Encore Careers: 4 Ways to Inject Fun into Your Next Career

Are you starting to get a stronger sense of the “real” you? Are you ready to explore some of the many options available to you in the wonderful world of encore careers?

Remember, I define an encore career as a new stage of work, post-retirement, that's purposeful, meaningful, and joyful. It's work on your own terms; work that matters. An encore career is not one-size-fits-all. It's the perfect fit for who you are at this stage in your life.

Since you've finally earned the freedom to have fun, make sure your encore career is fun. If you're looking for meaningful engagement and fun, you might:

1. Express yourself creatively. Do you have a creative side that's never been fully expressed? Have you always wanted to act, paint, or write but never pursued the dream? It's not too late. My client, Jean, is a perfect example of living her creative dream later in life.

After “retiring” from a successful career as a therapist and completing her second Master's degree in her 60's, Jean was struggling with what might be next for her. In our coaching, she uncovered her passion for writing, and in fact, had quite a large body of unpublished work. She also had three ideas for books, and decided to write the “easiest” one first, and got it published.

Jean's second book is currently being shopped around to publishers, and she's working on her third book. Her passion for writing has led her to a side career speaking and leading workshops and retreats around the country, and she's having a blast. By allowing her rich, creative side to flourish, she's thriving in unexpected ways.

2. Follow your calling. Is there something you longed to do when you were younger but didn't have the discipline to go for? What's been “calling” you most of your life? What if you answered the call?

That's what John (eventually) did when he retired from his 35-year career in the military. He knew he would continue to work, but wasn't sure what would be the best fit. For the first few years he tried out a number of new things: selling solar panels, training to become a paralegal, and even trying to launch a home business. They didn't make his heart sing.

Since he was quite young, John had felt called to become a minister. In college, his lack of discipline made it challenging to pursue this calling, so he entered the military. Nearly 40 years later, he had the discipline and the ability to accomplish whatever he set his mind to, and answered the call to ministry.

Now in his late 60's, John is minister of his own church and loving every minute of it.

3. Create a business around what you love to do. Are you an entrepreneur at heart? What's your passion? How could you marry the two?

Darlene was downsized from a high-pressure sales position in a major financial institution. She needed a break, and took time off to recharge. She played with the idea of turning her passion for quilting into her lifelong dream of having her own business, created a business plan, and took the first tentative steps toward getting the business off the ground.

After four months, she started to worry about her cash flow, and went back to work in sales. Two months into the new position and she was clear it was time to be her own boss. She's devoted herself totally to the business, has had a successful launch, and is on target to meet her plan this year.

And, of course, she's having the time of her life!

4. Make an impact. Do you have a deep desire to make a contribution? What if you brought your incredible experience, resources, and wisdom to solving a serious social issue in an innovative way?

I first read about Dr. Jack McConnell in Marc Freedman's book, Prime Time: How Baby Boomers will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. After retiring from a successful medical practice, Dr. McConnell moved to a gated community in Hilton Head, SC and played golf until boredom began to set in.

He saw that people living outside his gated community were living very differently than he and his affluent neighbors. Many were uninsured and using the local hospital emergency room when in crisis. He saw a way to provide excellent health care and save the community money.

It wasn't easy, but he persuaded the local hospital, businesses, and legislators to support his vision of a free clinic. He enrolled his neighbors who were retired doctors, nurses, and dentists in donating their time to this new venture, Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), and providing excellent medical care to the people of Hilton head. They now experience a joy in practicing medicine that they didn't believe possible.

Dr. McConnell has since helped his dream become a reality in communities around the country, and I'll bet he's having fun.

Each of these extraordinary role models didn't land in the perfect encore career right off the bat. Each one kept exploring until they locked into “it”. Each found a purpose that's fun, and is making a difference.

What would give your life meaning and be fun, too?

Encore Careers: How Much Money is Enough for Your Encore Life?

“How much money is enough?” is a great question to ponder in your journey to an encore career. And, even more important if your retirement nest egg has taken a serious hit in the current economic climate.

It's a question that first came to my attention when I read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez 10 years ago. I'm personally not wild about their financial advice, and some of the suggestions are a bit too stringent for my taste. But, they really helped me come to terms with the idea that, at the time, I was “making a dying” (meaning my work left me depleted and demoralized) instead of making a living, and helped me to simplify my life in ways that made me feel not deprived.

So before you leap into your encore career, take this one important step:

Define exactly how much money (stuff, lifestyle, etc.) is enough for you, and, then figure out how much you “have to” make. You may discover you need far less than you think.

As with many of you, money is often an issue at Retire Retirement Boot Camp. Interesting how many participants are stuck in “I like my current lifestyle exactly the way it is, thank you very  much!” And, equally interesting how that conversation shifts after they've defined their top values.

Many participants realize that what they thought was delight in their current lifestyles, was more like zoning out in an all-too-comfortable comfort zone. When they get in touch with what is most important to them right now in their lives, they're amazed at how much of their current lifestyle no longer fits. Then, they're able to let go of some of their old ideas about what they really want and need, and started to get excited about the kind of encore careers that would align with their values, and give them a new, happier, simplified version of their current lives.

Ask yourself “What do I really need and want?” The answer may surprise you.

Encore Careers: Creating an Online Business in Your Retirement

Whether we like it or not, we live in the information age. And, because we’re people of, ahem, a certain age, we’re carrying around a wealth of valuable information. What if there was a cost effective way to package your knowledge and sell it? Have you considered creating an online business?

That’s not what I set out to do when I started my coaching business eight years ago. In the past 5 years, though, I’ve become a total techno-geek. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I understand how the technology I use works, or even that I personally make it work. But, I love using it. I love the way it allows me to have fun connecting with people all over the world and creating wonderful relationships – like writing my biweekly email newsletter!

It’s also been crucial in helping me build a successful business. Without the miracle of the Internet, I most likely would not be in business today.

I owe it all to one amazing woman, Donna Gunter. She’s my virtual (she’s in Texas, I’m in Massachusetts) online business manager extraordinaire. Not only does she love the technology, but over the years she’s become an online business resource queen. And, while she’s (mostly) taken me kicking and screaming to each new technology, once there, I fall in love. Why? Because, whole new worlds are open to me, and I’m having a blast!

If you’d like to explore the possibility of starting an online business, be sure to check out this great resource: Donna’s OnlineBizU.com. Because she can only work with a handful of businesses at any given time; she created this really cool, private, members-only community for online business owners who want to get serious about Internet marketing. It’s loaded with truly everything you ever wanted to know about doing business on the Internet, including a wealth of valuable tips and resources, and over 200 information-packed, how-to articles on everything from growing a mailing list and increasing traffic to your web site to developing information products and creating passive revenue streams.

Plus, there’s a step-by-step guide to marketing your business online, member promotional forum and free monthly teleclass.

I refer all of my entrepreneur clients who want to have a strong Internet presence to OnlineBizU, and they’re always impressed with how generous Donna is with her expertise, and how quickly she helps them achieve their business goals.

One of my clients decided that her encore career would be to become the owner of an online quilting fabric company. Well, she applied what she learned at OnlineBizU to her online quilt fabrics business, and she’s light years ahead of her competition. What's stopping you from creating your encore career online?

Encore Careers: Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life

There are number of encore career pathways available to you as you explore what's next after “retiring” from your current career. One of the pathways that can be truly exciting is civic engagement.

I'm not talking about traditional volunteerism. I'm talking about what Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, describes as work that combines 1) making a social impact, 2) finding personal meaning and, 3) earning continued income in the second half of life. It's work that matters. It's social entrepreneuring. It might surprise you to learn that that the 55-64 age group is the most active in creating new ventures; people ages 20-34 are the least entrepreneurial.

What kind of a social innovator might you be if you mixed your creativity, experience and passion with a desire to do something bigger than yourself?

For Elizabeth and Stephen Alderman, life as they'd known it irreversibly changed when their youngest son was killed on 9/11. To honor his life, Elizabeth and Stephen started the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to treat the one billion victims of trauma and terrorism around the world by creating homegrown mental health systems where violence (rape, war, kidnapping) has laid waste to communities. Elizabeth (a special education teacher) and Stephen (a doctor) have channeled their grief into a beautiful legacy for their son.

Judith Broder was so moved by a play she saw depicting the trauma that soldiers experience in war, she created The Soldiers Project. As a psychiatrist, Broder knew that, without help, some soldiers would never get past what they had seen and done, and how it affected not just their lives, but the lives of their loved ones, too. Through The Soldiers Project, Judith recruits mental health professionals who provide free, confidential, unlimited therapy to service members and their families.

Psychologist Marcy Adelman knew first-hand that many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) seniors looking for housing and care late in life face discrimination and loneliness. She set out to provide affordable, LGBT-friendly housing and training for service providers to better support LGBT elderly. The success of her organization, Openhouse, is reflected in the dramatic improvement of mainstream services available to LGBT seniors in the San Francisco Bay area.

These four people have created extraordinary encore careers for themselves, and they epitomize the spirit of social entrepreneurship. Each has found the place where people are falling through the cracks in their communities (and around the world), and they've built new models for — and creative new ways of — serving.

Elizabeth, Stephen, Judith and Marcy are four of the 2009 winners of The Purpose Prize, a program of the Encore Careers campaign which aims to engage millions of baby boomers in encore careers to produce “a windfall of human talent to solve society's greatest problems, from education to the environment, health care to homelessness”. For more information and inspiration go to www.encore.org.

Teaching as an Encore Career

I love film. I especially love films that uplift and inspire. When they're based on a true story about a teacher who's making a difference in students' lives, I'm in heaven. I took a trip there recently when I had the privilege of seeing the outstanding documentary, Pressure Cooker.

Pressure Cooker is a fascinating journey to Frankford High School in a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia, where teacher Wilma Stephenson teaches culinary arts. This culinary arts class does not remotely resemble the home economics classes of my childhood, nor do Mrs. Stephenson's blunt, one-of-a-kind, in-your-face, boot camp-style teaching methods remind me of the gentle teachers who taught me how to make gelatin salads and cinnamon toast. But, boy, does Mrs. Stephenson get results.

The film follows the stories of three students who thrive over two semesters under Mrs. Stephenson's unorthodox tutelage, and the grand finale is the awards ceremony where scholarships to the most prestigious culinary schools in the nation are handed out. Not every student has the wherewithal to survive in Mrs. Stephenson's classroom, but those who do find themselves championed by an
extraordinary woman whose purpose, passion and commitment inspires them to exceed all expectations. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be inspired by the determination — sometimes at amazing odds — that fuels these amazing kids forward. You'll have to see the film to see how they fare!

Granted, Wilma Stephenson has been teaching for 38 years, so you could argue that it might be time she begins looking for her own encore career. But, you'd be missing the point.

According to a MetLife Survey, 40% of college-educated adults say they would consider teaching in the future. Are you one of them?

Like the former pastry chef who teaches children to cook in a fun, party setting, while imparting real life skills. Or the retired IBM executive who's making biology (his first love) interesting and fun for his middle school students. Consider which of your gifts you might bring to the classroom, how you could inspire young minds, and if the idea of teaching inspires you.

If you're thinking this might be the perfect path for you, but you're not sure and you'd like to take it for a test drive, check out Experience Corps. Experience Corps is a wonderful organization with mentoring and tutoring programs in schools around the country. You could provide literacy training for or mentor a young person at risk while you're determining if teaching is for you.