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Starting your encore career – where to begin?

Resources for Baby Boomers choosing purpose-driven second careers

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Last month, I wrote about Baby Boomers choosing their purpose-driven second careers later in life called the “Encore Career.” The concept stems from a book by Marc Freedman called “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life,” where he speaks to many examples of older adults changing careers later in life.

Experts say Baby Boomers are starting to work past conventional retirement age, a trend fueled by an uncertain economy, improved health in older life, and an understanding that staying engaged leads to a better sense of well-being. While our grandparents and parents could not wait to retire at 60 or 65, this isn’t really the reality anymore. Even if many can afford to retire, they choose otherwise.

According to AARP, the percentages of people who work and people who want to work have increased markedly in both the 65-and-older and 75-and-older groups. For 2011, the participation rate for 65-and-older was 17.9 percent compared with 10.8 percent in 1985. For 75-and-older, the rate jumped from 4.3 percent in 1990 to 7.5 percent in 2011.

So if you are considering your “Encore Career” or know someone who is looking for a more meaningful career later in life, here are some great resources to begin your journey:

Know what interests you. If you are having a hard time figuring out what interests you, check out self-assessment quizzes at CareerPath.com and Monster.com's career advice section.

Research where the jobs are. When considering a new career, it helps to know what fields are growing. Fields like healthcare, education (particularly preschool through twelfth grade) and technical consulting services are growing rapidly, with new niches and specialties popping up all the time.

Consider jobsites that cater to the older adult. Workforce50.com, Seniors4Hire.org, RetiredBrains.com, and AARP's annual list of the “Best Employers for Workers Over 50” can direct you to workplaces that are particularly friendly to aging boomers.

Update your resume. While there are several resources over the Web that speak to resume building, Senior Community Centers offers an in-person resume building class at their Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in the Bud & Esther Fischer Cyber Café. This is a popular class among the seniors we serve. If you have interest, please call 619-487-0727 for the next scheduled date.

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.

Consider more education. Chances are you'll need to learn new skills and maybe even earn a degree in a new field. If possible, take mandatory courses before retiring or leaving your current job. Your current employer may even foot the bill.

Most importantly, don’t let age get in the way. It’s never too late to start a second career or to follow your dreams. Don’t allow yourself or anyone to doubt you. You only have one life – make it what it’s worth.

Living life to the fullest is not rocket science. Let’s encourage older adults to be passionate about their future. To break stereotypes of what an older adult is and what they do. Yeah, they may own a rocking chair, but they aren’t sitting in it rocking the days away.

Paul Downey is the president and CEO of Senior Community Centers, a nonprofit agency dedicated to keeping San Diego seniors healthy and independent. Learn more at www.servingseniors.org.

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