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What's Driving Your Encore Career?

Personal motivation is the key to finding a new job


We are a nation of doers, so when we think about changing careers the first impulse is to ask, “Where do I want to work?” We’ve discovered through our research that the most successful transitions occur when people take the time to discover what makes them tick.

If you already know what motivates you, then count yourself lucky. Most people don’t. Most people don’t look inside themselves until they are forced into a transition and experience some pain. We recommend you become proactive in identifying what motivates you and use that knowledge to discover your encore career. How did those motivations align with your past job? That kind of self-knowledge is one of your best career-finding tools.

Know what makes you tick. In our research for our book, Don’t Retire, Rewire!, we discovered that people were making important life decisions with limited self-awareness. To help them jump-start their thinking, we asked more than 300 people, “Why do you work, beyond a paycheck?”

People told us 85 diverse reasons why they work. We call these reasons “drivers.” Drivers are our personal motivators -– our personal DNA -– and they encompass a wide variety of emotions and feelings. Among the top 30 drivers are to belong, to have accomplishments, to be part of the action, to make a difference, to have power, to have visibility and to have new experiences.

Drivers are emotions and feelings that can be fulfilled through actions and activities. Identifying your drivers is the first step. Next comes recognizing where you can fulfill your drivers in your life activities, including work. Understanding your drivers is your secret weapon for success.

Take a simulated driver’s test. Identify which drivers are important for you in your encore career and discard those that aren’t. There is a tendency for people to say, “They’re all important!” But for career and life planning purposes, you need to be selective and hone them down.

For starters, evaluate the importance of the following 12 drivers to you: to belong, to have accomplishments, to be part of the action, to make a difference, to have power, to have visibility, to have new experiences, to have intellectual stimulation, to be social, to have structure, to be constantly learning and to be competitive. Once you have identified some of your drivers, think about your current and prior jobs and analyze what you liked and disliked about them.

Understand the benefits of knowing your drivers. Knowing your drivers enables you to make choices more efficiently than if you didn’t know them and helps you identify which types of organizations to pursue. Once you align a potential job with your drivers, you get a better sense if the job is right for you.
Be honest with yourself when you identify your drivers. Zero in on the emotions that really motivate you, not the ones you think would be nice to have.

Link your drivers to a career. A woman we know decided to leave her job in banking after 25 years. She liked her work in global finance and microlending, but was burned out by the travel. She knew she wanted to give back in some way and, at the suggestion of a friend, she began to do volunteer work at a children’s aid association. She loved children, although she did not have any of her own. Her friend told her the association was especially looking for volunteers with a business background.

The woman was accepted as a volunteer, and her resume plus strong skills in strategic planning quickly surfaced. She was assigned to work with the chief financial officer (CFO) on a major project, and she loved it. And the CFO appreciated her.

Within three months of volunteering, she was asked if she would ever consider joining the staff. She let out a huge "Yes!" on the spot. No one was more surprised or pleased than she was. Five years later, she is still happy with her encore career.


The transition worked because her experience aligned with the needs of the organization and she felt really valued. After 25 years in banking, she had a storing "belonging" driver, and she didn’t know if volunteering would be enough for her. Being hired solved that need and also fulfilled her drivers of making a difference and problem solving.

Link your drivers to a career. A person we know began an encore career volunteering in a homeless shelter in a large city. She was assigned to their feeding program, where she worked preparing and serving meals. We ran into her three months after she started and asked how things were going. She responded, “I hate it!”

A quick analysis of her drivers indicated she was in the wrong role. One of her key drivers was to make a difference, but just as strong were her needs to be valued, be a leader, have visibility and be creative. She was getting little driver fulfillment serving food in the kitchen.

Eliminating homelessness was a major passion of hers, and she believed in the organization, so we convinced her that she needed to change her role. She spoke to the executive director, who told her that there was an opening on the board and asked if she would consider taking it. Several months later, she was all smiles when we saw her. She said, “I love what I’m doing! They love me and I think I’m making a difference.”

Everyone wins when there is a match between the job and your personal drivers. 
Identify your drivers and use them to rewire into your encore career. Start making a difference in your own life and the lives of others.

Jeri Sedlar is a nationally known speaker. She and her husband, Rick Miners, are the authors of Don't Retire, Rewire! 5 Steps to Fulfilling Work that Fuels Your Passion, Suits Your Personality and Fills Your Pocket, Jeri’s company focuses on mature workforce issues and creates rewirement solutions that keep organizations and individuals healthy and productive.

This article was originally published by on Sept 11, 2009.
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