There’s one question many people in their 40s, 50s and 60s have when they muse about switching from their current occupation into an encore career that will let them have a second act with a social purpose: How do you do it?
That’s been a toughie, since no one had created a practical guide for people eager to make the midlife shift. Until now.
A How-To Book for Encore Careers
Marci Alboher, one of the nation’s foremost experts on this subject, has just written The Encore Career Handbook, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough if you’ve got the encore itch.
(MORE: The Boom in Job Seekers Looking for Encore Careers)
“The most popular question I get is, ‘It’s hard enough to find work today; how can I also find good work that’s going to do some good in the world?’” says Alboher, 46, a New York City-based vice president of the nonprofit Encore.org, whose mission is to “promote second acts for the greater good.” (Next Avenue has articles and videos from Encore.org on our site.)
Her answer (aside from “buy my book,” she jokes): “I concede it’s very hard to find work now, but the things that will allow you to find work will also allow you to find work with a social purpose. It’s really no harder.”
Nine million people ages 44 to 70 are in encore careers today and an additional 31 million are interested in joining them, according to Encore.org’s research.
Create an Encore Resumé
One key to finding encore work is to create what Alboher calls your “encore resumé,” which is different from a standard resumé.
It doesn’t list your entire career history, just the parts that would be relevant when seeking an encore job. Unlike a regular resumé, an encore resumé might prominently highlight your volunteer work.
“You want to present yourself as someone who has amassed valuable experience and wants to put it to use to matter in the world,” Alboher says. Her book provides three sample encore resumés so you can see what one should look like.
(MORE: 7 Reasons Volunteering Can Lead to a Job)
No Instant Makeover
If you think launching an encore career will be a cinch, however, Alboher wants to set you straight.
“It’s not quick and it’s not easy," she says. "That’s the message of my book. I am not a fan of the idea of an encore transformation as an instant makeover. I’ve lived through a career transition myself and talked to hundreds of others who have, too. I want to dispel that myth.”
Though Alboher isn’t in an encore career herself yet — she is, however, “planning one” — she has hopscotched fields twice. Originally a lawyer, Alboher gave that up to become a journalist, author and writing coach, including stints writing about work for The New York Times and Yahoo! She switched to the nonprofit world in 2009, when she joined Encore.org.
3 Encore Career Myths
Three other myths Alboher wants to dispel:
1.You need to save the world with an encore job. “You don’t,” Alboher says. “Lower your bar.”
2. You need to be wealthy to launch an encore career. Alboher’s response: “Hooey.” She does, however, recommend you meet with a financial planner before embarking on an encore career, to see if you can afford to make the switch. Alboher’s a fan of the Life Planning Network, professionals dedicated to helping people navigate the second half of their lives. You can search on its site for local planners who are members.
3. An encore career requires taking a vow of poverty. Actually, she says, it’s about “making a difference and making a living, not purely altruistic ventures or volunteering.”
One of the most useful parts of the book is what Alboher calls “The Encore Hot List.” It has descriptions of 35 types of encore jobs and their average pay in the fields of health care, social services, counseling and coaching, as well as education, nonprofits and the green world. The positions are expected to be in high demand and offer opportunities for flexible or part-time work and self-employment.
(MORE: Have Patience When Considering an Encore Career)
Alboher is brutally honest about these, noting that some pay quite well (average annual pay for a physician's assistant: $89,470) and others, like adjunct professor, pay very little (roughly $3,000 per course). “Adjunct is the perfect word,” Alboher says. “The work is very gratifying if it’s an adjunct to what you do. But if you rely on being an adjunct professor for your entire income, it’ll be very tricky.”
Where to Get Personal Assistance
If you’d like personalized guidance to get your encore career started, Alboher has three suggestions:
- Click on the Encore Community map on the Encore.org site to find local groups dedicated to this mission around the country.
- Join the Encore.org LinkedIn discussion group and throw out questions to its 1,746 members.
- Speak directly to her. If you buy Alboher's book and email the receipt by Jan. 1, you’ll be able to sign up for her free “virtual advice” online session Jan. 7. “I’m really interested in hearing what people who want to start encore careers are struggling with,” Alboher says.
If anyone can figure out how to overcome obstacles at the start of your second act, I think it's Marci Alboher.