CHICAGO (AP) — Here go the baby boomers again, reinventing themselves and bucking tradition as they bear down on retirement.
This time they’re leading a push into so-called encore careers — paid work that combines personal meaning with social purpose — in their 50s and 60s.
As many as 9 million people ages 44 to 70 already are in such careers as the second or third acts of their working lives, according to nonprofit think tank Encore.org.
But that number is poised to multiply as many boomers and others take steps to combine making a living with making a difference. Another 31 million older workers are interested in finding encore careers, based on a 2011 survey by the nonprofit.
A mixture of longer lifespans, layoffs, shifting cultural attitudes and financial realities is causing this growing urge among over-50s to seek out more purposeful work. Sometimes it’s just an itch to do something more purposeful in retirements that can now last for three decades, while still pulling in needed income.
The demographics of 78 million baby boomers should ensure that this careers shift accelerates, says Encore.org vice president Marci Alboher.
“This trend has the potential to be a new social norm much the way that the dream of the golden years, of a leisure-based retirement, was an aspiration for the generation before,” she says.
Alboher, whose soon-to-be-released “The Encore Career Handbook” is an invaluable resource for older workers looking for purposeful career alternatives, discussed the phenomenon in an interview. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: What steps can be taken to lay the groundwork for an encore career?
A: Start by thinking about your own interests. What would you want to do if you weren’t doing what you’ve been doing for the last 20 or 30 years? What issues matter enough that you would want to volunteer your time or talents if you knew you could make a difference? Let yourself dream a little.
Identify people who have reinvented themselves in a way that’s helping their community or the world. Make a coffee date with one of them and ask how they made the transition. You might find something that resonates with you.
Q: What fields offer the most plentiful opportunities for meaningful work?
A: Health care, education, green jobs, government, nonprofits.
Health care is really the No. 1 field to look at in terms of both needs and opportunities. With an aging population and the changes that are coming in our health care system, there are needs and opportunities for all kinds of work whether you have a medical orientation in your background or just want to help people.
Q: How useful are career coaches and how much do they cost?
A: They can help if you’re stuck and think you could benefit from working one-on-one with someone and being held accountable. But this professional help doesn’t come cheap. Rates can range from $80 to $90 an hour to more than $200 an hour.