Have you had it up to here with the job to which you’re devoting a substantial portion of your time, energy and brain cells? Have you caught yourself muttering how nice it would be to work for a cause or company that you really believed in — a place you felt proud to go every day? Do you think a different career might reignite the passion you once felt for work?
If you’re shooting your hand up, saying “Yes! Yes! That’s me!” you may be ready for a reboot.
“A career change can often lead to achieving better work-life satisfaction, having the feeling that you truly own your life and a deeper sense of happiness and fulfillment,” says Allison O’Kelly, founder/CEO of Mom Corps, a national talent acquisition and career development firm focused on finding senior-level jobs for women. “Anytime could be a good time to try something new professionally.”
If you think your “anytime” is right about now, you won’t be alone. As many as 9 million people aged 44 to 70 are in encore careers — that means getting paid for work that combines their personal passion with a social purpose, according to the San Francisco-based Encore.org, the nonprofit that has spearheaded the idea. Another 31 million say they are interested in joining them.
“We all have this ability to do something that really matters,” says Marci Alboher, vice president of Encore.org and author of “The Encore Career Handbook.” “Once you start dipping into this world, things grab onto you.”
A second act doesn’t require starting a new job. For many, it means starting a new business. In a study funded by the MetLife Foundation, Encore.org found that approximately 25 million people (one in four Americans aged 44 to 70!) are interested in starting their own business or nonprofit organization in the next five to 10 years.
A second act doesn’t require stepping far outside your comfort zone either. Often you can find a second career simply by pursuing work in fields you’re already involved in to some extent, says Alboher, who transitioned from being a corporate lawyer to a journalist to a nonprofit executive. “Many have left the paid workplace to raise families and gotten really involved in their communities, through schools and children, or maybe have had a stint as a caregiver for an older relative.” That’s often the kind of work that sparks a passion and a potential encore career, she says. “The passion helps solve a problem, and solving that problem fulfills a void.”
Sharon Keld’s story illustrates how pursuing a passion can evolve into a brand new career. In 2003, Keld was earning a nice corporate salary as a marketing manager in the spirits industry and had been with her company for seven years. But she was growing increasingly unhappy — to the point, she says, that she didn’t have any energy in her free time to do the volunteer work she really enjoyed. “One day, I woke up and said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’” Keld says. The next day, she was fired. “The universe helped me decide it really was time to leave,” she says.
She put out the routine feelers in her industry and took on a part-time consulting job to pay the bills, but also realized she had an opportunity to change course. As a volunteer, she worked with Princeton University’s alumni club and Make-A-Wish. She signed up for races for causes she cared about, such as diabetes, and mentored high school students. She loved this kind of work, but didn’t know how to parlay her corporate experience into the nonprofit world.
When she saw a posting online about Peace Corps jobs, she applied, and in 2006, went to Morocco, where she helped women artisans build their own businesses. She went on to serve two more stints, one in the Philippines, another in Armenia. The experience not only gave her hands on nonprofit experience, it taught her how to “respectfully integrate, actively listen and help people find their own answers,” she says.
Once stateside again in 2011, Keld wasn’t sure how to translate her new skills into a career — and began to cast a wide net and learn new skills. She earned a certificate in nonprofit management and joined the National Peace Corps Association board. While staying in her sister’s house, she helped her market an app, which taught her about social media and Internet advertising, even though it didn’t pay. She brought an idea to the Peace Corps board to create a dating website for former Peace Corps volunteers. They loved the idea, and, after a year, Keld started to make money from it.
Her journey, though seemingly random to her, paved the way to the nonprofit job she currently holds in the development office of Princeton AlumniCorps, where the skills learned during her search are vital. The people who interviewed her liked that she didn’t have a “straight path” to the job, she says. “It’s like I’m back with friends,” says Keld, who reports being happy, professionally and personally. “This is the right place for me.”
Are you ready for a reboot? Take the quiz to see if you’re prepared to make a move.