In 2005, when she was almost 50 years old, Betsy Werley, ’79, left a satisfying, high-paying job at a Fortune 100 company to become the second employee at a recently launched nonprofit. She had given that transition ample thought, she thoroughly deployed her contacts to make it happen, and she couldn’t be happier with how it has turned out. Now, in her second nonprofit role as director of network expansion for Encore.org, where she’s been since 2013, she’s helping to build a worldwide movement that sees older adults as a resource for social impact—finding their own “second acts for the greater good,” as Encore’s tagline puts it. The growing organization that she joined in 2005—The Transition Network—was engaged in the same kind of work, as the only national nonprofit for women over 50 whose changing life situations have led them to look for new connections, resources, and opportunities. As executive director, she led its growth from the founding New York City chapter to 12 chapters nationwide.
Before joining The Transition Network, Werley spent 26 years in the for-profit sector, including 18 at what is now JPMorgan Chase, first as a lawyer and then as a business executive. She led major projects that included the launch of Chase’s first cash management account. The bridge between those careers was her active involvement in the Financial Women’s Association, particularly becoming its president in 2001. “That meant I had two full-time roles for a while,” she recalled. “Luckily, I loved both of them. I advise people to find at least one thing they really like to do outside of work and invest in that activity, because it will open opportunities later in their lives.” She is still involved with the Financial Women’s Association, as volunteer head of a mentoring program that now connects almost 40 women professionals with college business majors, many first-generation immigrants.
Looking back to her 2005 career shift, she observed: “As much as I liked working at Chase, I knew I was ready to try something different, and I was suffering from merger fatigue after the company’s multiple identity changes. But it wasn’t simple. I was told a few times that my experience didn’t fit nonprofit job descriptions; thankfully, my generalist skills were a great fit for a start-up organization.”
The organizations in the Encore network—127 of them in 33 states and 13 countries—help people 50 and older use their skills to improve their communities and define goals in this new stage of life. Werley fostered those network connections, and she is responsible for continuing its expansion, supporting members and their leaders, further building demand for encore talent, and raising awareness of encore programs. “There are a lot of organizations doing great things to help people make the most of our longer lives, and I’m inspired by their work,” she said. “It’s particularly gratifying to see small programs blossom with the coaching, connections, and resources that the network offers.”
She said that skills and attitudes she gained at the Law School have helped her throughout her career, particularly “the capacity to keep going deeper into any issue, looking at the full context, asking questions, and recognizing that your first impression is not the whole picture.”
A cochair of the forthcoming 40th reunion of her Law School class, she also noted how appreciative she is of the relationships she established: “Most of us made lifelong friends during our formative years in Hyde Park. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting and hearing what classmates are doing four decades into their careers. For those who are still lawyers, many are considering their own ‘second acts.’ I look forward to talking about how they can use their talents in new ways.”