How coaching can help your career during menopause

Women in meeting

Many people know that coaching can help them in their careers and their personal lives. But how often have you associated coaching with the menopause? The chances are, not many.

But as more and more of us are working through menopause and beyond, coaching is actually a highly effective way of helping you manage this transition, identifying areas of your life which could benefit from some changes and making sure you place the emphasis firmly on yourself.

Menopause affects all women differently. While some don’t notice too many symptoms, others can find it debilitating, which can inevitably impact on their performance at work.

In my role as a coach, I see women for all kinds of reasons as they go through perimenopause and menopause, including:

  • feeling unable to cope with workload and outside pressures
  • tiredness which is impacting on productivity and quality of work
  • low tolerance to stress
  • irritability
  • demoralisation

In some cases, women are deciding whether to leave their role and find less demanding work which fits around their physical and mental symptoms.

For others, particularly those in senior or managerial roles, they can often fear being ‘found out’ and worry they can’t cut it any more in spite of having had a highly successful career up to that point.

Coaching is a great way of identifying your own specific needs. We are all different and by taking a holistic approach it is easier to identify any menopausal issues.

Unfortunately, we still don’t often speak freely about this subject anywhere, let alone at work, and coaching can help you assess your situation in a relaxed and supportive environment.

Why raising this issue is so important for women AND business

  • The number of economically active women aged 50+ stands at some 4.2 million in UK.
  • In the past 20 years, over-50s have accounted for 72% of the growth in women’s employment.
  • Total female representation on FTSE 100 boards has almost doubled from 12.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent since the first annual report from Lord Davies of Abersoch was published in 2011.
  • Over one-third (35%) of legislators, senior officials, and managers are women.

Many women said that they found discussing the menopause with their employer to be embarrassing, especially if they were managed by a man.

Women still do not tend to disclose the fact that they are menopausal to their managers; however they would like their managers to be more aware of the issue. Because the menopause is still a taboo subject for many people, women included it seems, the menopause itself can be a very isolating experience. It is why providing support and resources is essential.

How can coaching help?

In my experience, coaching can support working women in a number of ways. These include:

Sounding board and ‘normalisation’. Often people don’t realise how their symptoms have been affecting their ability to function at work until they start to talk about it.

As a menopausal woman myself, when this arises in coaching, women are usually relieved to find out that they are not on their own and that there can be a way forward too.

Safe space to discuss their concerns and plan strategies for action. Coaching is about helping people find a way forward in a non-judgemental way.  Any actions are created together through careful questioning, mapping, or using other creative solutions tailored to their situation and their personal needs. For example, this could be about making sure you get enough exercise and sleep to reduce stress, or finding some quiet time at work away from distractions.

For most women it’s about reconnecting with their strengths and passions, and acknowledging the importance of their contribution.

Resilience fundamentals. Women are often not aware of how the physical symptoms can impact on their work. Lack of sleep, low mood and depression, and poor concentration can often make it hard to cope.

It’s important to stress self-care, and mental and physical wellbeing; often this can be about letting go of ingrained expectations of what is ‘good enough’.  It is also about understanding that sleep, diet and exercise are the foundations to great resilience. We usually start there before we even look to other areas of their life.

Career flexibility. Sadly it’s no wonder that women are leaving corporate life in their thousands – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Encouraging women to have more open conversations with their line manager about flexible working is essential. Working different patterns which take into account periods of tiredness can help, as can recognising that workloads and working hours might also need to be managed differently to accommodate peaks and troughs in energy levels.

Identity and acceptanceOne ‘normalising’ approach I use is discussing the Kubler-Ross Change Curve and William Bridges’ model of transition.

These helps to explain the various different stages of change and how it might impact emotionally. Making space for grieving and letting go is a hugely important part of the process.

For me I wasn’t prepared, I didn’t feel old enough. It took some time to reconfigure my identity in this new ‘normal’.  I always encourage women to consider:

  • What do you want from life now and in the future?
  • What brings you joy?
  • How has this change impacted positively?
  • How might this experience enable a different contribution in your life/career?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?

A renewed interest in the future. Although health and physical capacity can deteriorate as we get older, several other functions actually improve with age, such as wisdom, the ability to rationalise and strategic thinking.

Through coaching women can reconnect with their strengths, regain confidence in their capabilities and create patterns of work that benefit them and their employers.

It’s a great way to work through this time of transition and help you move into the next phase of your life.

References: 

Menopause: the change for the better book by Henpicked

Now available from Bloomsbury, Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops


Jayne Harrison

About Jayne Harrison

I'm an executive coach, facilitator and career coach, helping people excel in both their life and their career. I understand how difficult change can be, and work with people to help build their resilience and focus on their responses to change, providing more positive outcomes for themselves, their teams and their organisations. I strongly believe in talking openly about menopause to support women in the workplace.

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