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Did Someone Say Encore?

If you’re reading this, the foretold apocalypse didn’t happen and it’s back to the daily grind. Remember those New Year’s resolutions you thought you didn’t have to make this year? Well, get out the pencil and paper and start writing. Life goes on and you aren’t getting any younger.

Here’s a thought to get you started: Why retire when you can renew yourself?

The optimistic question is posed by Marci Alboher in “The Encore Career Handbook.” Encore careers are those you have later in life after putting in 30-plus at the old appliance factory that constituted your first career. For those who have a choice (should I retire to Belize or open up that little bakery I always dreamed about?), the book provides excellent advice and a handy set of exercises and guidelines to happily encourage you. For those with no choice (what do you mean my pension has no value?) this book provides excellent advice and a handy set of exercises and guidelines that you really need. Second career seekers who were effectively forced into retirement by massive lay-offs and downsizings have even more reason to rethink career options for the second half of their lives.

Face it. Lifespans have increased by a good 30 years over the last hundred years. One of the biggest questions these days is what we are going to do with all that extra time. Retiring at 65 could mean you have another 20 or 30 years ahead of you.

Alboher’s sage advice? Start planning before you retire. That said, many of us have never really thought about an encore career, or don’t know how to go about planning one. It’s possible, Alboher suggests, “that this is the first time in your life that you’re asking what it is you want to do,” rather than what you should or can do. Planning an encore career requires a double-barreled approach of self-reflection and self-assessment coupled with testing your self-discovery against the real world. Alboher provides a wealth of exercises with titles like “Clearing the Decks,” “Life Snapshot,” and “What Are Your Skills and Interests?” to motivate you into the discovery that will translate into a desirable encore career path.

After completing their first careers, many people opt for jobs that “are more meaningful” and fulfilling, and that allow them to give something to their community. Discovering what underlies your passion about something and “incorporating that into your work,” can help you find a “direct link between your passion and a way to earn a living and do good.” Encore entrepreneurs are those “who don’t follow the old-school profit-first or profit-only motives.” They use their business savvy instead “to solve social problems and fix the world, while also generating income.”

While encore careerists often find employment with organizations or companies, many others freelance instead. Alboher offers sound advice here as well. She discusses the value of networking, how to get the additional training you might need, the importance of finding other freelancers (through the Freelancer’s Union, for example), how to use social media to your advantage, how to find fellowships, and the benefits of experiential learning. The “Further Reading and Resources” appendix at the end of the book is, in itself, a great value.

Granted, much of Alboher’s advice is geared to encore careerists who have chosen this path rather than to hapless individuals who are thrust into the job market without warning. But, even if you’re depositing your last paycheck right after you read this, Alboher has invaluable advice. “How to Talk About Being Laid Off,” “Worrying About… Your Age,” “Mastering LinkedIn,” and “Nailing the Interview,” are just a few of the offerings. Practical advice for veterans is also included. An additional section of the book is devoted to those already in their encore careers who are wondering “now what?”

According to Bill Clinton (and as quoted by Alboher), “America has never been a retirement party. It’s a constant effort to suit up and play again.” Whether you take that as an optimistic outlook or a pessimistic reality, it’s probably truer now than ever before. We made it through the most recent apocalypse. We’re ready for our encore. FBN


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