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 SchlossbergNancy 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 FellerRich 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



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Sunitha Narayanan   on Wednesday 03/01/2017 at 02:47 PM

What a wonderful and uplifting concept! Thanks for the conversation, Rich Feller and Nancy Schlossberg.

Rich Feller   on Wednesday 03/01/2017 at 03:11 PM

Great to hear that this project has value. Watch for more interviews to come. Thanks again

Susan Chritton   on Wednesday 03/01/2017 at 05:25 PM

I love the title of her book and look forward to reading it. I too am fascinated with how people manage their transitions and feel blessed to be their guide along the way.

Dick Knowdell   on Wednesday 03/01/2017 at 06:10 PM

Great article. I remember speaking at a conference that Nancy organized at University of Maryland on Adult Development in the 1970s where I first met her and was impressed with her ideas about adult transitions.

Michael Shahnasarian, Ph.D>   on Wednesday 03/01/2017 at 06:58 PM

Thanks for all of your contributions to our profession, Nancy. You continue to be a great inspiration to me and our colleagues.

Linda Zimmerman   on Wednesday 03/01/2017 at 09:31 PM

Transitions. Great topic. Book sounds wonderful.

Brian Montalvo, NCDA Trustee (2015 - 17) for Higher Education Career Counselors and Specialists   on Thursday 03/02/2017 at 08:24 AM

Rich -

Love this concept and format!

Thanks for bringing infite wisdom to the masses.
I look forward to the next chapter in this series.


Deneen Pennington   on Thursday 03/02/2017 at 09:18 AM

So nice to see Nancy's photo and article this morning. Thanks Rich for continuing to honor our past leaders! I look forward to seeing Nancy in Orlando!

Michael Alexander Smith   on Friday 03/03/2017 at 09:23 AM

Great to here her talk about ageless aging. I am 68 years old and in transition. I want to read her book as I continue my journey and life contribution.

Janet de Vries   on Friday 03/03/2017 at 06:13 PM

I have quoted Nancy's transition research in a number of presentations related to Creating Your Retirement Elevator Speech. Her work has also helped me transition from paid work to my encore career as a world traveler and netweaver. Thanks!

David Reile   on Monday 03/06/2017 at 08:44 PM

Great article. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Woongtae Kim   on Sunday 03/12/2017 at 11:40 PM

It is wonderful to hear Nancy's voice. I adopted her research in various transition program for 20 years. She shows great insights to me. I also thanks Rich for nice interview.

Brad Chilcote   on Monday 03/13/2017 at 09:24 AM

Transition theory is one of the first readings when I started in Career Development at A&M-Commerce; even before I began my MS Counseling program. It makes so much sense to me. My question for Nancy Schlossberg is whether she is aware of any transition studies/research for the aged - on of my counseling interests.

Rich Feller   on Tuesday 03/14/2017 at 08:12 AM

Brad, unclear about what you mean about research on your counseling interests. However, Nancy's new book, Too Young to be Old, that will be available mid April on Amazon and at the NCDA conference...it reports many research studies dealing with aging transitions. Glad the work has been of help.

Nedra Klee Hartzell   on Saturday 06/10/2017 at 09:57 PM

Nancy and Rich, Thanks much for this interview and series. You both are an inspiration. Best wishes.

Heather E. Bennett   on Monday 07/24/2017 at 12:04 PM

Thank you for this interview,Nancy and Rich. Thank you for your work on Transitions over the years, Nancy. We live in a "just do it" culture which wants to ignore considering the processes moving from one point to another in our lives. Understanding how "transition" differs from "change" is vital to career work at whatever age and stage we and our clients may be.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.