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3 Great Opportunities for Encore Careers

These fields offer flexibility, income and the chance to make a difference


To an increasing number of people, the idea of retiring at 65 is a non-starter. More and more boomers are looking at life after 50 as a time to explore new opportunities — to embark on second careers that are as much about doing good as they are about making a living.

More than 4.5 million people between 50 and 70 are already working along such a path, according to a survey by Encore.org and the researcher Penn Schoen Berland. Another 21 million plan to join them.

(MORE: My Encore Career: What I Did Right and Wrong)

If you’d like to leverage the professional and interpersonal skills you’ve gained during your first career to help others during your “next stage,” below are three great fields to consider; each can offer you job flexibility, income and the chance to make an impact:

Nonprofits

There are some 1.4 million nonprofits in the U.S., ranging in size from single-person volunteer organizations to national groups with hundreds of employees, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. They make up a sizable chunk of the economy, too: In 2012, nonprofits represented 5.5 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

The attractions of working at a nonprofit are obvious. You’d be on the front lines addressing social problems and would likely be able to see the impact of your work first-hand. Chances are you'll be able to find a group that focuses on causes near and dear to your heart, so you can combine a job with a passion.

But you'll face challenges, too. (See "Making the Tricky Switch to Nonprofit Work.") First off, many nonprofits prefer to hire workers who have previous experience in the sector. So you may need to build a solid case for how you'll translate your years in the corporate world to the operations of a nonprofit.

In addition, the culture probably will be different from what you're used to. Nonprofits are often budget-strapped, so you won't get, say, the kind of technical support you had if you’ve worked for a Fortune 1000 company. And since effective nonprofits focus on getting things done, you'll be expected to juggle a number of responsibilities and to pitch in when it comes time to raise funds or stage an event.

Healthcare for Older Americans

There’s a pressing and growing need for professionals who can help the nation’s older population locate necessary medical services, manage their treatment and prepare for their own next stage of life.

(MORE: How to Be a Patient Advocate)

According to CNN, two-thirds of Americans over 65 have a chronic medical condition. In addition, the Affordable Care Act has increased the number of people signing up for health insurance and availing themselves of the country's medical system.

Healthcare is a wide-ranging field, so it can be difficult to know where to start if you’d like to launch an encore career in the space. However, Encore.org has identified six roles that it sees growing in importance in the coming years:

  • Community health workers, who offer informal counseling, help clients educate themselves and assist them in obtaining insurance and services.
  • Chronic illness coaches, who help people manage long-term medical conditions
  • Medication coaches, who assist patients in managing complex medical regimens, such as diabetes or AIDS
  • Patient navigators or advocates, who serve as sherpas for the labyrinth-like healthcare system and assist with things like prescriptions, appointments and arranging for transportation
  • Home- and community-based service navigators and advocates, who help others take advantage of community services such as housing and financial or legal assistance.
  • Home modification specialists, who design and implement plans to help older Americans continue living independently by adapting their homes to changing medical conditions

All of these roles involve some kind of training. Chronic illness coaches, for example, require education in basic healthcare subjects such as medication usage and nutrition, along with training in particular diseases or conditions. Patient advocates need to learn the intricacies of the healthcare system, patients' rights and hospital procedures.

Coaching

Coaching offers the chance to help people go about planning their next act, finding a new job and shining at their current one. In short, coaches partner with clients who want to live more productive and rewarding lives.

The coaching business is immense and growing, now worth more than $1 billion a year, according to the Harvard Business Review.

(MORE: Career Shift: Becoming a Life Coach)

Successful coaches receive training from professional organizations such as the International Coach Federation (ICF) and earn related accreditations, like the ICF's Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential.

If you're self-motivated, enjoy working with a variety of clients and like the idea of having an impact on people's lives, coaching could be a good fit. Your encore career, then, might be assisting others to find more satisfaction in their own careers.

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