In the first post in this series about encore careers, we talked about what an encore career is and why you might want to start thinking about one as part of your unretirement journey. As a quick refresher, encore careers are jobs or careers that happen later in life. They often fulfill different needs than the jobs we have early in our career. So, an encore career might be something that aligns with a passion you’ve had over the years or possibly just something to get out of the house and make a few bucks.
Once you decide that you want to pursue an encore career, the next logical step in the process is to figure out what you want to do. Remember when you were in high school and everyone started asking, “What are you going to do when you graduate?” Well, think of this similarly but the question becomes, “What are you going to do when you retire?”
I would suggest that the first step toward figuring out your encore career is to take inventory of your knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). Even if you change jobs and industries in your encore career, you’re going to want to choose something that you’re good at. So, think about the skills you’ve collected.
It might even make some sense to prepare an “unretirement” resume. Instead of saying to yourself, “I don’t need to maintain a resume anymore. I’m going to retire in a few years.” Maybe it’s even more important now. Use your resume as a way to discover and showcase your encore career skills. In addition, take a moment to ask yourself, “Of all my skills, which ones have a mastered as a result of being older.” There a reason you should do this that will become more apparent as you read on.
Now, some career coaches might tell you that ideal encore careers for older people are in the areas of people management and coaching. Let me dish out some tough love here. Your age, your desire to become a coach, and your skills in communication, empathy, and listening are three different things. I’m not saying that older people can’t become coaches – they certainly can. And I’m not saying that older people don’t have the skills to become coaches – they might. But making the assumption that because you’re 50 or 60 automatically makes you a people person…sorry, no.
Your encore career should be something that you’re interested in, that fulfills a need for you, and that you’re good at. You might say, “I’ve spent my entire career coaching employees and the last thing I want to do in my retirement is coach employees. I want to take care of animals because they don’t talk back.” And to that I say, good for you.
Another option might be simply tweaking the job you have right now. Maybe you’d like to do the same thing you’re doing right now just less. Or maybe your current job has two primary functions and you’d like to focus on one of them. It makes me think of a marketing manager who is responsible for marketing, public relations, and social media. Maybe for an encore career they want to focus solely on social media.
After you conduct your skills assessment, hopefully, this will point you in a direction. It might shed some light on skills you want to acquire before you retire. This allows you to put a plan in place to gain experience and knowledge over time. You can do things at your pace and within your budget. It also gives you time to think about how you’re going to transition into your encore career. Will you be able to just change jobs? Or is there an interim job that will make the transition easier?
There’s one other thing to consider. As you think about your work experience and skills, along with where you want to go with an encore career, consider how you would answer the question, “Why do you want to take a job where you’re overqualified?” While companies might not come right out and say it, you know that there will be recruiters and hiring managers thinking this. As you’re planning your encore career, plan an explanation for your encore career. This will demonstrate to prospective employers (including your current one) that you’re focused, planful, and detail-oriented.
Encore careers can be a wonderful, fulfilling part of your unretirement journey. Start thinking about it early and put a plan in place to get there.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the island of Maui, HI