Are you thinking the time has come to make a change, to get off the corporate treadmill and go to work doing something you love, with a chance to give back to the community? You're not alone. An increasing number of workers in their 50s and 60s are eschewing the idea of retirement in favor of pursuing a career that offers them not just the lifestyle they want, but more in the way of community focus, too.
More than 4.5 million people between the ages of 50 and 70 are already working in such “encore careers,” according to a study by Encore.org and the researcher Penn Schoen Berland. Twenty-one million more plan to follow a similar path.
For many, the ideal job involves flexibility, a way to leverage the work they've done during their professional lives so far, and the ability to work from home. Some people prefer to work largely on their own, while others want to be part of a formal organization. Fortunately, there are options for both.
If you're self-motivated, like working with others one-on-one, and think there's a lot to be said for helping people succeed, you might want to consider becoming a coach.
In the macro sense, coaching's a big business, worth more than $1 billion a year, according to the Harvard Business Review. It can focus on a number of areas, from helping people with their business, to furthering their careers, to being a more persuasive salesperson. Coaches offer guidance, objective opinions, and use the experience they've gotten through their own life and work to help clients achieve their goals.
Coaching is as much about listening and asking questions as anything else. It's not the coach's job to lay out a new path for their client, but to guide them into discovering solutions to their challenges and pursuing activities that will achieve them.
Becoming a coach requires more than work experience and business cards. To be effective, you'll need training from a professional organization such as the International Coach Federation or the Professional Business Coaches Alliance. Many successful coaches have pursued professional accreditations, like the ICF's Professional Certified Coach credential.
Working with a non-profit organization — or even starting your own — provides the opportunity to focus on an area that's important to you, and to directly support your community at the same time. However, bear in mind: Working for a non-profit's not for the faint-hearted.
Jobs at non-profits often involve a lot of juggling. It's not unusual for a person to handle, for example, outreach and volunteer support and some kind of program management. There will be times when everyone's expected to pitch in on a fundraising event or to help get a mailing out.
In addition, you probably won't make as much money as you would in business. According to the University of California Davis's career center, non-profit workers often make 25 percent less than their counterparts in the for-profit world.
On top of all that, landing a non-profit job can be competitive. Many organizations prefer candidates who have a background in the sector, so you'll have to convince them that you can translate your business experience into the non-profit world.
All that said, many people find working for non-profits to be worth any tradeoffs. You'll engage with people who share your passion and have the satisfaction of knowing your work is making a real difference in people's lives.
Whether you choose to work one-on-one with clients as a coach or impact a wider community through a non-profit, an encore career gives you a chance to build on your work experience in a meaningful way. Of course, there are other options, too. To learn more, visit Encore.org.
Mark Feffer has written, edited and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance, and technology. His work has appeared on Dice.com, Entrepreneur.com as well as on other top sites. He is currently writing for JobsinRI.com, the top local resource for job seekers, employers, and recruiters in Rhode Island.