There was a time when a career was a one-time decision and a lifetime commitment. You signed on for employment with a single company, grew through the ranks and retired with a pension. Those days are gone. We no longer look for the one role that will meet our career needs for a lifetime. Today people are experiencing a number of careers in a variety of settings. Some plan on an “encore career” that will fill the gaps left by other stops on their career path. They look forward to a time when they can worry less about their paycheck and more about fulfillment.
An encore career is most commonly a bridge for private sector professionals to transition into new high-impact roles with a social purpose. They are roles in the second half of life that combine a need to contribute to your community or your field with the need for personal enrichment and sometimes personal income. This may be a job in the field or industry where you worked for many years, but in a different role such as consultant, mentor or board member. It may also be in a completely different field where you have had interest but no experience, such as the arts or a charitable cause. Some encore careers are paid, others are not. Some are with established organizations and others are businesses created for the purpose of serving a need, such as a transportation service for the disabled or elderly.
What about you? Will you have an encore career? Here are some things to consider:
- Identify how an encore career fits into your life plans. As retirement nears there is often a fear that without work we will lose our place in the world. Many professionals feel they are defined by the work they do. They seek to replace one job with another just to fill a void. Be sure you take time to decide what an encore career will mean and how it will fit into your life. An encore career should fill a need or desire — not a be a place to hide from change.
- Examine your goals for an encore career. If you plan to have an encore career, what are your goals? You may decide to pursue or deepen the pursuit of your life’s purpose or meaning, or you may seek fulfillment of a lifelong desire to exercise a talent or skill. Your goal may be simple — such as being active, connecting with people, or making a bit of income to supplement retirement funds. No matter the goals, be clear on them and choose the role that will meet them.
- Understand your passions and desires. Since an encore career often serves the purpose of fulfilling a personal desire or passion, take time to be clear on what you are passionate about. What do you believe in? What causes do you want or need to serve?
- Assess your assets and experience. The path to an encore career is much simpler if you use the assets and experience you already have. You may or may not choose to do that, but you should be clear on what you have to work with. Make a list of your skills, abilities and experience. Update your resume to include your late career accomplishments.
- Do your research. Find out which careers or services are in demand now and expected to grow in the future. Where are your skills and experience a best match? Would you need more education and, if so, are you willing to take the time and make the investment to get that education?
- Ask for help. If you are confused or uncertain about which path to pursue there are a number of great services available for people seeking an encore career including one that I recommend, encore.org. Encore.org (originally called Civic Ventures) was founded in 1997 by social entrepreneur Marc Freedman and grew out of a desire to transform the aging of America into a powerful, positive resource. You can also find help through books, career coaches and consultants.
No matter what you decide, an encore career is a great way to share all you have learned and experienced with the next generation. What, and who, you are can contribute to a better world. Take time to consider if this is a path for you. If you decide to “go for it,” give it your full attention and enjoy the journey.