Baby Boomers Forge Encore Careers in Increasing Numbers

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

And so begins the famous 1951 poem by Dylan Thomas, written about the same time the Baby Boomer generation was born. And, just as the poem prescribes, the 78 million Boomers are refusing to go gentle into the night as they reach their golden years, but instead are once again reinventing themselves and revolutionizing our culture—this time changing the definition of retirement.

“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,” nonprofit Encore.org vice-president Marci Alboher said.

A new trend called the encore career is gaining steam thanks to the Boomers’ reluctance to fade away into retirement. As many as 9 million people aged 44 to 77 are already in a second paid career according to Encore.org. Boomers not only want to continue earning a paycheck, however, but are also seeking ways to make a difference in the world—a trait associated with their generation for decades. That number, however, is expected to jump exponentially in the next few years when as many as 31 million older American workers surveyed take steps to find a second career that combines paid work with social purpose.

“In the new encore stage of life between midlife and true old age, many want work that has deeper personal meaning and that connects them to something larger than themselves,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.

The motivation for encore careers isn’t entirely altruistic, however. According to a study by think tank Civic Ventures, of the estimated 31 percent of Americans aged 44 to 70 who are interested in encore careers, 60 percent stated their main reason to continue working was to keep earning a paycheck. 41 percent attributed the need to financial difficulties over the past three years, and 73 percent cited concerns over having insufficient income in retirement. Respondents expect their encore careers to last an average of nine years.

Still, another 31 percent of those surveyed stated their primary reason for initiating a new career was to give back to their communities and influence social change.

“The tens of millions who are interested in encore careers want some level of financial security and the opportunity to work for the greater good,” said Freedman.

According to AARP, the number of Americans 50 and older in the workforce has risen from 20 percent in 1996 to 31 percent in 2012. Transitioning to a second career isn’t without hurdles, however. Since any sort of career change can take up to 18 months, experts suggest planning and saving to cover living expenses during that period. The Civic Ventures study shows of the 9 million Americans currently in encore careers, about 67 percent had income caps during their transitions.

Encore career seekers should also expect a different sort of job market than the one they entered 30 years ago. Boomers should be up-to-date with technology, particularly computer software such as Microsoft Office programs, email, Internet and social networks. Generally when an older worker feels discriminated by age, lack of modern skills is the true culprit.

“We now live in a technical world.” HRExaminer.com CEO John Sumser told Fox Business. “There’s no job that doesn’t have a technical component which means you have to find a way to get technical skills.”

Still, training and courses are available to brush up on those technological skills online as well as at local community colleges at little to no cost. Although transitioning to an encore career isn’t without its obstacles, it can be extremely rewarding in the long run.

“There’s a big payoff from encore careers, for individuals and for our entire society,” said Freedman. “But making the switch is hard. Employers, policymakers and all of us in our own lives need to think creatively about how to make the investments in encore transitions that lead to these new, more fulfilling careers.”

Therefore, boomers, think outside the box as you move into the next phase of your life. For decades you have stood against societal norms and forged your own paths, why should you choose any differently in your golden years? Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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