Encore careers: They’re not just for seniors anymore

ChangingCoursesquareUpon entering my 40th year, I decided that I needed a mid-life career change. I knew that it would be something drastically different from the course that I had embarked on in 1988 as a bright-eyed, newly graduated genetics student. My growing concern for the economic advancement of women, workforce development, and a desire to be my own boss urged me to move in a new and different direction.

While working in a corporate setting for 22 years, I went back to school and obtained a master’s degree in human resource development. For years, I did pro bono work to gain experience. I launched my first consulting practice in 2004.

Today, I provide human resource development consulting to individuals and nonprofit organizations. I am having the time of my life, and this is truly what many people refer to as an “encore career.”

What is an ‘encore career’?

After career transitions, retirement, life changes, etc., you may find yourself having to regroup and start over again. Depending on your age and financial status, you may not be able to retire in the traditional sense and collect benefits or a pension. Many people find that they just aren’t ready to stop contributing as part of the American workforce.

A growing trend is to use your authentic vocation or passion to meet a need and get paid for it. These are also called “encore careers.” We often think of retirees as having the time and freedom to do what they love, but younger boomers (45-55) are finding encore careers to be very fulfilling and lucrative.

According to Wikipedia, an encore career is work in the second half of life that combines continued income, greater personal meaning, and social impact. These jobs are paid positions, often in public interest fields such as education, the environment, health, the government sector, social services, and other nonprofits.


Getting started

Before you get started, make a list of skills and abilities that you possess. In particular, list items that you can turn into a business. Editing, dog walking, résumé writing, hairstyling and writing are a few businesses that can be started as home businesses. But remember, your clients will expect the same quality that your employer expected of you, with the addition of this special ingredient: great customer service! Customer service can make a business thrive or cause its demise.

If you choose to use your corporate experience to do good, let everyone know. Join associations and let key decision makers and influential people know that you are on the market and looking for a way to leave your legacy and leverage your corporate experience in a way that is satisfying to you.


Tapping into the gray

Barry Bluestone, dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, predicts that within the next eight years there could be at least five million potential job vacancies in the United States, nearly half of them (2.4 million) in social sector jobs in education, health care, government and nonprofit organizations. The loss in total output could limit the growth of needed services and cost the economy as much as $3 trillion over the five-year period beginning in 2018.

Bluestone’s analysis builds on the “2008 MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey” conducted by Peter D. Hart and Associates. This work shows that most people expect to work longer than previous generations, but that half of those aged 44 to 70 want encore careers. “Not only will there be jobs for these experienced workers to fill,” Bluestone writes, “but the nation will absolutely need older workers to step up and take them.”


Get ready, get ready, get ready!

As the stats suggest, things will change — the economy, demand for experience which only seasoned workers can bring, value, interests, etc. But remember, time is of the essence for when you’re the boss and taking charge of your new career. If you are not ready to “settle down,” then brush off your skills, show the world what you’ve got, and get busy! What are you waiting for?


Tammy McIntyre is owner of McIntyre Employment Service, an agency providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to tammy@mcintyre-employment.com