Reinvent Your Career
What defines a great job for a midlife woman?
It’s one that gets you up every morning eager to work: "It’s a perfect fit,’‘ says Becky Lessard, a finance chief and green czar who’s looking at windmills and biomass to power a sock-making factory in Osage, Iowa. "I’m never bored,’‘ says Cheryl Chalfant, a landscape architect and former advertising executive who loves it when her environmentally conscious teenagers brag about her projects. "This feeds my soul and my intellect,’‘ says Brenda Wheeler Ehlers, a New Jersey pastor.
It’s a job that’s in a growing sector of the economy and where the premium isn’t on youth but on smarts, savvy, even experience.
Finally, it offers the fluidity — working remotely, flexible hours — and the pay that so many midlife women want. Sit in a wireless cafe in Rome, defending your client from IRS aggression at $400 an hour? It’s not impossible.
MORE spoke to headhunters, educators, and other experts about societal trends, up-and-coming careers and workplace options. The results: 10 hot jobs that may make you want to change your life.
1. Chief Environmental Officer
Bring an organization out of the past and into the green. Find the money and technology that will pump up a company’s profits or shrink its carbon footprint.
Going green is mandatory for most organizations today, whether to enhance productivity or image. In December, President Bush signed the Green Jobs Act of 2007, authorizing $125 million for green-job training programs.
Becky Lessard, 53, had worked only in finance at Fox River Mills, an Iowa sock maker, until 2006, when she designed a new job and took on the additional role of chief environmental officer. She had already proven to her bosses that smart environmental policies (recycling materials, painting walls lighter colors to save on electricity) could cut costs. She’d also worked in her community with Wes Birdsall, a nationally known green activist, to get feel for local green politics and PR issues.
At smaller organizations, you may be able to carve out a green job — or part of one — based on business experience and time spent volunteering on environmental issues. But there are many paths to the top jobs. Some require a science degree and credentials in manufacturing or marketing. Elysa Hammond, 51, staff ecologist at Clif Bar & Company, the Berkeley, California-based maker of energy bars and drinks, has a background in agricultural ecology. Colleges and professional associations are working to add programs that bring people up to speed.
Pay and Perks
Lessard got a raise, a second title, and more influence, she says. Although compensation varies widely, a chief environmental officer will often report directly to a CEO and earn six-figure salaries.
Navigating politics, inside and outside your organization.
To Find Out More
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2. Religious Leader
Spiritual multitasker: worship leader, sermon writer, advocate, counselor, and teacher.
The demand for clergy is growing in post-9/11 America, where there is a large cohort of faith seekers. A wave of retirements has left some congregations facing extended searches for a leader. "It’s no longer just the white guy in the pulpit," says Brenda Wheeler Ehlers, associate pastor of Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church in Maplewood, New Jersey. Even in some more conservative settings, there are roles for women, such as chaplain.