Sally Lieber Megan Dean Farah
Sally Lieber serves as advisor to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, an agency created through her legislation, and recently served on Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’ Transition Team working on women’s rehabilitation and mental health issues. She worked previously as Councilwoman and Mayor of the City of Mountain View, served in the California State Assembly from 2002 until 2008 representing California’s 22nd Assembly District, and as the Assembly’s Speaker pro Tempore, only the third woman to hold this leadership position since 1849. Sally holds a BA in Political Science from Stanford University.
Guest blogger Megan Dean Farah attended the November 2013 Connect•Work•Thrive Return to Work Conference and was inspired to build her own global business communications consulting firm. She interviewed Sally about her upcoming address.
What do you, as a public policy maker, think we should be doing now to make it possible for people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds to participate in paid employment on terms that work for them?
I’m really happy to see how community conversations surrounding career issues have evolved in recent years. In the past we only framed discussions of returning to work as a women’s issue. Now we are discussing much larger changes in the structure of our economy that demand all of us to reinvent our work skills on an almost daily basis. Of course, zoom in on the issues and you’ll realize that we boomers have reinvented every stage of our lives leading up to today. It makes perfect sense that we’d continue to reshape work and retirement too.
The big questions for me are: what can government do to help people make sense of these huge economic shifts? What policies do we need to put in place to support the kind of continuous professional reinventions we are all facing in 2014?
Here in Santa Clara County, local governments are doing a great job of figuring out answers to these questions. One part of the answer includes redirecting services that governments used to provide for their constituents but can no longer afford to do. We are fortunate to have created a thriving ecosystem for non-profit organizations and public-private partnerships capable of bridging such gaps. I’m consistently impressed at how nimble the Santa Clara County non-profit community is about stepping up to meet community needs and enthusiastic about helping to spread that entrepreneurial spirit and strategic efficiency across California.
In my mind, though, there is still a very important role for local governments to play in helping people connect with work – paid or unpaid – throughout their lives. Government engagement covers a wide spectrum of related issues. Take zoning, for example. How can local governments support the needs of people who work at home? What kind of spaces might such workers need? More co-working spaces in libraries or community centers? Will the library of the future really have books in it or will it look more like a start-up incubator?
I’m sorry to interject but the book-loving-engaged-citizen in me gasps at that thought!
Me too! Nonetheless, these are some of the kinds of questions public policy makers need to consider… along with securing and expanding broadband internet access across our community, developing new savings tools and housing options.
We live in a moment when people are using AirBnB to pay their mortgages… It may be time to “go back to the future” to rediscover housing options like student efficiencies that existed long ago.
Let’s circle back to the “Lean-In Phenomenon.” One of the most common criticisms that I hear lodged against the Lean-In phenomenon is that it speaks to a very tiny swath of the overall population of working women in the United States. You’re obviously an incredibly accomplished woman in your own right. What do you say to people who argue that you can’t possibly translate your experience and advice in meaningful ways to average people who are just scraping by?
Connecting with community is key for everyone. When it comes down to it, whether we’re talking about neighbors who may be struggling to pay the bills or neighbors who have the bills under control but yearn to change the world, reaching out to one another makes all the difference. Luckily, Santa Clara County folks are remarkable community builders.
It can be really frustrating to look for a job – especially in this new economy we’re in! The trick is to make a schedule, figure out how many times you are going to put yourself out there and budget ways you are willing to invest in promoting yourself. Even if you don’t feel ready to be out there in person, you can be active online. By engaging in social media strategically, you can still nurture strong community connections and communicate who you are and what you want to achieve.
A lot of non-profit-minded folks come up to me and say things like, “what’s the big deal with social media?” or “I’m just not that into that stuff.”
I get it. The whole social media scene can be intimidating. It’s easy to wonder what it all means.
Using social media is going to get you a job. Think of learning about social media as gathering tools for your garden. All you have to do is start out planting a few things – start with leafy greens – and branch out into other varieties over time. You don’t need to be a master of every tool and technology. Just learn enough to stay current. Identify tools you like. For example, I read mashable.com because I love reading about topics totally unrelated to what I do. Whenever I’m talking with constituents or activists in the community, I always say, “if you do at least one thing each day and don’t give up before the breakthrough, you’ll get there.”
But what do you do when you meet people who say, “that can’t possibly apply to little old me?”
Most conversations I have with constituents start with, “Sally! What are you doing these days?”
People assume that I always have to be working on something huge. But often the answer is “I’m drinking this cup of coffee and then I’m going to take this stack of post-it notes and move them around a lot.”
That doesn’t sound very techie to me.
Yeah, well, it works for me so who cares? Just get the super sticky ones.
Thanks, Sally! I look forward to meeting you at the next Connect•Work•Thrive Conference on October 22, 2014, where talented community members will eagerly discuss many of your wonderful ideas!