Careers for Older Adults: Second Acts for the Greater Good

How, and where, can you find a new career in later life that provides inner satisfaction, purpose and a paycheck? That’s the question many baby boomers are asking.

According to Encore, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes second acts, 9 million people ages 44 to 70 have embarked on careers that are both personally meaningful and benefit society. Another 31 million are interested in finding their own encores: second acts for the greater good.

Getting Started

Here’s a place to start: “The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life.” It’s a comprehensive, nuts-and-bolts primer that author Marci Alboher describes as a guide “to finding passion, purpose and a paycheck in the second half of life.”

Marci is a journalist, author and speaker, as well as a vice president at Encore. Her book was published in January and, along with her website and blog, is garnering both attention and accolades.

The book includes information about how to plan the transition: how much you need to make; the pros and cons of going back to school; when to volunteer and when to intern; how to network effectively and harness the power of social media; who’s hiring, and for what jobs?

If you’re ready to get started with your own personal encore, Marci offers the following tips:

  • Create a time and place to do some personal reflection about your goals.
  • Determine what role you want to play.
  • Pay close attention to what’s really important you.
  • Do a skills check-up. Do you need to brush up or get new training?
  • Get out into the community and volunteer. Try some smaller-scale immersions to determine what you like.

As Marci explains, “Determine the intersection of what you’re going to do next and what’s good for the world.”

Resources You Can Tap

One method to gain experience and make contacts is to explore some of the many free services that match veteran workers with nonprofits needing help on a volunteer basis:

  • LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace: LinkedIn introduced this new service in January that helps you search for volunteer opportunities. LinkedIn says that 82 percent of surveyed members want to volunteer their time and skills.
  • Executive Service Corps: In 27 locations, ESC assigns about 2,000 volunteers to consulting projects at nonprofits. Volunteers with 20 to 30 years of experience in senior-level positions work in small teams.
  • Taproot Foundation: Started in 2001, Taproot matches hundreds of volunteers of all ages with pro-bono assignments in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Volunteers work about five hours a week.
  • AARP Experience Corps: In fall of 2013, AARP Experience Corps launched its award-winning program in a number of Chicago Public Schools, serving thousands of children who are most in need of reading support from caring older adults.
  • The Transition Network: This community is geared to women 50 and older who seek continual learning, peer-group involvement, growth and adventure.

Finally, Marci offers this advice to anyone seeking to start an encore career:  “Avoid the mental trap that transitions are quick and easy. It takes time to find the right fit, so expect some detours along the way.”