to change and it was time to move on. After a stint of managing my own business a head hunter called me out of the blue with an enticing offer to join another large company. Although I initially turned down this potential opportunity, I ultimately relented as I thought “that’s why they have erasers on pencils, if I don’t like it I can always quit.” Two weeks later I was sitting in my new company with 11 other new colleagues.
By the time I joined this new company I was in my 5th decade of life certainly not the normal age to be “fast tracked”. Being an avid reader of motivational, self- help and business books, I’ve read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Welch’s “Winning” among others intently. Women, especially of a certain age and I dare say, confidence level, although admired are often subjected to ageism. Ageism is an interesting phenomenon because like other types of prejudice it’s hard to determine if it is real or perceived and in many instances I too am not convinced there is malicious intent. To be quite frank, I’ve seen men subjected to ageism if they have not been tapped for the fast track by age 35. Nepotism is alive and well and favoritism is not relegated to the school yard and adolescence. I’ve learned that rules often change as frequently as the colors of the rainbow and to be fair I’ve witnessed this change across the board.
As I entered the restaurant to meet my new thirty something boss, I decided that I was going to be a blank slate and I would not give into any preconceived perceptions. Our eyes met and the once over ensued. His meticulous dress and his spit shined thoroughly polished shoes were evidence of his meticulous attention to detail. As I zoomed in on his persona, his youth oozed out of every pore but there was a gentleness about his demeanor that pleased me. His soft spoken manner and direct eye contact was refreshing. As he introduced himself I kept wondering how long will it take for him to find the need to prove how much he knew and more importantly how long would it take him to try to convince me and the rest of the team why he was selected while others were not. As I was not naïve I was acutely aware that managing people especially those significantly older than oneself is a challenge at best. But to his credit, those declarations never came.
Being comfortable in my own skin has become a labor of self-love. Realizing that I am defined not by my position or how I am viewed by others has been liberating. I am defined by my commitment to personal integrity, family, friends, colleagues and the world at large. Self-worth develops over time like a magnetic force radiating from deep within and attracting like positive forces within our wake. Deciding to welcome and work with someone who is literally young enough to be my son was definitely a choice, and it turned out to be a choice I welcomed gladly.