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Second Acts

Second Acts Career Guide

Most women over 50 don’t plan to spend their so-called “retirement years” sitting on the sidelines. Baby boomer women — PRiME Women, in particular — want to do more than discover hobbies and travel (although those are certainly fun, too). Instead, women are increasingly looking for second acts careers that provide opportunities to try something new or give back in some way — or both. They’re looking for meaningful second acts.

These women are not alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the percentage of people 55 and older in the labor force is more than 40%, an increase from 29% in 1993.

The question is, where and how do you start looking for encore careers? What are the best second career choices and where can you find them?

Preparing for Second Acts Careers

PRiME Women spoke with  AARP Jobs Expert Kerry Hannon. She offered a ton of tips on how women, in particular, can prepare for their second acts. If you’re curious about some of the best second careers for baby boomers, see what Kerry had to say.

The challenge in planning your next career move is figuring out what to do. Taking time to step back and evaluate will likely yield greater success. Many women are looking to try something completely different from their last job or career. They could be fed up with corporate life, for instance, or they want a different focus.

 

Make a ListMake a list:

  1. People who set themselves up for the best second careers often start with a list.  Make a list of everything you loved doing in your last job or two and everything you hated. Maybe you were in sales and loved networking but hated paperwork. Or perhaps you enjoyed teaching but grew tired of the increasing constraints placed by outside forces. Make a note. Don’t judge the list. Just make it.
  2. Then, make a list of jobs you’ve dreamed about trying. You know the ones we mean — the one that comes up as you walk out of yet another frustrating meeting where you say, “I’ll just go work at a bookstore — or whatever your fill-in-the-blank fantasy job is.”
  3. Look at the job list and look at the list of things you love to do. Where do they match up? Where are they out of sync? This list can help you start to fine-tune your potential second act careers.

Skills AnalysisDo a skills analysis

While you’re cataloging what you like and dislike about your current/last job, identify and list your transferable skills. Think creatively about jobs that might use those skills outside your current profession. Recognize skills you may be lacking for jobs you might be interested in and get trained. If you’ve fallen behind in certain skills, take a refresher course.

Date Professionally

Date Professionally

We’re not talking about actual dating, here. What we mean is pulling out that Rolodex or mobile phone contact list and literally meeting with everyone on it. Meet for coffee and a chat. It’s not a job search per se. What you’re doing is picking their brains, telling them more about your interests and the kinds of things you’re looking for. It’s a chance for you to ask them what they’re doing and perhaps ask them to connect you to others who might have opportunities for you to explore.

Embrace Social Media

Embrace social media

One concern that potential employers might have about hiring older employees is that they are not in tune with today’s technology and skills. (See skills analysis.) If you’re not on LinkedIn, get there — now. If you’re on LinkedIn but only check it once a month, change that habit — now. Join industry groups. Comment on posts by others. Write posts yourself. You’d be surprised how many people check LinkedIn before talking to anyone about anything.

The same is true for Twitter. Create an account and start tweeting about things related to your business interests. Remember that your profile, whether it’s Twitter or any other social media, is your brand. Your profile matters. It’s your first elevator speech with the world.

On Facebook, look for groups with similar interests. If working for a nonprofit is of interest, for instance, join its Facebook group. Comment. Go to events. Reach out socially as part of your strategy.

Make A Financial Plan

Make a financial plan

Do an honest evaluation of your financial needs. If you can’t afford to be without a steady paycheck for a couple of years, for instance, you might revise when and how you jump into a new job or start a new business, if that is indeed what you’re interested in with respect to second career choices.

Options for second act careers

Okay, so you’ve made your list, you’ve got some ideas about what you want to do. The next questions are how and where to find the best second careers? We’ve broken it down by some major job categories to give you ideas.

Non-profits

Nonprofits: The U.S is home to 1.4 million nonprofits, ranging in size from single-person volunteer organizations to national groups with hundreds of employees, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. They make up a sizable chunk of the economy, too: In 2012, nonprofits represented 5.5% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. This is all good news if philanthropy is on your second acts list. Finding a nonprofit that meets your skillset and fits your interests likely exists. A number of terrific websites exist to help you get started.

  • Encore.org’s tagline says it all: “second acts with a social purpose.” The site offers all kinds of job opportunities as well as tips for how to find the best second careers for nonprofits. It also has a fellowship program, which matches professionals with nonprofits looking for particular skill sets. Fellows are paid a salary for 1,000 hours of work on a particular project.
  • Idealist.org is a nonprofit clearinghouse. Its jobs board lists thousands of jobs at all levels and its database includes nearly 80,000 nonprofits. If starting as a volunteer is part of your strategy, this website also has a robust volunteer resource center.
  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy  has a good jobs page for executive, fundraising, management positions in nonprofits

Education

Education: If you’ve spent your working life teaching, you’ve got a lot of skills that can translate into second career choices. SeniorJobBank.com is just one site that offers a number of suggestions and strategies for using the skills gained in and around the classroom. Here are some to get you thinking:

  • Tutoring: offers lots of flexibility and you can choose to operate from your home or visit your students in theirs.
  • Corporate trainer: You may not know every detail the corporation wants to impart to its employees but you certainly know how to convey information and you’ve already shown you have what it takes to learn something new.
  • Writing consultant: Corporations have employees who can’t write well; they have managers who need help with presentation skills; they have executives who need to present white papers. They all require good writing skills and you can teach them or write them for them.
  • Adult educator: Don’t discount teaching part-time at a local college — they’re always looking for the right adjunct professor with the right expertise — or in other local venues such as community education programs.
  • Museum administrator: Jobs like museum educators, especially if you have an area of expertise or a passion for the museum’s particular focus, could make great encore careers.

healthcare

Health care: With a rapidly aging population, second act careers in the health care industry are likely going to be plentiful. Some might require training. Doctors, for instance, can become something called a locum tenens doctor. The term comes from the Latin for “to hold the place of.” Locum tenens doctors are essentially substitute doctors, filling in on an as-needed basis. Hiring is usually through a staffing agency. ISeek is a site that offers suggestions for second act careers in general and health care jobs in particular. Encore.org sees the following six health care roles as growing in importance in coming years:

  • Community health workers: offer counseling, help clients educate themselves and get insurance and services.
  • Chronic illness coaches: help people manage long-term medical conditions.
  • Medication coaches: assist patients in managing complex medical regimens.
  • Patient navigators/advocates: serve as guides for the maze-like health care system and help with things like prescriptions, appointments and transportation.
  • Home- and community-based service navigators/advocates: help people learn how to take advantage of community services such as housing and financial or legal assistance.
  • Home modification specialists: help design and implement plans to help older Americans continue to live independently by adapting their homes to changing medical needs.

Professional Services

Professional services: Business executives, lawyers, financial advisers — all these professionals have a plethora of second career choices based on their many skill sets. Some of these might require some additional training or certification.

  • Expert consultants: Depending on your interests, you can offer individuals expert advice on business strategies, marketing, creating business plans, etc. One way to test the waters here might be to join SCORE, a nonprofit of retired executive volunteers dedicated to assisting small business owners succeed through coaching and education.
  • Executive coach: This might require some additional certification to give you the imprimatur that clients are looking for. But if you’ve been a successful business owner or executive, you certainly have a lot of potential advice to offer others interested in excelling in business.
  • Tax preparer: One advantage is this is seasonal. Work hard for a few months and then use the rest of your year to enjoy other things.      

Writing

Writing: In this growing Internet world, content — as writing is now called — is critical. A good writer can, um, write his or her ticket into a variety of freelance or part-time opportunities. The American Society for Journalists and Authors is a great place to get ideas and leads for freelance writing gigs.

  • Blogger: Companies everywhere are looking for competent writers to create content for their blogs.
  • Ghostwriter: Sports figures, executives and others want to tell their story; they’re just not sure where to start. You could be the person helping them get their story into the public.
  • Freelance writer/editor: Corporations, marketing agencies, independent business owners — these are just among the few who need quality content created for their companies and websites. Start by looking at sites and analyzing where their websites are weak. Then send them a note showing how you could help them. Good content yields traffic, which in turn can yield sales of their products. RetiredBrains.com has a section of its site devoted to writing and editing job options.

And, finally, many dream of becoming their own bosses entirely when they imagine their second career choices. They may picture, for instance, taking that hobby and turning it into a job, or perhaps they feel they’ve got the Next Great Idea. All of this may be true, but before jumping into the world of entrepreneurship, experts advise taking a good look at your own tolerance for uncertainty. Are you financially able to sustain not being paid for perhaps months or longer at a time? How well do you deal with uncertainty and rejection?

NextAvenue.org — where grown-ups keep growing — is a terrific website that can help you consider entrepreneurship further. It also offers a lot of good information and tips generally about the best second careers for baby boomers. And, of course, AARP, has an entire section devoted to encore careers.

 

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