One of the most common questions people ask themselves when they’re thinking about retirement is “What am I going to do?” We spend the majority of our lives identifying with a job, whether that’s one that happens in Corporate America or at home (as in being a stay at home parent). When those things stop, we have to figure out how to answer the question “So, what do you do?” Even when we hear people say, “I’m retired.” it seems like the next question is “Well, what did you do?”
Figuring out how to answer the question about what you do isn’t simply to satisfy others. It’s also for ourselves. Every time someone asks, “What do you do?” does it cause you to pause? I know lots of people who are saying they’re not ready to retire. They say that they want to still contribute but maybe not 40+ hours a week.
One option available to us as we’re thinking about our retirement (and unretirement) is an encore career. It’s defined as a job or career that happens later in life to provide both purpose and money. According to Encore.org, some of the most promising fields for encore careers are in the non-profit sector, management services, and services for aging persons. The older generation is also currently the largest freelancing group.
Encore careers can be related to your existing career or they can be something completely different. Either way, if you’re considering an encore career, you will want to plan a transition to the new role. Keith’s career path is a perfect example. While it happened when he was younger, it demonstrates how you can transition from the role you have today to a new (and different role). Here’s a summary of his experience:
- College degree in Wildlife Biology
- Animal care specialist for a zoo
- Duckmaster for a hotel chain (position was 50% animal care and 50% public relations)
- Marketing coordinator for hotel chain
- Marketing manager for safety products company
- Marketing manager for HR company
- And now he works with me.
You can see how he transitioned from working with animals to working in marketing. You can also see how he accepted positions of greater responsibility along the way. And you can see how he transitioned to HR-related companies. Now this took several years. Which is why if you’re considering an encore career, you don’t want to wait until you’re a couple of
days years from retirement.
The second part of this transition to think about is salary and benefits. Again, I mentioned that Keith’s path happened when he was younger, so he was able to earn more money and benefits. But as we’re transitioning to an encore career, we might have to adjust our expectations. It’s possible the encore career we’re considering doesn’t pay as much as we made during our peak earning years. It might not be full-time, so we won’t get benefits like health insurance. But our encore careers might serve a different purpose.
Encore careers might help us keep our minds fresh. They could allow us to work for an organization we’re passionate about. Oh, and yeah, maybe we can make a few dollars too. Before you start looking, ask yourself, “Do I want an encore career? Why or why not?” You can also check out Encore.org or the Encore.org LinkedIn group for some additional information.
We all know that our work lives can bring tremendous satisfaction or incredible heartburn (or even just plain boredom). It’s important that we have the right job with the right company. The same holds true when we’re considering an encore career. You didn’t make the decision about where you’re working right now in a silo. Don’t make that mistake with this one. In part two of this series, we’ll talk about how to find your encore career.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the island of Maui, HI