April 29, 2011
Resources for finding a job you love in your encore years
My previous post featured a Q&A with Marc Freedman, author of the new book The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, about redefining work and retirement for Americans over age 50 and 60.
[Marc Freedman | Photo courtesy of Civic Ventures]
Freedman, who's founder and CEO of the think tank Civic Ventures, has a lot to say about how employers and society as a whole need to reshape their thinking about what older workers can contribute and how to support them in their efforts to find more meaningful work.
Just as Boomers broke down gender discrimination barriers, Freedman believes they will rewrite the concept retirement for coming generations. In "The Big Shift," he writes of Boomers who've bootstrapped their way into meaningful encore careers by "radically downshifting, selling their house, or living like a grad student." The examples he cites include those who've joined organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach for America, and those who've used an internship or a return to college to jumpstart a career change.
"You really have to have a lot of resources or live like a nun to pull that off," Freedman says. "We're going to have to do a much better job of financing and enabling this transition for people."
"The Big Shift" presents some well-researched recommendations for ways our nation can better support older workers in the throes of these later-life career changes. Two of my favorites:
Gap year for grownups. "So many people who are moving into their 50s or early 60s know that they're going to be working another 10 or 20 years for reasons of purpose or financial solvency, and yet they're exhausted," Freedman says. "They've been working for 30 years or longer and they're in desperate need of a break. As a society we have this notion of endless vacation retirement, but what these people really want is the equivalent of a sabbatical."
No one bats an eye at high school and college grads taking a year off to travel the world or embark on whatever adventures they see fit. Wouldn't it be great, Freedman says, if employers afforded older workers similar leeway by granting them more flexible schedules or offering coaching that helps them transition to the next stage of their career?
Individual Purpose Accounts (IPAs). "The financial burden of making such transitions is enormously difficult for people," Freedman says. "In the future, we're going to have to do a better job of planning these shifts and saving for them like we save for retirement. You have IRAs. Why not have IPAs that are designed for tuition and living expenses during a period of additional education, internship, or service?"
For now, older workers looking to change careers or pursue more meaningful work are left to their own devices. But Freedman and the Civic Ventures team aren't without suggestions of helpful resources.
On the Civic Ventures site, blogger Michele Melendez lists a number of leading websites for Boomers and beyond in search of meaningful work, including the volunteer, internship, and service jobs site Idealist.org and the non-profit jobs site Opportunity Knocks. Melendez also lists a handful of job sites with postings aimed at the over-50 crowd, including Workforce50.com and JobsOver50.com. You can see Melendez's entire post here.
Freedman is hopeful that the days of DIY encore career development won't last forever. "Once we rewrite the map of life, younger people will make different decisions about the pacing of their careers," he says. "I think people will balance education across the life course in a different way. Everybody's got a stake in this, not just people who are in this stage now or moving into it in the coming years."
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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