“Research shows that 9 million people are already in encore careers, and another 31 million are keen to move in that direction,” writes Marci Alboher, the author of The Encore Career Handbook and vice president of Encore.org, a leading think tank on Boomers, work and social purpose.
We’re living longer, healthier lives than the generations that have gone before us, and what we do with these bonus years is increasingly top of mind for older workers.
Leisure time, for many, is not the answer for a slew of reasons. One big one: the need to fund our longer lives.
But it goes deeper. In many ways, we’re entering a brand new life stage. People are “crafting their encores and helping to create a movement for personal renewal and social good,” Alboher writes.
“Indeed, the whole post-midlife period is simply new territory,” Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.org, tells readers in his introduction.
“The encore career movement holds the potential … to create richer lives and a better society,” preaches Freedman. It’s “a new vision for the second half of adulthood.” Millions are embracing encore careers, forging a “new hybrid between the spirit of service and the practicality of continued income.”
Are you in? If so, The Encore Career Handbook is a practical, energizing and essential guide to rebooting midlife to find meaning and social purpose in your working life.
Alboher capably takes you by the hand and calmly walks you through the process of how to plan your transition step-by-step. The former lawyer and reporter leaves no stone unturned.
“Career transitions have two essential parts,” she writes. “The first part is internal, where you reflect and do self-assessments. The second part is where you test things out in the real world,” she writes.
“Everyone’s encore story is different, but there are similar patterns,” Alboher notes. These are revealed to her in interviews with those currently in encore careers, workplace and career coaches and experts, as well as her employer Encore.org’s research.
The 11 chapters are chockablock with short profiles of career switchers who share their stories to inspire you and also give you a boots-on-the-ground feel for what it takes in terms of time, commitment and financial resources to succeed.
The book kicks off with a series of exercises and worksheets to help you evaluate what kind of work best suits, what kind of role you want to play, what issues you’re drawn to, and your skills and interests.
Alboher focuses squarely on careers that deal with social good, but in many ways, this book provides basic tools for any midlife job hunter.
There are nitty-gritty money-management sections to help you sort out how much money you’ll need to have saved to pay for your transition, and ways to figure out your “encore number” — the ideal income you’d like to generate in your encore. She doles out advice on hiring a financial planner, shopping for health insurance and scoring education loans.
Core job-hunting advice gleaned from Alboher’s team of experts covers networking, ramping up social-media skills, building a strong encore résumé and cover letter, interview tips and how to address age discrimination in the workplace.
She stresses the importance of volunteering, seeking out internships and fellowships that can help you get a foot in the door with a potential employer, as well as give you a feel for whether this is the kind of work you’re looking for. And she tells you how to go about landing one.
The resource section is ample with sample résumés and budget worksheets, as well as a lengthy catalog of books and websites to tap into for a smorgasbord of job-hunting assistance.
Here are five of Alboher’s chief takeaways:
• Encore work means trade-offs. “You may trade money for meaning and flexibility,” she writes. “You may trade power and influence for a chance to work more closely with people you can help.”
• Transitions take longer than you think. You may go down several paths before you decide what you want to do. A detour can last months or even years, but don’t equate a detour with a waste of time.
• Learn to live with uncertainty. Transitions can be unnerving. Find ways to cope, she suggests — is there someone in your life you can turn to for guidance or spiritual support? You might hire a career coach to give you advice who has experience guiding others through similar processes.
• Investigate fields where the jobs are. Take a look at education (special education, math and science, in particular), social services, counseling and coaching, green jobs, the non-profit and health care sectors and government positions.
• It’s a process. Encore careers “are messy and hard,” she counsels. “But for those who muddle through the mess and build something worth building, encore work has the potential to be a true capstone of life.”
Hannon is a freelance writer and author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills