Many boomers turning their passions into new careers

Posted January 24, 2013 at 12:00 am

For many years, the average 50-something American looked forward to a leisure-based retirement. But as Americans are living longer and feeling younger, many are finding it necessary to remain professionally active beyond traditional retirement age — forging new paths that supply both money and meaning.

“Boomers are opting to stay in the game, or better, change the game by leaving a mark and making a difference,” says Marci Alboher, vice president of Encore.org, an organization helping people transition to the nonprofit world and public sector.

While moving into a new kind of work is not always quick or easy, some experts say that middle-aged Americans are well-equipped to handle it.

“With midlife comes a newfound capacity to tap into your accumulated experience and wisdom to accomplish new things you may have been unable to do earlier,” says Alboher, whose new book “The Encore Career Handbook,” is a comprehensive guide for anyone looking to make such a shift.

Whether you’re looking to jump right in or make a plan first, here are some tips and things to consider:

• Your new work may involve a trade-off. You may trade money for meaning and flexibility. You may trade power and influence for the chance to work more closely with people you can help.

• Transitions will take longer than you think, so be patient.

• Be prepared to face age discrimination. You can counter employer prejudices by ensuring your skills are up to snuff, especially when it comes to technology. Show you understand the job market today by having a great LinkedIn profile. Consider tailoring your resume to show your strengths as an adviser and mentor.

• Don’t be discouraged by today’s tight job market. The nonprofit sector has added jobs over the past decade and our government’s need for highly skilled employees in a variety of sectors continues to grow. Between now and 2018, experts say that there may be as many as 1.7 million jobs available at all levels of government.

• Instead of jobs, think about projects. Instead of thinking about what you want to do forever, think about what you want to work on for a year or two. Think about a series of engaging commitments with periodic gaps for a personal break, retraining or travel in between.

• Rarely can you find and craft the job opportunity you want, simply by applying to job postings. Create your role through networking, volunteering and retooling for a new kind of work. Consider going solo as a freelancer, consultant or entrepreneur.

For tips on making the most of this chapter of your life and work, visit www.encore.org.

Don’t approach your mid-life and beyond with trepidation. With skills, experience and care, you can launch a successful new career that combines your passion with a paycheck.