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Mid-Life Career Change: Pursuing Your Passion - Real Women Speak

MCutugno

By Michelle M. Cutugno

At the end of my last blog post ,  I was on the edge of my seat waiting to hear if my request for reconsideration to Portland State University’s Masters of Social Work program would be viewed favorably. I waited one long month for news, but now, over a year later, I’ve already completed my first year of the program and am enjoying the last few weeks of summer break before my advanced (and final) year begins.

Of course my acceptance into the program didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped; good life lessons for a planner like me. I’d wanted to go to school part-time over four years while continuing to work full-time for my employer, but PSU said the offer was for a full-time slot, to be completed over two years.  Considering how hard I’d worked to get into the program, it didn’t take long for me to embrace the offer before me. Plus, I’d be done two years sooner, an important consideration given I’m no spring chicken! Once again, kudos to my employer for their willingness to modify my schedule so that I could work fewer hours when school was in session and more hours when it wasn’t.

Ever the eager beaver, I walked into the meeting with my advisor to identify my first year field placement armed with my questions, a list of preferred sites and my career goals. My bubble was quickly burst when she told me my first year would be a generalist placement and I’d have to wait until my advanced year to have a placement more closely aligned with my end goals. She said older students often come in more goal-directed and ready to get down to business; I guess I was no exception.

After the excitement of acceptance wore off, the reality of what my life would look like over the next two years began to come into focus. When I’d done the Gerontology certificate, I took one evening class per quarter while working full-time.  Looking back, that was a “walk in the park” compared to the “off the rails” experience of this past year. As a full-time student I had three evening classes each week and a field placement commitment two days a week while working 24 hours a week for my employer, not to mention a home and a husband.  Needless to say, I had to scale way back on any personal life I’d previously known and my husband took over the reins at home. Our home office became my study hall on nights and weekends.  I tried to keep Friday and Saturday nights school-free zones, but when I neared the last few weeks of any quarter all bets were off. I had to do whatever was necessary to get the work done.

It wasn’t all roses though and after two months I began to question my suitability for the program.  Could they have been right to reject me? Had I made a colossal mistake? I still felt the passion and commitment that fueled my career change, but I had a hard time translating these thoughts and experiences into the language of social work. It often felt like I was learning a foreign language. I owe a debt of gratitude to my field supervisor at Home Forward, Jan Kasameyer. She “talked me down from my ledge” and helped me see that this was a mountain I could climb and be successful.  Without her wisdom, experience and encouragement I’m not sure I would have reached the same conclusion. Believing in yourself is one thing, but knowing other professionals believe in you too can make a huge difference.

Now, I’m ready for my advanced year and looking forward to my classes and my field placement in palliative care  at the Portland VA Medical Center.  Before I know it I’ll be graduating and looking for a job – wish me luck!

 

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Welcome to Real Women Speak , where you’ll hear the voices of Oregon women who are struggling, soaring, muddling through and motivated to move forward.

Inspired by Decide.Create.Share, this blog chronicles stories from lighthearted happenings to questions of fortitude. From life-altering changes to simple anecdotes, our shared narratives serve to inspire, guide, and connect us.

Every woman has a voice. AARP Oregon seeks to amplify them.

About our guest blogger:

- See more at: https://states.aarp.org/take-the-ice-bucket-challenge-real-women-speak/#sthash.KRvt9RJh.dpuf



Welcome to Real Women Speak , where you’ll hear the voices of Oregon women who are struggling, soaring, muddling through and motivated to move forward.

Inspired by Decide.Create.Share, this blog chronicles stories from lighthearted happenings to questions of fortitude. From life-altering changes to simple anecdotes, our shared narratives serve to inspire, guide, and connect us.

Every woman has a voice. AARP Oregon seeks to amplify them.

About our guest blogger:

- See more at: https://states.aarp.org/take-the-ice-bucket-challenge-real-women-speak/#sthash.KRvt9RJh.dpuf

 

Welcome to Real Women Speak, where you’ll hear the voices of Oregon women who are struggling, soaring, muddling through and motivated to move forward.

Inspired by Decide.Create.Share, this blog chronicles stories from lighthearted happenings to questions of fortitude. From life-altering changes to simple anecdotes, our shared narratives serve to inspire, guide, and connect us.

Every woman has a voice. AARP Oregon seeks to amplify them.

About our guest blogger: Michelle M. Cutugno is an AARP Volunteer. Last year Michelle interned at the AARP Oregon state office while working to complete her Certificate in Gerontology from Portland State University. Currently, Michelle is working on her Masters in Social Work.

 

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