By Paul Downey
With life expectancy among the senior population increasing, Baby Boomers are now living longer, healthier lifestyles and choosing to work past retirement age.
This trend has opened new doors for seniors to reinvent themselves with purpose-driven second careers later in life called the “Encore Career.” This phrase was made popular by Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org and author of “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life,” in which he cites many examples of older adults changing careers later in life.
Experts say Baby Boomers — seniors who range in age from 51 to 69 years old — are working past conventional retirement age, and are choosing purpose-driven careers that provide their life with meaning. This is a trend fueled by an uncertain economy, improved health in older life and the idea of combining passion and experience to create a worthwhile career. Although our grandparents could not wait to retire at 60 or 65, this is no longer a reality for our parents or for us. Even if many can afford to retire, they choose otherwise to stay engaged.
If you are one of the nearly five million seniors looking to revamp their career, here are some great resources to help you get started:
1. Know what interests you. Make a quick list of things you are passionate about and rate each of them from one to 10. The interests you are most passionate about will stand out from the bunch on the higher end of the scale. If you are having a hard time figuring out what interests you, try online self-assessment quizzes at CareerPath.com, Monster.com and PersonalityType.com.
2. Research where the jobs are. When considering a new career, it helps to know what industries are continuously growing. Fields like healthcare, education (particularly preschool through 12th grade) and technical consulting services are growing rapidly, with new niches and specialties popping up all the time.
3. Consider jobsites that cater to the older adult. Workforce50.com, Seniors4Hire.org, RetiredBrains.com and SimplyHired.com are useful websites for seniors 50 and up looking for employment. The AARP‘s annual list of the “Best Employers for Workers Over 50” can also direct you to workplaces that are particularly friendly to aging boomers.
4. Update your resume. While there are several online resources that speak to resume building, Serving Seniors offers an in-person resume building class at our Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in the Bud & Esther Fischer Cyber Cafe. This is a popular class among the seniors we serve. If you are interested in attending, please call 619-487-0727 for the next scheduled date.
5. Connect with a network. Find a like-minded group that is also in the midst of changing their careers. Their first-hand knowledge is invaluable and so are the contacts they may have to help you with your career move. For instance, get involved and learn more about the seniors making moves through Encore.org. Eventually, you should consider applying for Encore.org’s “The Purpose Prize,” which awards at least $10,000 annually to seniors creating new ways to solve major social problems.
6. Consider more education. Chances are you’ll need to learn new skills and maybe even earn a degree or certification in a new field. If possible, take mandatory courses before retiring or leaving your current job. Your current employer may even foot the bill.
7. Most importantly, don’t let age get in the way. It’s never too late to start a second career or revive your lifelong dreams. Don’t allow yourself or anyone to doubt you. Life is too short — give it meaning.
This new path for seniors creates a shift in society and economy. Not only will it affect our culture, but also our public policies, social thinking and more. To break stereotypes of what an older adult is and what they should do, let’s encourage our seniors to choose a life and career of meaning driven by passion. Let’s embrace the “Encore Career” and give seniors something to look cheer about after age 50.
For two decades, Paul Downey has been the president and CEO of Serving Seniors, a nonprofit agency dedicated to increasing the quality of life for San Diego seniors living in poverty for the last 45 years.
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