Midlife crisis. It is a term bandied about, which can conjure images of sports car purchases, new gym memberships, flirtations/affairs/divorces, botox and bikinis. Midlife is, for many, a time of transition, including whether or how to retire. It can be a time of more questions than answers, a time in which you feel less steady as you review and revise who and what you find most meaningful, valuable, and worthwhile. Some changes are desired and welcome, while others feel forced or unavoidable.
I believe, as I share in my upcoming book, The Ageless Way, that “Those of us who are entering, in the midst of or, like me, leaving our rich middle years, are well poised to use such times of transition as opportunities to tap more deeply into our reservoir of innate soulful greatness – what I refer to as our Signature Greatness DNA. As history has shown, change makers and world shakers always deepen their culture and leave a legacy for future generations by confronting the difficulties of such times with invention, insight, and transcendent understanding.”
It is at these times that many people choose, whether out of desire or necessity, to begin a second (or third, or fourth…) career, which is often referred to as an encore career. There are different reasons people choose to pursue an encore career, such as: financial security; personal fulfillment and meaning; the desire to give back to the local/national/global community; flexibility; work/life balance; learning new skills and utilizing those that have been acquired over decades; sustaining social connections; pursuing a long-held dream…
Regardless of the reason(s) for selecting an encore career, those in their middle and later years have garnered personal and professional experience and wisdom which they can offer to employers and clients. In addition, Boomers and Matures (members of “The Silent Generation”) grew up in eras which inspired active, organized involvement in response to diverse current events, such as WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the fights for civil and women’s rights. As a result, these workers are often valued for their efficiency, sense of responsibility, loyalty, hopeful attitude and strong work ethic.
The trend toward an increasingly older and diverse workforce creates multiple opportunities for building successful intergenerational office environments. Encore career professionals offer a variety of abilities and knowledge to enhance the capabilities of the younger generations and benefit, in return, from their colleagues’ perspectives and talents with new work aspects like technology. Such mutually supportive business cultures ensure a more solid future for everyone, from those engaged in encore careers to the generations yet to come.
There is even a movement afoot to support those choosing or hiring for encore careers. Encore.org’s mission is “building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.” It seeks to engage the vitality, wisdom and talents of those in the third and fourth stages of life while emphasizing social purpose. Seeing an aging society as a solution to, rather than creator of, problems, Encore.org connects generations in diverse ways, including hosting an annual conference and offering The Purpose Prize for people over 60 who integrate their passion and experience for the betterment of society. Created in 2005, the prize aims to “showcase the value of experience and disprove notions that innovation is the sole province of the young. It’s for those with the passion to make change and the experience to know how to do it.”
I mentioned the term encore career in a blog posted earlier this week, “Second Time Around” , in which I wrote about Barbara Beskind who is now in her third year of work as an inventor, a lifelong dream she achieved just shy of her ninth decade. Additionally, I have met/worked with diverse women and men who have chosen (are choosing) to embark on an encore career. One 51-year-old woman hot shot media executive left her job to pursue what she always wanted to do as a teenager — she went back to school to become a social worker. Another high flying 62-year-old woman left an intense demanding sales executive post to return to the beloved art career of her youth. A 63-year-old retired teacher became a published author. In her January 16, 2015 New York Times article, Older Job Seekers Find Ways to Avoid Age Bias, Kerry Hannon shares the story of a 66-year-old man who was laid off from a high-powered position. After undergoing the unease of transition, questioning his purpose and averting age discrimination encountered in interviews, he ultimately ended up teaching part-time, making money, and feeling valued. And I am one among many who have found fulfillment in an encore career by creating their own business.
Encore.org and the AARP are just two of the organizations offering programs, resources and information for those embarking on an encore career. In the short term, this transition may require additional investment of education and retraining (including working with a certified professional career coaching and strategy-creation coach). The rewards, however, can be infinite. Following your passion while giving to others can be stimulating, enlivening and offer adventures which demonstrate that, despite pleasurable memories, the best is still yet to come.
When musicians are called by an audience to perform an encore, a demand for more, it is surely a sign of success. Whether you choose an encore career out of need or want, in honoring and utilizing your skills and knowledge you are the one whose success is to be celebrated. Bravo!!
What’s your encore career story? Please share your experience below.