By SUZANNE WILSON, Staff Writer
Monday, February 3, 2003 -- It's often said these
days that the average American worker will change jobs as many as half a
dozen times. While younger people may take that in stride, it's not
always a seamless transition for those over 40.
Even for those who
make midlife career changes voluntarily - and the three people profiled
below fall into that category - the process seems rarely to be taken
What follows is the
experience and reflections of [Irene Carew] who is creating
a new work life.
In 1982 Irene Carew of
Amherst was featured in an Amherst Bulletin story about job searches.
Carew, then a staff
member at the Career Counseling Development Center at the University of
Massachusetts, cautioned her audience that "economic conditions are
very harsh." In those conditions, she said, it's important "to
understand what skills you have and what you really want out of a job
Now, more than 20 years
later, economic conditions are tough once again - and Carew, 60, is
charting a new path for herself as a self-employed consultant
specializing in career development and leadership skills. She works both
with individuals, companies and organizations.
looking for the next challenge, the next skill, the next way to motivate
myself," she says.
Carew spent most of the years between 1969 and 1990 in
various administrative posts at UMass, earning a doctorate along the way
in applied behavioral sciences from the university in 1979.
Much of her time on campus was spent working in
student affairs, where she was involved in many aspects of campus life,
such as housing, counseling services and activities and events. As an
assistant professor of education, she also taught courses at UMass in
organization development, group dynamics, leadership and other issues.
By 1990, she says, she knew "it was time for me
to leave." In many ways, she'd done what she could do there, she
says, and felt the need for new challenges. She had gained experience in
teaching, administration and counseling, she says, "and at that
point, I wanted to try my hand at the consulting world."
But separating from a place she knew so well and had
liked so much wasn't easy. "I had a lot of loyalty" to the
university, she says, and for many years she had derived her work
identity from her role on campus.
For the next four years, Carew, who was also raising a
son as a single parent, taught organization and human resource
management at Antioch New England University in Keene, N.H. She also
taught courses at the University of Hartford.
Beginning in 1991, Carew worked for Charter Oak
Consulting Group, a Connecticut-based firm, first as an associate, and
then as a full-fledged consultant. Her job required her to travel to
companies both in the United States and abroad, leading workshops and
trainings on topics such as team building, motivation and leadership
Though she enjoyed the work, Carew says her travels
left little time for local activities or even for keeping up with
friends. "I had let all of that go," she says.
Now, Carew has cut back on her work for the
Connecticut firm and is concentrating on marketing her services closer
to home. She offers one-on-one coaching, and group sessions to help
people with such issues as career goals, managing conflict, leadership
skills and decision-making. This spring, for example, she is offering a
six-week workshop, from March 20 to April 24, for people contemplating a
"I'm having to establish my own identity as my
own organization," she says. That's something she never envisioned
herself doing 20 years ago - but, she points out, it's also something an
increasing number of people in today's economy are doing.
The "fear factor," as she puts it, for
people like her who are going it alone, is the uncertainty of living
without a regular paycheck. The upside is more freedom, she says, and
the positive feeling that comes with having had the courage to try
Right now, she says, "this feels like the right
Suzanne Wilson can be reached at