Jeff Landre is in the vanguard of a new type of retiree: the
encore careerist. For most of his working life, Landre held
management positions in field service and global logistics at
technology giant Hewlett-Packard. "It was all about identifying the
needs of customers," he says.
Today, his customers are foster children.
Since last August, Landre has worked for Mission Focused
Solutions, a nonprofit in Grass Valley, Cal., that helps child
welfare organizations improve their ability to place foster
children in permanent homes. He is using his business acumen to
guide state and county government officials in streamlining
social-services budgets to free up money for additional placements.
"The work is very mentally challenging and rewarding," says Landre,
who lives in Loomis, a suburb of Sacramento.
Landre didn't know what he wanted to do when he retired from HP
in 2008. Encore Fellowships Network, an internship program that
annually matches 200 retired professionals with nonprofits in 15
states and the District of Columbia, hooked him up with Mission
Focused Solutions. His stint is up in August, but the nonprofit has
asked Landre to stay on as chief program officer. "Why should I not
stay and have some fun?" he says.
Like Landre, thousands of seniors who have left longtime
positions are embarking on second-act careers. Many are repurposing
their corporate skills--as in Landre's case--to fit social-purpose
endeavors with nonprofit groups. Others are taking on part-time
jobs to pursue longtime or new interests, whether it's as a
personal chef or a teacher. And still others are pursuing a passion
and filling a market niche by creating small service
Retirees seeking meaningful later-in-life careers spend an
average of 18 months from the time they start to "take stock" to
the time they find a suitable position, says Marci Alboher, author
The Encore Career Handbook
(Workman, $16). "You need to figure out the best fit for you, and
then you need to match what you want to do with the opportunities,"
says Alboher, vice-president of Encore.org, a nonprofit that
provides information and programs for baby boomers seeking
Many encore careers won't pay as much as your lifelong job. And
they're unlikely to offer health insurance. But if that's not
important, you can find numerous resources that cater to older
workers searching for new ventures. These tips and tools will help
you get started.
Take stock. If you're not sure what you'd like to do, it's time
for self-assessment, says Alboher. (Her book includes
self-assessment tools and job-search Web sites.) Ask yourself: What
did you like and dislike about your old job? Do you want to work on
your own or in a team? Are there particular issues and causes that
appeal to you? Do certain activities make you happy?
You could seek one-on-one guidance from a career coach (find one
at the Web site of the International Coach Federation at
). Or check out one of many nonprofit counseling centers that have
sprung up to help baby boomers find meaning in their later life.
Coming of Age (
), for example, has nine locations, including Austin and
Cincinnati. The 12 chapters of the Transition Network (
) focus on professional women over 50. To find other programs, go
At Discovering What's Next, in Boston, retirees and those
approaching retirement from diverse professional backgrounds meet
in groups with a facilitator and individually with a "transition
navigator," says Devra Kiel Simon, executive director. "Many people
want a change, and they don't know what they want to do," she says.
"We help them clarify their passions, skills and expertise. Then we
help them create a roadmap." As part of the roadmap, participants
may be told about classes they could take, certifications they
should pursue and Web sites to review. Ken Wong enrolled in a
Coming of Age "Explore Your Future" workshop in San Francisco after
retiring in 2008 from Chevron, where he worked for 28 years in
information technology. The group met once a week for four weeks.
Wong, now 73, says the members spoke freely about their options and
possibilities, and their strengths and weaknesses. "I was in a new
stage, and it was helpful being with like-minded people who were
going through the same things," he says.
With Coming of Age's help, Wong explored a couple of
possibilities, and then a job opened up that seemed tailor made.
For years, Wong had volunteered at Healthier Living workshops, a
nationwide program to help individuals with chronic illnesses
manage their conditions. When the organization that operates the
local program wanted to expand the number of sites, they hired Wong
for a paid, part-time job. "My passion has become my work," he
Explore the job market. While you're taking stock, start
researching emerging careers and hot jobs. Some resources:
continuing-education catalogs, online job boards for older workers
and even advertisements in niche publications, says Nancy Collamer,
(Ten Speed Press, $15). By looking at ads--say, in a pet-care
magazine--"you'll get a sense of what people are willing to pay
for," she says.
You can research the growth prospects for various careers by
reviewing the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational
Outlook Handbook (
). The Riley Guide (
) provides information on hundreds of careers as well as job-search
tips and links to networking sites and other resources.
One booming field: aging boomers. "There are jobs and
opportunities to help the aging population," says Alboher. Builders
and architects can modify homes, by installing ramps and grab bars.
Boomer career counselors can help their peers find their own
encores. Older people who are downsizing their homes are turning to
"senior move managers." You can get certified as a wellness coach
or a bereavement counselor.
Collamer says a "huge opportunity" for second-act careers is to
"teach the business of the business"--that is, using your own
business skills to train budding entrepreneurs. She recalls one
manager who left his marketing job at 50 to devote more time to a
side business as a magician. He realized other magicians were
terrible at selling themselves. Now, Collamer says, the magician is
using his corporate skills to train magicians how to market their
Arline Melzer found her new calling by accident. Melzer, who
lives in Stamford, Conn., worked for years as a manager in the
software industry. During the six months it took her to find
another job after a 2001 layoff, Melzer taught herself how to
transfer videos of her children to DVDs.
She also created a photo montage on video for her
sister-in-law's birthday party. Her sister-in-law, Melzer says,
"was so touched that she never let up. She said, 'You have a
business here. People will love it.' " In 2004, Melzer left her job
and launched Picture Perfections, a production firm that creates
marketing videos for businesses, photo slide-show videos and video
biographies. Melzer gets particular satisfaction working on
personal videos, such as a memorial for the first anniversary of
the death of a client's husband. "People are so appreciative," she
says. "It's just so fulfilling."
Take a course. You don't have to pursue a higher degree to train
for a new career. Online and in-person classes and workshops can
fill the knowledge gaps or provide the necessary certification or
Look at your community college's continuing-education offerings.
For fledgling entrepreneurs, for example, Baltimore County's
community college offers "How to Start and Manage Your Own Small
Business." It also offers courses on how to market your business on
YouTube, Facebook and mobile apps. Need some training in specific
fields? At Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., you can
take a class on becoming an event planner, home inspector or
has created partnerships with 40 community colleges to create
training for positions in health, social services, education and
the environment. Some colleges are training former nurses to become
instructors, while others are offering fast-track teacher
certification. (Go to
If you are interested in a particular field or business, check
out its trade group. If you can't travel to its annual conference,
you're likely able to enroll in local workshops or Webinars. Some
industry associations offer coursework that could lead to
Diana Meinhold found that specialized training--plus a lot of
networking--were the keys to becoming a successful fiduciary case
manager for seniors who can no longer take care of financial and
other matters. She began to lay the groundwork even before she
retired in 2008 as a top executive with the Automobile Club of
Southern California. For a number of years, Meinhold, now 63, who
lives in Costa Mesa, Cal., was the conservator for a close friend
who had Alzheimer's disease. Meinhold began to realize that "a lot
of families are not equipped to manage the care needs and finances"
of older relatives. She decided to pursue a new career in the field
Meinhold left her job, and after a few detours, she enrolled in
a seven-month online extension program at California State
University in Fullerton. She learned about trust administration and
financial management. She also attended aging-related education
programs and meetings of the county bar association's elder law and
estate sections. Meinhold met lawyers, home-health agency owners
and financial planners--all possible sources of future referrals.
Two weeks after she received her license, she got her first case.
"It's been a tsunami ever since," she says.
Her work runs the gamut, from selling a senior's business to
taking an elderly client to the dentist. "The joy comes from the
interaction" with clients, she says. "The stories they tell, the
lives they live. I am blessed to be exposed to that."
Test the waters. Before you plunge head first into a new career,
it may be wise to try it out. Seek advice from people in the field.
Ask a trade association to put you in touch with a member or two.
Or contact PivotPlanet (
), where, for a fee, you can speak with an adviser working in one
of more than 200 fields, from home stager to college prep
Try applying for an internship, paid or unpaid. Some employers
limit their programs to students, but others may be willing to take
on a person with experience. A growing number of programs are
catering to the second-act group.
The Encore Fellowships Network, which helped Jeff Landre move to
his second act, provides paid internships that last for six months
to a year. National director Leslye Louie says the fellows are
given high-level assignments. "We do look for a skill match," says
Louie, a former fellow. "If you have expertise in marketing, you'll
probably spend a good amount of time leveraging those skills." (For
more information, go to
) also recruits professionals who are 55 and older for part-time
jobs in nonprofits. It operates in seven locations, including
Miami, New York City and Milwaukee. Participants receive stipends
of $10 an hour. The average placement lasts 13 months. Jobs can
include marketing strategist and fund-raising program designer.
"This is an easy way for people to get their feet wet and help them
figure out what resonates with them," says Carol Greenfield,
director of ReServe Greater Boston.
High-tech entrepreneur Alan Greenfield (no relation to Carol),
65, just completed a three-month ReServe job in Boston running a
center that helps low-income people prepare their tax returns.
Greenfield, who lives in Needham, Mass., supervised 19 volunteers
who were mostly college students.
The services included helping clients qualify for the
earned-income tax credit. By using his management and tech skills
to upgrade the scheduling system and improve efficiency, Greenfield
says he was able to boost the number of prepared returns to 350
this tax season, up from 200 a year ago. With the average client
receiving a $1,000 credit, Greenfield figures he was able to
leverage his $3,000 salary to generate $350,000 in extra income for
Greenfield liked the idea that there was "something new that I
had to learn." Now that his gig is over, Greenfield wants to stay
busy, but he won't return to the high-tech world. With a new skill
on his resume, he says, "it's very likely I will stay with
Volunteering will give you a sense of what nonprofits are like.
Moreover, it will help you make contacts in a field and perhaps
lead to a job at the organization. Perhaps you can suggest a
short-term project based on your professional skills. "One great
way to build up your resume and to learn about a sector is to offer
to become a pro bono consultant," says Alboher.
Check out the Taproot Foundation (
), which recruits skilled volunteers in five cities for special
projects, such as building a Web site or creating a human resources
strategy for nonprofit clients. Or check out other volunteer Web
sites, such as
, which matches professionals with short-term projects.