As working daughters we know we can’t predict when caregiving will hit. But one thing we do know, based on data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, is that caregiving often hits at a very precarious point in a woman’s career.
The research tells us that the average caregiver is female, married, in her late 40s, caring for a parent or parents age 65 or older, and has at least one dependent child. It also tells us that 70 percent of caregivers suffer work-related difficulties as a result of their caregiving roles. Female caregivers especially report changing their work arrangements to due to their caregiving responsibilities by switching to a less demanding job, taking time off or quitting altogether. I took time off when my parents were sick and there are still many days I would like to walk off the job because I can’t seem to fit care and career in the same life.
But I don’t quit because I am also aware of the data from MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving that shows women lose an estimated $324,044 in wages due to caregiving. When you add that number to the wages a woman may have lost after becoming a mother, and you think about the fact that women are expected to live longer than men and therefore will need to fund a longer retirement, you realize how important it is that we hold on to our jobs no matter how difficult that may be. Plus, work can be fulfilling – when it fits in your life. So I’m hanging on and hanging in during those rough patches.
But showing up for work isn’t enough. I’ve also seen the data that a woman’s earnings tend to plateau after the age of 45 at which time the wage gap often widens (never mind the stories about how hard it is to reenter the workforce when you are 50 and female). So if caregiving hits you in your forties, it can impact your last attempt to really sock away some savings. If you are going to continue to earn, and save, you need to stay relevant at work.
Here are 7 ways to do just that:
- Stay on top of social media. Social media is more than just a way to communicate. It’s a marketing platform and a business tool. You don’t need to amass a following on every new tool that launches, but you do need to be familiar with them. If you haven’t used Snapchat or Periscope and you haven’t heard of Peach, you are behind the times.
- Look good. I hate the anti-feminist message here, but the harsh reality is looks matter at work. If you don’t want to be seen as a has-been, make an effort with your appearance. Keep the cut of your hair and your clothes current. Consider services like Stitchfix and Rocksbox that will send you a few fresh pieces of clothing and jewelry every month.
- Read, watch and download. Read the headlines, watch at least one Netflix original series, and subscribe to a few podcasts. Making a Murderer, Serial – you need to at least know about them. Sign up for the Skimm. The staff at this daily newsletter skims the news and delivers it to your inbox in a fun, easy to read format every morning.
- Keep up with technology. You must keep up with changes in technology. If your office is shifting from Microsoft to Google, get ready to collaborate in real time. Are your clients giving up email for Slack? Don’t complain. Embrace the change.
- Get the right glasses. You can’t stay relevant if you can’t see. If you need readers or cheaters or whatever you want to call them to stare at a screen all day or order from a menu or see a text message, get them. Preferably you’ll get a good pair that looks current. But keeping a pair from the drugstore in your purse, your top drawer and your glove compartment works too. No more extending your arm as far as you can.
- Listen. Sure you might wish that the millennials in the office listened more than lectured. But they don’t. Get over it. Listen to new ideas.You don’t actually know everything and you must be open-minded to be relevant.
- Maintain some outside interests. Make sure you bring your well-rounded self to work. After all, it’s life experiences more than time on Instagram that fuels your creativity. And don’t discount your experience as a caregiver. With 10,000 people turning 65 everyday, there are major business opportunities for companies to tap into our aging population. And you, dear caregiver, are at the forefront of those changes.