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Your Life Calling

Finding a New Career Through the Transition Network

Support group helps boomer women strategize for a new phase of life.

Two years ago, Delanne McCormick lost her job when the bank she'd been working for downsized. Though she initially felt optimistic about finding a new career, she soon found herself floundering, uncertain about what her next step should be.

"Being laid off really rocked my confidence," says the 62-year-old Chicago resident. "I realized I needed something to get me on track and back to the productive person that I am."

That something turned out to be the Transition Network, an organization dedicated to helping women 50 and older plan for the next chapter of their work life.

Founded 10 years ago by Charlotte Frank and Christine Millen in New York, the Transition Network now has 6,500 members in nine chapters in cities around the country, including San Francisco, Washington and Boston.

What makes it unique is that women from different professions meet face-to-face in small groups to share ideas and encourage one another to move ahead.

"Women are staying the work force longer and sometimes need a fresh perspective on their talents and skills," says Betsy Werley, executive director of the Transition Network. "They need role models who can look them in the eye and say, 'You can do it!' Becoming involved in a community gives women the support they need to take a risk."

Besides getting career advice, members also discuss personal, health and family issues. Some chapters have monthly guest speakers, group outings and workshops. Telephone peer groups are available for members who do not live near a local chapter.

"We offer women the opportunity to be with other women facing similar transitions," Werley says. "They get to know one another and make new friends. It's important because it's a time in life where for a lot of us the communities around us are changing."

Werley left her nearly 20-year career as a corporate lawyer with JPMorgan Chase & Co. to work at the Transition Network. As she got closer to her 50th birthday, she wanted to make a difference and started researching nonprofits.

"In the for-profit world, you don't often feel like you are creating a legacy," says Werley, now 53. "You reach a certain point and creating a legacy becomes as important as how much you get paid and your title."

The Transition Network is open only to women, but members are willing to help men who are looking to start a similar group. McCormick, who is now the co-chair of the Chicago chapter, says the bond between members makes the organization special. Since joining, she's discovered a new passion for event planning and media relations — skills she hopes to carry over to a new career.

"I think it creates sisterhood and a sense of community among professional women that allows them to try new things in a supportive environment," McCormick says. "It's more about collaborating than competing, and that's a wonderful thing to find today."

Latisha R. Gray is a freelance Web producer and writer based in Washington, D.C.

 

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