Discovering Your Ideal Career
The most popular encore career fields are found in education, healthcare, and nonprofit organizations. A MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey revealed that the desire to do work that enhances the well-being of others is widespread.
“Fully half of all adults age 50 to 70 (and 58 percent of those 50 to 59) aspire to work in seven areas that combine the seriousness, income, and other benefits associated with work with the desire to contribute to the greater good. Indeed, when asked specifically to name the kind of work they would prefer to do in the future, those surveyed named education and social services as two of their three top choices. Both finished just behind retail work — an area where much recruitment of aging Americans is underway. Health care jobs also finish high on the priority list.”
If you always wanted to be your own boss, self-employment is an attractive option for an encore career, as is freelance or “gig work” (independent contractors, on-call workers, and workers provided by temporary help agencies or contract firms). Knowledge and resources gained through years of experience may also put older workers in a position to work for themselves.
According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in older age groups have higher rates of self-employment than do workers in younger groups.
In her book, What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job, Kerry Hannon offers the following advice on finding a successful encore career:
- Get your life in order. Get physically and financially fit. Change is stressful. When you’re physically fit, you have more energy. Lowering debt will allow you to have more choices. Debt is a dream killer. When you have your finances in order, it gives you options.
- Research. Check out websites to get an idea of what others are doing and what jobs are out there now. Some examples include: Encore.org, RetiredBrains.com, Workforce50.com, and aarp.org/workresources. Investigate fields that have a growing demand for workers.
- Have a mental picture of where you want to go. Tape a photograph on your office wall of what it might look like. Journal about your goals. Stay focused.
- Get things moving by taking small steps. That might mean making a phone call to ask for advice or reaching out with an email each day to make a lunch date to discuss possibilities.
- Be practical. You may need to upgrade your skills and education, but take one class at a time. You can add more classes as your direction and motivation become clear.
- Don’t lock yourself into a must-have salary. Chances are you’ll need to take a pay cut, at least initially. Understand the tradeoffs.
Does It Pay To Go Back to School?
If you have determined that upgrading your skills is an essential step toward beginning an encore career, you will want to choose wisely. Although you have decades of workplace experience, you have fewer years in which to undertake lengthy (and often costly) additional schooling. Set your sights on finding a career in a growing field that will continue to add jobs and offers pay that will justify the cost of your education.
You don’t necessarily have to pursue a college degree to train for a new career. Consider taking online and in-person classes and workshops to fill the knowledge gap or to earn a certification or credential. Look at your local community college’s continuing-education offerings as well as trade groups/industry associations that offer coursework leading to certification.
Next time we will look at your resume and offer some resources to help you get started.