Purpose. Passion. Paycheck. (Plus a book giveaway.)

Encore Career HandbookI first encoun­tered the remark­able Judy Cock­er­ton when she spoke at Har­vard Law School, where I was work­ing at the time. Her topic was Tree­house, the inno­v­a­tive com­mu­nity she founded in East­hamp­ton, Mass., where fam­i­lies adopt­ing kids from fos­ter care live side by side in a neigh­bor­hood set­ting with peo­ple over 55 who serve as hon­orary grandparents.

My first thought: “This is ter­rific! I want to work with her.” (Which, years later, I did, tak­ing on sev­eral small projects as a vol­un­teer. I also wrote this.)

That reac­tion has been widespread—and this year Judy (now my friend), was one of five peo­ple to receive the $100,000 Pur­pose Prize for 2012, an award for social entre­pre­neurs over the age of 60. For me, as for so many oth­ers, her vision, com­mit­ment, and deter­mi­na­tion to “rein­vent fos­ter care” are ongo­ing inspi­ra­tions, and I’m thrilled that she’s get­ting the recog­ni­tion she so deserves.

But if Judy is unique—and she most cer­tainly is—her broader aspi­ra­tions are not. Behind the high-profile Pur­pose Prize is a larger trend, as grow­ing num­bers of baby boomers seek work that is both per­son­ally mean­ing­ful and serves a larger good. Pro­mot­ing this trend is the goal of Encore.org, the non­profit that awards the Pur­pose Prize, and the topic of an end­lessly use­ful new book by Encore.org Vice Pres­i­dent (and for­mer New York Times colum­nist) Marci Alboher.

Marci Alboher

Marci Albo­her

Being some­thing of an encore careerist myself—as well as a fan of Marci’s pre­vi­ous book on “slash” careers that com­bine two vocations—I couldn’t wait to get my hands The Encore Career Hand­book: How To Make a Liv­ing and a Dif­fer­ence in the Sec­ond Half of Life, out just this month. I wasn’t disappointed.

First and fore­most, the book is jam-packed with excel­lent prac­ti­cal guid­ance. Here are three big-picture sug­ges­tions that espe­cially res­onated with me:

Get com­fort­able with uncer­tainty:  Uncer­tainty is part of any transition—and mov­ing into an Encore career is a tran­si­tion. The good news is you’ve likely already had some expe­ri­ence, tran­si­tions being a hall­mark of life in Plan B Nation. I think about this a lot (as you know if you read this blog). I’ve writ­ten about tran­si­tions here. And here and here and here.

Get con­nected:  In the end, it’s all about the peo­ple you know—and those you meet. If you’re lucky, you (like me) will find this a lot of fun. Marci sug­gests a num­ber of spe­cific ways to engage your friends and oth­ers in the encore career change process. Strate­gies include using oth­ers as a sound­ing board (akin to the idea of hav­ing a per­sonal board of direc­tors), work­ing with career coaches, join­ing a group or tak­ing a class, vol­un­teer­ing as a way to try on a job or sec­tor, and build­ing vibrant net­works (both vir­tual and real-life). I’ve long been a big believer in always erring in favor of con­nec­tion, and there are some great ideas here about how to go about that.

Get a han­dle on your finances: An encore career search means seek­ing “pur­pose, pas­sion, and a pay­check,” as Marci puts it. But exactly what that pay­check needs to look like will depend on your sit­u­a­tion. Encore careers often—though not always—pay less than the jobs they fol­low. What kind of trade-offs are you will­ing to make? What is your risk tol­er­ance? Can you think of cre­ative ways to bring in extra cash or, con­versely, to reduce expenses? (The book offers many suggestions.)

There is also lots of excel­lent nuts-and-bolts stuff: How to go about prepar­ing encore career resumes and cover let­ters (along with sam­ples), exten­sive resource and read­ing lists, basic busi­ness plan­ning guid­ance, and an appen­dix of promis­ing encore jobs.

Once you start pay­ing atten­tion, encore careers are every­where. In my own office at Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health, my col­league Patti came out of the world of hedge funds. “I didn’t want to die hav­ing only been a banker,” she said wryly over a recent lunch. My col­league Chris, like me, spent time in cor­po­rate law.

That said, encore careers often don’t come easy, even for those with excel­lent cre­den­tials will­ing to take a pay cut. In his sear­ingly hon­est Diary of a Com­pany Man: Los­ing a Job, Find­ing a Life, for­mer Time Warner exec­u­tive James Kunen describes his uncer­tain path to ulti­mately ful­fill­ing work teach­ing Eng­lish as a sec­ond lan­guage. “Every­one loves doing something—I love read­ing at the beach—but not every­body loves doing some­thing that you can get paid for,” he reflects at one point. Closer to home, my friend Kenny—whom I met when I inter­viewed him for a Psy­chol­ogy Today piece on career choices—had a hard time find­ing pub­lic school teach­ing work after com­plet­ing Teach for Amer­ica train­ing in his 50s.

But just because some­thing is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible—or that it’s the wrong thing to do. And thanks to Marci Alboher’s excel­lent book, it’s now eas­ier than it was.

Want to win a copy of The Encore Career Hand­book? Thanks to Work­man Pub­lish­ing, I have two to give away. Tweet a link to this story with the hash­tag #encore­book­win. I’ll pick the win­ners next weekend.

© 2013, amy gut­man. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Purpose. Passion. Paycheck. (Plus a book giveaway.)

  1. Inspir­ing post! This week I took my first baby step toward my next career, which I hope will be some­thing (don’t know exactly what) work­ing with horses. I just volon­teered at a horse res­cue! I will def­i­nitely read this book.
    Lisa recently posted…Walk, Mem­oryMy Profile

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