Later Chapters with Nancy Schlossberg
By Rich Feller
This is the first of a series of interviews with experienced NCDA leaders as they offer insights about “later chapters” and navigating a lifetime of transitions. This project hopes to add to the knowledge base of ageless aging, transitions, and questions critical to developing career development leaders.
Nancy Schlossberg, Ed.D, author, speaker, motivator, life transition expert and NCDA leader, has provided extensive insights to the career development field about adult transitions. Past-President of the National Career Development Association and Co-President of TransitionWorks consulting group, Dr. Schlossberg is a Professor Emerita, Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, College of Education at the University of Maryland. She previously served on the faculties of Wayne State University, Howard University, and Pratt Institute. She was the first woman executive at the American Council of Education (ACE) where she established the Office of Women in Higher Education (1973). She later served as a Senior Fellow at ACE’s Center on Adult Learning. She has written 10 books, her most recent is Too Young to be Old to be published by APA; She is a Fellow in NCDA. Within this interview she reflects on her own “later chapters” in life from both her professional and personal experiences.
Q: What helped you to gain your voice within the field?
As a result of studies with John Pietrofessa at Wayne University, I was invited to testify before Walter Mondale (Minnesota Senator) about the work in our field. Building on that, one of my doctoral students, Jane Goodman, suggested that we bring action to fight the bias inherent the Strong Vocational Interest Inventory, which we brought forward a resolution before the then APGA (American Personnel and Guidance Association).
Q: What authors and experiences most shaped your career development work/practice?
Esther Lloyd-Jones, my adviser and mentor, employed me to be her administrative assistant in the first NDEA Institute (The National Defense Education Act). I studied the processes by which people became counselors and was introduced to the work of Robert Merton and adult socialization. Bernice Neugarten then became my mentor and friend, introducing me to more research on adult development and aging.
Q: What have you learned about/from fear, self-doubt, confidence and power?
Mostly, remember when you are knocked down, get up and try another angle. And, successes experience numerous failures.
Q: What’s the benefit of hindsight? In hindsight, what opportunities might you have taken?
There were possible opportunities to move into administration, but I realized I wanted to go the research/writing direction.
Q: What natural tensions have been a theme in your life?
Of course I dealt with balancing work, love, and family. When I was a new mother I told my husband I better quit my job and take care of the house and children. He said, NO. If you give up work (and then I was just beginning at Wayne State—not even on the tenure track) you will never have a career. We will figure out how to balance home and family together. He was a feminist, and that was in the mid-sixties.
Q: What are your thoughts about what’s ahead for you?
I am 87 years old with a finite lifespan. However, I am excited about my forthcoming book, Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age, to be published by the American Psychological Association. I look forward to publicizing the book, and continuing to speak about how individuals from all walks of life can live out their dreams.
Q: How is your biological clock impacting you?
I do not dwell on the limited time left. I expect to be active as long as I can. Luckily I am in good health.
Q: What advice do you have for your younger self? What’s the most critical piece of advice you want to share with new professionals to our field?
For new professionals—persistence.
Q: What one sentence would you use to describe the legacy that you hope to leave to the field?
After moving to the University of Maryland, where I spent the bulk of my career as a professor, I began my studies of adults in transition. I was intrigued with the questions: What makes it possible for one person to cope easily with one transition and then experience difficulty at another time? Are there any ways we can help people cope more creatively? To answer those questions, I studied all kinds of transitions including geographical moving, returning to school, losing one’s job, divorcing, and even coping with transitions that did not occur when expected. At the end of each study I would proclaim, “This is my last transition study.” But somehow I could not stop. My fascination with transitions continued and continues. That is my legacy.
Rich Feller, Ph.D., is NCDA Past-President, Professor of Counseling and Career Development and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar at Colorado State University. This is the first of a series of interviews with experienced NCDA leaders as they offer insights about “later chapters” and navigating a lifetime of transitions. This project hopes to add to the knowledge base of ageless aging, transitions, and questions critical to developing career development leaders. www.RichFeller.com