CHICAGO – Here go the baby boomers again, reinventing themselves and bucking tradition as they bear down on retirement.
This time they're leading a push into so-called encore careers – paid work that combines personal meaning with social purpose – in their 50s and 60s.
Encore.org Vice President Marci Alboher, whose soon-to-be-released “The Encore Career Handbook” is an invaluable resource for older workers looking for purposeful career alternatives, discussed the phenomenon in an interview. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: What steps can be taken to lay the groundwork for an encore career?
A: Start by thinking about your own interests. What would you want to do if you weren't doing what you've been doing for the last 20 or 30 years? What issues matter enough that you would want to volunteer your time or talents if you knew you could make a difference? Let yourself dream a little.
Identify people who have reinvented themselves in a way that's helping their community or the world. Make a coffee date with one of them and ask how they made the transition.
Q: What fields offer the most plentiful opportunities for meaningful work?
A: Health care, education, green jobs, government, nonprofits. (www.encore.org/work/top5)
Health care is really the No. 1 field to look at in terms of both needs and opportunities.
Q: How useful are career coaches and how much do they cost?
A: They can help if you're stuck and think you could benefit from working one-on-one with someone and being held accountable. But this professional help doesn't come cheap. Rates can range from $80 an hour to more than $200 an hour.
Some coaches offer group sessions, and many community colleges offer free or low-cost coaching or career exploration courses ( www.encore.org/colleges). Or check CareerOneStop ( www.careeronestop.org), a program run by the Labor Department, to see if there are any offerings in your area.
Q: Do these careers usually involve a big drop in income?
A: Not necessarily.
If the work sounds altruistic in some way, most people assume coming from high-level jobs in the for-profit sector that they may face a cut in pay. But for people whose primary career was focused in the social purpose arena – at a nonprofit, or in social work or education, where money is not the main motivator – many of these encore reinventions don't involve a pay cut at all.