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Turning Volunteer Work Into an Encore Career

After suffering a layoff, Carol King stumbled onto her encore career – preparing others for their own encores.


Editor's note: This is Carol King's story in her own words.

Running a program on lifestyle planning in retirement was definitely not my background. But here I am, in charge of Next Step: Engaged Retirement and Encore Careers at the Princeton Senior Resource Center in New Jersey.

I was a college professor, teaching tourism and hospitality management, when my position at Temple University was eliminated in a budget cut in 2003. I was two months shy of Medicare and Social Security, so I figured I would teach a couple of online courses and I would be fine. (I was already teaching one.)

I found out quickly that sitting at home, alone, with unstructured time was deadly. So I went looking for ways to get out of the house and be with people. I found an assortment of part-time jobs, mostly doing bookkeeping with QuickBooks accounting software. It was very difficult, going from a college professor who taught hotel accounting to being a bookkeeper. By the way, I learned QuickBooks to do some volunteer work with a local arts organization; so learning that skill for volunteer work helped me get paying work.

One of those bookkeeping jobs was at the Princeton Senior Resource Center. After some time, the director said, "I have a grant to start a program to get boomers to volunteer, and I will be hiring someone to run it." I said, "I'm right here," and so she hired me.

I have had about six careers, including food service manager, hospitality consultant, finance administrator of a large church, technical writer and college professor (management, hospitality and tourism). But if anyone had said that I would be running a program to help boomers navigate the adjustment to retirement, I would have said they were nuts! But I love it!
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