Whether it’s by choice or out of necessity, Americans are working longer.
According to a recent Gallup survey, more than 85% of Baby Boomers plan on working after they become eligible to retire, and many of them say they’ll seek out new career paths as they extend their working years. These second careers, or "encore" careers, provide continued income during retirement while allowing people to pursue work that’s larger than themselves and more personally fulfilling. If you’re approaching retirement, it’s never too soon to start looking ahead. Ideally, you should begin planning for your encore career while you’re still working. This will give you time to really think about and strategize for the next phase of your professional life while you still have the security of a paycheck. There are a number of smart steps you can take now to increase your chances of finding the rewarding encore career of your dreams.
Identify your skills and interests. Many people who embark on an encore career do so not just for the money, but for the opportunity to stay productive and do something they’re passionate about. Because you could be in your next career for ten or twenty years, it’s important to invest time determining how you can combine your skills and interests into work that’s rewarding. When searching for your passion, it may be helpful to reflect on what you enjoyed doing as a child and on what career dreams you had in your youth. Think about what you would do if money was no object. Dreaming a little can help you find ways to combine your skills and interests.
Create a file of encore career possibilities. No matter how much time you have until retirement, you’ve probably had at least a few thoughts about what you'd like to do in the second part of your life. Perhaps you're considering a consulting role or working with a nonprofit. Or maybe you’re dreaming of starting a business with your best friend or making money from one of your hobbies. Whatever your ideas are, it’s helpful to put them in writing. It really doesn't matter how you capture your ideas as long as they’re in one place so you can easily refer back to them. Over time, you’ll build a collection of resources that will help lead you into your next act.
Expand your network. Don’t limit yourself to your friends, family, and co-workers. Think outside of the box and reach out to casual acquaintances, neighbors, associates from church or the gym, etc. Consider volunteering or moonlighting to get a sense of what your potential new job entails. Check with your current employer regarding possible employment avenues that might be open to you, and maintain regular contact so you have access to the maximum amount of opportunities for your encore career.
Do your research. It can be helpful to investigate fields that have a growing demand for workers. According to Encore.org, a non-profit website that provides information for people pursuing encore careers, most job opportunities fall into six categories: education, healthcare, environment, government, non-profit, and entrepreneurship. Check out websites such as RetiredBrains.com and Workforce50.com to see what other encore career-seekers are doing and what jobs are currently out there.
Get the education and training you need. If your existing skill set doesn’t match your encore career interests, you may have to acquire new skills through education and training. Professional organizations, colleges, and universities all cater to busy people with work and family obligations, offering evening, weekend, and online classes to provide the necessary flexibility. You might even be able to complete the coursework you need before you retire from your current field, so you can jump right into your new occupation.
Revitalize your resume. Make sure your new resume focuses on relevant work and experience for the field in which you’re seeking entry. If it’s been awhile since you've written a resume, consider contacting a coach to help you construct a well-organized document that showcases your unique experience and accomplishments.
Being proactive can help you retire to your dream job. The leg work you do now will ensure that your encore career is as productive and fulfilling as you’ve always hoped it would be.