Encore careers for those who want to do good and get paid for it

CorrespondentMarch 23, 2013 

Marci Alboher


  • How to have an encore career

    Marci Alboher’s tips:

    • Encore work means trade-offs. Ask yourself some hard questions. How much do you need to earn to live the kind of life you want to lead? What are you willing to give up in order to do work that you feel good about? • Embrace detours. Expect to have detours along the way. Be open to them. Often a detour can take you somewhere worthwhile. Finding your way to new work can be messy and challenging. But the payoff – for you and for those you may be able to help – can be worth it. • Prepare for uncertainty. Transitions can be unsettling. Find ways to cope. Is there someone in your life you can turn to for guidance or spiritual support? Consider working with a career coach, finding a buddy to go through the process with or creating an encore transition group. • Reflect and research. Spend some time on self-assessment. What kinds of issues keep you up at night? Which of your skills and experiences would you like to use going forward? Investigate fields where there are both great needs and opportunities such as healthcare, aging services and education. • Do things. Get out of your head and into the world. Show up at events. Volunteer. Take a pro bono consulting project. After each thing you do, think about whether it gets you closer to what you want, or helps you cross off something from your list of possibilities.

Marci Alboher is in her third career. She started off as a corporate lawyer, transitioned to journalist and now is vice president of Encore.org; a nonprofit organization that promotes second careers that promote good work along with income.

The 46-year-old Alboher is also the author of a new book, “The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life” (Workman, $15.95). The book offers practical advice on changing careers and retooling your skills along with inspiring stories from men and women who have turned their second career into one that fulfills their passion for social impact and pays the bills.

Unemployed mature workers are ripe for encore careers. Many of them are motivated to make a career change because of a variety of financial and personal reasons including insufficient income and inadequate savings as well a desire to make a bigger difference in the world. The encore movement comes at a good time since many older men and women are being forced out of the workplace by layoffs. For some, it’s a chance to make what could be their last act the best one yet.

Encore careers combine personal meaning, social impact and continued income, Alboher said in a telephone interview. “That’s the trifecta. … If you are going to be working another decade or more, how should you invest in yourself for the long haul?”

Abby Donnelly, founder of The Leadership & Legacy Group in Greensboro, is a real fan of the encore movement. Donnelly attended Alboher’s reading at McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro earlier this year. “It was a compelling talk,” says Donnelly, who works with business owners and CEOs shifting from their business to another career that fits into their new stage of life.

Donnelly says Alboher really addresses how Baby Boomers in their 60s who have 20 more years of good health ahead of them can add value in a meaningful way to their community. “It really reframes how we think about traditional retirement,” she says.

Whether you are ready to retire or have been sent packing, Donnelly says now is the time to start your transition.

Alboher realized early in her career she was on the wrong path. After 10 years as a corporate lawyer, she turned to journalism. She wrote freelance stories about careers and the workplace for The New York Times for a decade before the newspaper canceled her Shifting Careers blog in 2008. While Alboher was not given a reason, she attributes the cut to the Times downsizing. In 2009, she joined the nonprofit Encore.org.

She wrote a farewell to readers and explained it this way, “Unlike many people who have been laid off, I have not completely lost my livelihood. I have other clients and other income (or as I like to say, other slashes to fall back on). The Times doesn’t pay my health insurance, and I can still afford the mortgage. That said, The Times was my biggest client, a big part of my work identity, and this blog represented a healthy chunk of this year’s income.”

Alboher discovered the encore movement when she was writing the Times column. She was recruited to work for them by Marc Freeman, the founder and CEO of Encore.org.

She says she loves the ways the encore movement is reframing older Americans as “problem solvers” instead of “problems” to be dealt with by family members and society.

Lacy: RIFworker@gmail.com, follow on Twitter @RIFworker

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