How to Launch an Encore Career


Instead of spending retirement on a sailboat, golf course, or beach, more and more baby boomers are launching encore careers. Whether it’s because you need the income or miss the daily work challenge, starting a second act can be the chance to pursue a dream or something new.

“Now that we’re living into our 80s, the thought of ending our careers in our mid-60s isn’t financially realistic [for most],” says Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn.

Older workers tend to not only be looking for an income and benefits, but also to make a social impact. According to Amanda Augustine, job search expert at career website TheLadders, second careers tend to be in the social sector or public interest: education, environment, health, government, social service or other not-for-profit work. “It’s the feel good stuff.”

Since any career transition can take up to 18 months, experts advise having enough savings for living expenses during this time. “The key to any career change is that it doesn’t happen fast—it’s a marathon,” says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, chief career writer and partner at Career Trend.

As you look for work during your retirement years, experts suggest being strategic with your job search and how you present yourself.

Be open minded and adventurous. To enter a new career, experts say you must have an open mind about today’s workplace. “The workforce today is ‘what you h ave done for me lately’ and not ‘what you did last year,’” says John Sumser, chief executive officer of Being willing to learn is more important than talking about past experiences since today’s work environment is very performance oriented, he adds.

Know your strengths. “In this second phase career, you have experience and maturity that others may not have,” says Williams. You’ll likely have the skills to work smarter and can offer a level of maturity to a young team—you just have play this up to fight off stigmas of being past your prime or not fresh.

Adopting a beginner’s mentality is more effective than saying how you used to do things, says Sumser. This requires solving problems differently and knowing how to work within a different corporate culture.

Retool your skills. “We now live in a technical world,” says Sumser. “There’s no job that doesn’t have a technical component which means you have to find a way to get technical skills.” Experts recommend grey workers become proficient with technology, especially software like Microsoft Office, have an email account, and are very comfortable navigating the online world and social networks.

Augustine suggests exploring the more popular social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. “You don’t need to be a maverick with Twitter, but you do need to know how they work,” says Augustine. These sites can also provide networking opportunities.

There are free online courses or you can take a class at the local community college to learn these new skills, recommends Augustine. Microsoft offers free technology classes while the Plus 50 Initiative organized by the American Association of Community Colleges can arm boomers looking to go into an encore career with the right skill set.

Rewrite your resume and create a LinkedIn profile. Include only the last 10 to 15 years work experience on your resume, advises Augustine. At the bottom, include a note about previous experience with a list of job titles and company names.

A potential employer will want to know how what made you successful in your old career will make you a success in your new career, says Williams. Include the results you’ve achieved throughout your career and quantify these if you can. “Be as specific, detail and results oriented as you can be.”

While you want to emphasis recent work, be as transparent as possible and include dates, warns Sumser. “Any hint that you don’t know how to be transparent is a strike against you.”

Use the right technical words. Learn terminology and industry-specific terms and tweak the language in your resume and profiles to cater to your interested field of employment. “Make sure you don’t get discounted for an opportunity because you don’t use the right vernacular,” says Williams.

Contradict the stereotypes. Potentialemployers may stereotype older workers as not proficient in technology, slower to learn new things, not able to think outside the box, more expensive or even tired. There are ways to overcome these by staying current with technology and showing the vivacious side of your personality, says Augustine.

Exuding confidence helps to overcome stereotypes, says Sumser. “Dress properly, have good manners and never let them see you sweat. The more desperate you are, the more likely people will tag you with stereotypes.”

Be smart about finding opportunities. “With any job search, you need to harness the power of three,” says Augustine. This includes applying to positions online and following up, networking both professionally and socially, and contacting recruiters who work specifically with encore career professionals.