Today is International Women’s Day and I #ChooseToChallenge believing, repeating and perpetuating that once we are over 40 or 50 or 60 or 70, we are nearing the end of our career.
I recently attended a networking group I’ve belonged to for many years. It’s all women in one industry who are connecting each other to job leads, supporting one another and so on. Many in the group had been laid off over the past few years and were fully blaming it on age. They seemed like they were ready to throw in the towel and just shrink into non-existence (that might not be what they intended but that is how they came across to me).
These 3 photos of me were taken in my 20s, my 40s and on my 50th birthday. My interior has not changed. I am still the same person with the same hunger to play and have fun and to learn new skills and achieve new goals. And I will not take “no” for an answer. If we choose to believe, repeat and perpetuate that people of a certain age are no longer valuable then we block ourselves from continuing ahead with growth. Learn something new, forge your own path.
I have forged my own path many times and will continue to do so until my body is donated to science (or just put out with the trash with my hat on as Lou Grant from The Mary Tyler Moore Show once requested).
Most of my clients right now are people ages 45-77 (you heard that right) who are on their 2nd, 3rd or 4th career. And they are killing it! They didn’t wait for permission. They do not believe they are done. And guess, what? Not only do they know how to open a PDF and use google drive but they are perfectly capable of signing into a zoom and are familiar with Clubhouse and how to use Instagram. Believe me, they are alive and well.
So today, on International Women’s Day I #ChooseToChallenge believing, then repeating and then perpetuating the ridiculous idea that you can no longer be what you want, who you want, however you want. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to use a 14 point font and change my screen view to 150% to see what I just wrote.
Like many other New Yorkers, I have a 9/11 story to tell.
It started out a normal work day. I took the subway from my Brooklyn apartment in Cobble Hill to my copywriter job at MTV Networks located in Times Square. It was my 11th year commuting into that building, pushing past crowds of slow-moving tourists and an occasional celebrity (I once rushed Eddie VanHalen through the revolving doors because I just wanted to get the fuck home).
As I emerged from the subway in Times Square, I noticed a giant crowd looking up at the screen above the Good Morning America studio. I assumed the Backstreet Boys or someone was in there for a live show and swam upstream into 1515 Broadway. I got into the elevator and pushed the button for the 42nd Floor, removing my headphones to overhear someone mention the towers.
Still oblivious, I got to my desk where people seemed frantic. One of our views was downtown and a small crowd was gathered. It was early for our office (most did not arrive until 10 or even 10:30am most days) and those standing in disbelief were frozen or even scrambling around like ants in distress. One of my co-workers pointed to the rising smoke and said her cousin worked there. Still unable to process what was happening, I assumed it was a fire or a bomb and went to my desk to drop my things off. My message light was on my phone and as I retrieved several back-to-back messages from my brother (still in Brooklyn who witnessed the first plane as he too was headed off to work) desperately trying to locate me and many others whose subways may or may not have traveled near or below the World Trade Center during the crash.
We weren’t attached to our cell phones back then and I had left mine at home which wasn’t really a big deal normally.
I was able to locate Philippe and Stephanie and, with my co-worker, Sheldon, we agreed to meet at my cousin’s apartment near NYU Medical Center on 30th and 2nd. I felt so vulnerable walking towards that apartment. Because, as you know, Manhattan is littered with landmarks and not really knowing what could happen next it was unavoidable to pass by or near the United Nations, the Empire State Building, Grand Central and more.
There were lines of people at pay phones since those with cell phones couldn’t use theirs. As we got closer to the apartment, there were groups of dust-covered individuals all walking in disbelief towards the hospital. It honestly looked like we were on a movie set and these were the extras.
We took a little time to call our respective parents to let them know we were safe and to watch the news before continuing onto Brooklyn where we all lived.
Somewhere around the East Village, I had to stop to buy band-aids because of the shoes I chose to wear that day. They were low-heeled sandals but not the type of shoe you’d want to wear while walking from 10036 to 11231 (over 8 miles / 3 hours).
We found ourselves walking over the Manhattan Bridge. As we stepped into the Brooklyn side, we were greeted and cared for by a long line of Hassidac Jews who were distributing cups of water to every single person. It was one of my first of many glimpses into New Yorkers coming together as one to help each other out. Our group arrived at the subway and we took our respective trains to our individual stops.
Our apartment was located at 29 Tiffany Place. We were near the water. We were 3 miles from the World Trade Center. Our neighborhood was covered in debris not to mention what appeared to be office items like work documents which may have traveled over from the towers to our cobble stoned street. We had left our windows open because of the nice weather. Much of that debris had blown inside our apartment. There was a distinct burning smell in the air. It lingered into November.
The first couple of weeks, I was on my couch watching non-stop news footage and surviving on pints of ice cream (mint chip mostly).
I don’t remember when it was agreed that we’d all return to our office. But I do remember this turning point being our “new normal.” There was hesitation and fear returning to the subway, back into the heart of Times Square and back into a large office building that stood tall and could be targeted next.
I remember standing on the subway platform waiting for a train and a young man running down the stairs. Everyone on the platform began to run thinking something was wrong. He was just running to catch the incoming train. It was like watching gazelle take off as a group even though most didn’t know what they were running from exactly.
I remember the West Side Highway lined with people from all over, applauding the first responders. Chelsea Piers’ ice rink where we’d go for fun was keeping bodies refrigerated until they could be identified and/or given a proper burial. For no reason, restaurants and businesses that I had loved were shutting down due to racist attacks and fear because the owners were “some sort of Middle Eastern descent.” It was maddening and upsetting to watch.
Over time the “new normal” became the actual normal. We surrendered to having to remove our shoes at the airport (but not train stations or other public gatherings). The Emmy Awards still aired (with Ellen DeGeneres giving one of my favorite opening monologues ever, “what would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews”).
And for me, my “new normal’ meant that starting 9/12/01, I would only wear shoes to my office in the city that I could run in.
Whenever the topic of middle school comes up, just about every adult I know swears they’d never go back to that time in their life. It’s kind of a dizzying moment in everyone’s life where navigated puberty at different speeds, transitioned to become more independent and having to change classrooms and teachers several times a day — each one accompanied by the teacher’s individual teaching styles and rules to abide by.
And now we have a pandemic thrown on top of it, forcing teachers, students and parents to get through this already challenging time with an extra layer of anxiety thrown into the mix.
As an adult, I took a handful of Human Resource Organizational Psychology courses to help in subjects like “time management,” “working relationships” and even once took a class called “dealing with difficult people.” I can’t tell you how many times I had thought about how much these programs and the self awareness that I experienced it would have saved me when I was in middle school.
One of the assessments still used today is called DISC. The letters represent four different styles of working, reacting to stress and communication. The letters stand for Dominant, Interactive, Supportive, Conscientious and each sits in its own box that forms a quadrant. Above the line are fast-paced, verbal individuals while below the line are more reserved and even-paced people. If you fall to the right of center, you are more people oriented. To the left of center, you are more task oriented. Many times, we are a combo of 2 or more.
WHAT KIND OF BIRD ARE YOU?
A quicker way to understand these is through a website called TakeFlightLearning.org which presents the DISC styles as birds (eagles, parrots, doves and owls) to further demonstrate the four styles and characteristics.
Read on to see if you can identify your child, yourself and think about how these styles will behave in situations like sitting through a class in person or online or following through on homework assignments, studying for a test or general socialization in unfamiliar settings.
Once your child becomes familiar with these personality types, check back in to see which teacher is which bird and use that knowledge to help when subjects are challenging. This is something you can also use to help with communication in families and at work.
So, what kind of bird are you?:
D (dominance) are eagles.
They see big picture and are focused on solving problems
Under pressure they may:
See things in black and white
Get tunnel vision on accomplishing a task
Best ways to communicate with them:
Be prepared and organized
Be clear, specific and to the point
If you disagree with them, focus on the facts
I (influence) are parrots.
They are interested in how we relate to people.
Under pressure they may:
Become frazzled and unorganized
Become even less interested in details
Best ways to communicate with them:
Ask about their ideas and goals
Allow time for relating and socializing
Help them get organized and put details in writing
S (steadiness) are doves.
They desire calm pace and energy level
Under pressure they may:
Nod even when they disagree
Worship status quote
Become fearful and hesitant in changing environments
Best ways to communicate with them:
Don’t force them to make a quick response
Break the ice with some personal comments
Listen and be thoughtful and inquisitive with your responses
C (compliance) are owls.
They are focused on rules and procedures.
Under pressure they may:
Fear making mistakes
Go into “analysis paralysis”
Get stuck in set way of doing things
Prefer to work alone
Best ways to communicate with them:
Ask if they see the issue the same way as you do
Provide them with info and time to make unrushed decisions
Recognize they may be uncomfortable speaking to large groups
Anxiety is often ignited by feeling powerless or not having control over the future. However, if a child knows and understands his/her/their DISC style everything becomes more clear especially when they learn to identify the style in their classmates and their teacher too.
DISC style can help with work tendencies, desired environment, motivators, communication tips and best approach to handling conflict. This kind of awareness can really help a student thrive more at school if they understand themself and those they are having to work with and communicate with on a daily basis.
So while your child may or may not have to deal with remembering the locker combination, getting to the next classroom in a timely manner, submitting homework through a portal or learning how to adapt to their ever-changing world, they will at least have a better understanding of what motivates them and where they may want some support so that they can really soar above and beyond.— Published on August 18, 2020
I love reinventing myself, learning new things and taking off-roading adventures.
In my career I have successfully moved from publicity to marketing to advertising among other professions. Each role gave me incredible new skills and the ability to bridge gaps between teams since I had walked in their shoes.
During that time I also completed Floral Design, Positive Psychology, Project Management and Reiki Master certificate programs. I enrolled in those courses to try things out when my current job began to grow stale.
Walking this untraditional path, I have been approached by people of all levels who wish to do the same. Here is what I tell them.
Everyone knows what they are meant to do next but often there is a fear of moving forward. Good news, you can and will make it happen. Annoying news, this is not going to be an overnight process. Similar to doing stomach crunches to get beautiful abs, you will be sculpting your thoughts.
You’ll have to bury tired, low-energy stories that no longer serve you. You’ll have to nourish your brain with new beliefs and language. You’ll have to trust your intuition that you are on the right path. And you’ll have to do it daily until you are ready to go out in a crop top.
Here is my suggested Career Changer Starter Kit to help you dig deep, reconnect with your authentic self and figure things out. Let’s get started!
I prefer to do this in powerpoint and seek out photos that evoke what I want or what makes me happy. For years, I included stuff for myself and my family (vacations, better communication, home improvements).
In 2019, I only put my photo and surrounded myself with images of people who inspired me, whose energy I’d want to be around or who I wanted to emulate.
It includes Oprah, Awkwafina, a very young Mother Teresa, and more. The nice thing about doing it in PPT (vs cutting and pasting) is that it is easy and you can swap images in and out as you transform. By summer, I had made some edits to better align with my own evolution. A board that can change as you do is a very powerful tool.
You must start rewriting the narrative in your head and replace it with new statements, beliefs and thoughts. Listening to others’ stories of resilience and grit may resonate with your own fire and remind you of who you are and what you are determined to achieve.
My top place to pull from is Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday Podcast and one of my favorites to start with is an episode called “the difference between your job and your work.” I am a subscriber to this podcast and find myself listening every Monday morning to rally for the week.
A friend suggested one particular episode ofTheRobCast (Rob Bell) which gave me a tidbit that I tried and found helpful when I was feeling stuck in my career. He said to put Post-Its on my computer “Show Me How To End it Well” and “Show Me Some Options.” Soon I was able to see the opportunities unfolding before me as a whole (vs parts).
Another podcast that’s decent is calledOn Purpose with Jay Shetty. All of these are spiritual (not religious). I find having some kind of spirituality is important because without it you cannot trust the unseen or that things are happening as they should. So if they start talking about religion, and you’re not interested, just zone out a little. Either way you’ll find the majority of it is inspiring, insightful and, again, helpful to change the narrative in one’s brain.
GET QUIET AND READ
THE POWER OF NOW I got the audio book. It was powerful and transforming. I would listen to his weekly interview with Oprah in (you guessed it) her Super Soul Sunday podcast where each week they’d dissect one chapter of his other book NEW EARTH . This is helpful for rediscovering your true self and can help with anything from career to relationships and more. The podcasts ran in January 2019 and together really get you up to speed!
YOU’RE NOT LOST Hands down one of the most powerful things I did for myself when I got quiet was read this book and DO THE WORK in the exercise sections. It absolutely shifted my mindset. 100% buy it and do it!
BIG MAGIC I got the audio book. It felt like the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, was giving me one-on-one coaching. This is especially helpful if you work in a creative industry or if you want to.
YOU ARE A BADASS was given to me as a gift by another curly-haired friend. It was humorous and helpful. The author, Jen Sincero, has written variations of it since (money, weight loss etc) and sells one-a-day calendars, organizers in case you’d like expand her advice in other ways.
REINVENTION ROADMAP I liked this book but I did read it at a time when I was in desperate mode so I’m confident I wasn’t ready to hear what it was telling me to do. I still liked it and found it helpful (it’s a workbook so the exercises help you think things through). I’ve revisited what I wrote a few times and I can actually see what I had hoped to come true materializing. It’s great to have a tool to guide you and to refer back to for a pep talk as needed.
Reading about people you feel connected to or are inspired by is really a great way to open your mind to your possibilities. Audiobooks are a great way to ingest this info too.
I personally loved listening to Michelle readBecoming to me via this audiobook. It was not just inspiring but it felt tangible because I could hear how she chose to share these words. Seek out someone who fills you with good vibes and provides inspiration around resilience.
VOLUNTEERAND BOOST YOUR SKILL SET
Find places you’d enjoy learning something new OR applying your best skills to the greater good of something you believe in. It’s a nourishing act, you are surrounded by like-minded people and can build an experience that reminds you of your talents or unearths ones you weren’t sure you had.
I volunteered in many NBCUniversal Employee Resource Groups and was asked by my peers to lead the Asian Pacific American ERG (very flattering and exciting). I am also on the board ofFuture Now Media Foundation and served on the Promax People & Culture committee, led a team within NBCUniversal’s Erase the Hate initiative and did some marketing communications for WICT-NY. I met so many great people and was able to share what I know and receive mentoring from others.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
I’ve tried many online courses but COURSERA is the one I liked the best. I studied Positive Psychology when I wanted to help coach people but felt imposter syndrome because I didn’t have a degree or certificate (even though I’ve been coaching people to make career changes for years).
It’s great because they often have a free month special and then after that it’s a very reasonable monthly charge. You pay based on how fast you can get through the course. If it’s $75 per month and you can do the course in two months, it’s $150. If you can jam through it in one month, it’s only $75. So that’s up to you and your commitment to moving through it. When you are done, you can easily apply the badge/certification to your LinkedIn Profile or other.
Also looking into things in local schools is great. That’s how I ended up studying and completing a Floral Design degree at Parsons and became a Reiki Master at NYC Open Center. When you feel stuck, finding a new outlet to feel challenged and see accomplishments of completing levels is really inspiring.
BUILD A LUCKY SAVINGS ACCOUNT
I collected anything I felt was a good luck charm, a sign or whatever all in one place building a Lucky Savings Account. Mine has found pennies, bird feathers of all kinds, fortunes from cookies and even 2 Sweet & Low packets (which my grandmother used to use in that quantity) that randomly fell onto my hand one day while I was fixing my coffee at a bagel shop. Hi, Mema!
Seeing those found items piled up gave me a sense of security that things were moving in the right direction and that I had something greater watching out for my well being.
Feathers, fortunes, 2 Sweet & Low from my Mema and protective stones to anchor it all in a dish that says LOVE
You’ve heard it all before, change starts with you. Simply getting promoted, landing a new role, making more money or moving to another city is not going to bring everlasting happiness.
Before you start redoing your resume and applying to online jobs like you’re playing Supermarket Sweeps, you must first align with your authentic self. And to get there, you can start with these tools or use them as a guide to find your own gurus, workshops and messages to help you along your way. — Published on March 11, 2020
Gennifer Birnbach is an award-winning writer and branding specialist. Her 25+ year career includes launching TV Land, rebranding Bravo and ghostwriting for individuals like Roberta Flack. She has been providing intuitive, career-change coaching to professionals of all levels for over 20 years.
*I am not a reporter for this paper but was asked if I could cover this event because of my passion and commitment to D&I. Please note, this article was edited and I do not agree with some of the language chosen by the publication. It is important that you, the reader, have that context.
There are many reasons I somehow found myself out of touch with my identity.
I grew up knowing I was different. I didn’t feel that I fit in at school because I was one of a few Jewish kids in my grade. Class picture day was held on Rosh Hashanah (school was open, I was absent). I was asked to sing “Ave Maria” in the school holiday show which only had Christmas songs. I went into Manhattan a lot with my family and wore clothes that others announced were weird. I was even accused by multiple kids in my class that I was lying when I said I had been on an airplane.
I didn’t feel that I belonged at Sunday School either. There the kids were mostly from a different district and knew each other from their zip code. I also didn’t seem to wear the right clothes there or be into the right things.
For years, I’d toggle between trying to conform with hopes of building friendships and feeling accepted. Or at least to fly under the radar from any teachers or other authority who let me know in a subtle way that they didn’t appreciate what I brought to the table.
It wasn’t until high school that I felt more relaxed about my uniqueness. I met others through a shared love of music explore, pushing fashion-norms and expanding beyond my suburban bubble to meet others who were also considered “others.”
Throughout those years, one of my biggest struggles was with my hair. It was curly and was tough to “feather” or “straighten” or look more like “permed curls.” When I was little, I gravitated towards the black dolls because their hair looked more like mine. I connected more with Donna Summer. My imaginary friends were the cast of The Wiz (on Broadway with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy).
I had a hard time finding a hairdresser up in my parts who knew how to cut and/or style curly hair so I went for styles that were punky or trendy in a way that I could style with my fingers. Pulling my hair straight and strapping it down with hairspray and gel. I started going to Astor Place in Greenwich Village for cuts and then following it up at a local Barber Shop for upkeep.
When I got to college, I was encouraged (for the first time ever) to let my hair be curly. I found an amazing stylist who was great with curly hair. Celebrities like Maria Carey began to surface and finally I started to see women who looked more like me and were considered beautiful. It felt good.
Flash forward to the mid-2000s when I began working for a company that was more conservative than I had been in years. It was creative too but sort of in-the-box (at least that was my perception). It didn’t feel quite right and in hindsight I realized how much of it brought me back to unresolved feelings of reporting daily to a place where I didn’t always feel like I belong.
I would get occasional comments about my outfits. I was once in a meeting where my favorite color to wear was described as “lowbrow” by an executive when seeing it in a potential ad. Color and fashion are choices, I suppose. But when I received unsolicited suggestions about straightening my hair, I felt personally attacked and judged.
I know many people go through this sort of thing (and far much worse than I, a white woman, will ever experience first-hand). One day, I felt pushed too far and explained how my curls were my ideas growing out of my head. My hair was my power. My hair was one of the only things that no matter how I cut, dried, brushed etc, it will always keep coming in as it was 100% intended to. Curly. Unruly. Unpredictable. I loved how that also mirrors how my thoughts flow.
Getting back to authenticity and what that meant for me in the workplace, I knew it was time to cut bait and be my own thing. I had a beautiful image from a co-worker who wanted me to get back to who I was and now I needed a tagline to go with it. My brain shot off dozens of options. My hair and I agreed upon, “every curl on my head is an idea” because it is true and I am true.
My great joy as a mother is expanding my kids’ worlds through experiences. Of course getting my son, a video game enthusiast, out of the house (or even out of his room) can be a challenge. So I created two itineraries — inspired by his interests — one for NYC and one for Westchester. They are listed in order to maximize time. This was published in Westchester County Moms Blog on 12.19.19
What: An interactive museum with math as a fascinating backdrop.
Where: 11 East 26th Street (walk from Pinball Museum and across from Shake Shack).
Helpful Info: Open daily but closes early the first Wednesday each month.
Parental POV: I have a fear of math but loved this place as much as my kids, especially the Coaster Rollers where you “roll over unusual shapes but have a smooth ride due to their constant diameter.” The staff’s enthusiasm is contagious. Fine for any age but I think best for older kids.
What: Families play billiards, ping pong, and darts while enjoying drinks, tater tots, pizza bagels and other snacks.
Where: 10 East 21st Street
Helpful Info: You pay per player and per hour. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. it’s about $9.50 per person, per hour (check in case your visit falls into their holiday hours which is a little more). We’ve always just walked in and never had a wait, maybe because we visit earlier in the day.
Parental POV: As long as your kid can see over the top of the table, they’ll have a great time.
What: Comic book, card, and collectible store but they also host game nights like Dungeons & Dragons, Smash Bros Ultimate, and a BYO board game where anyone can play.
Where: 913 South Street (a few blocks from public parking lot)
Helpful Info: They post their events and game schedules online and via Instagram. Good for elementary school age kids – adults (they mostly get a teen and young adult crowd). Next door is Gleason’s (flatbread pizza). Kids also like Peekskill Coffeehouse (waffles, crepes, and paninis) and RameNesque (ramen dumplings and more).
Parental POV: The Rift staff are so kind and happily offer to teach kids how to play any game in their stores.
What: Arcade, laser tag, ropes course, bocci, and other games are under the same roof as an open space bar for the ultimate entertainment complex.
Where: 5 John Walsh Blvd
Helpful Info: They take credit cards but a few times their machines were down and we needed to use cash which I rarely carry.
Parental POV: It’s very lively and energetic so if you have a child (or self) who gets overstimulated in crowds and loud music, you might want to go when it’s warmer out and they open the garage door which makes it more tolerable. The younger kids seem to like this place a lot.
This indoor skate park is amazing. Skaters of all levels go and are so giving with their time to help a newer skater learn the ropes. They have lessons, schools-out camps, and nighttime parties.
What places does your gamer love?
Born and raised in Westchester, Gennifer Birnbach has spent over 25 years as a writer and marketing communications executive for brands including Nickelodeon and Bravo. Every career aptitude test she has taken since high school, however, suggests she should be a camp director. Makes sense since Gennifer’s favorite thing is bringing people together for unique and fun adventures. Gennifer resides in Yorktown Heights with her husband and two teens and stands by calling sandwiches “wedges” (not “hoagies” or “subs”). For more information visit www.genniferwithag.com and follow her on IG @genniferwithag