Encore Careers

In honor of National Rebuild Your Life Month, Dr. Donald Zytowski offers some ideas for those interested in pursuing an “encore career” in their retirement years.


Have you seen the trailer for the upcoming movie The Intern, where Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old widower name Ben who decides he's done with retirement? Ben reenters the workforce by way of an internship at an online fashion site run by a young woman played by Anne Hathaway. Clearly, the concept of an encore career has officially gone mainstream: Hollywood is bringing this story to theaters everywhere this fall.


The Appeal of Encore Careers is the Opportunity to Make a Social Impact

In 1935, when the Social Security Act became law, the average life expectancy of a 65-year-old was only a couple years more. Today, a man who makes it to age 65 can expect, on average, about 17 more years of life, and a woman, about 20 more years!

What is there to do with all those years? You might work through your bucket list – see the Black Hills, take a Caribbean cruise; go to the finals of an NCAA basketball tournament – or maybe move to a retirement community in a warm climate and spend your days developing your bridge game.

Or, you might develop an encore career – a new kind of work entirely, which keeps you busy as much as you wish, at least until you don't want to work anymore. Ideally, an encore career offers continued income combined with the chance to make a social impact and derive a greater personal meaning.

For example, a friend of mine, a professor of chemical engineering at the university where I was a professor of psychology, embarked on an encore career in which he reinvented himself. In his last years on the faculty he enrolled in the law school of a nearby private university and earned a law degree. After passing the bar, he quietly offered his legal services, pro bono, to people who needed help with legal needs, like a divorce, paying off a debt, or starting up a small business.

Another example is that of an “empty nester,” a woman whose two children were established in college, who became the proprietor of a popular gift shop in town. She applied her long-standing interest in arts and crafts into the reality of a retail outlet. She found a vacant space adjoining a travel agency that would ensure some traffic past her display windows, and stocked it with exquisite hand-turned bowls of exotic woods, various items of blown glass, hand-painted silk scarves and the like. She ran it single-handedly, except for a couple of like-minded friends to cover her time away, especially to go to craft shows in a couple of major cities for more stock. She is completely retired now, widowed, but with many friendships gained from her multi-year, very encored career!


Encore Career Resources

The idea of an encore career is gaining popularity. If you are intrigued, AARP, of course, is a top resource. Or there is Marci Alboher's The Encore Career Handbook, Encore, an organization that helps connect people to “second acts for the greater good,” and Road Scholar, which offers opportunities to expand skill sets through unique travel and education programs. Another resource that shouldn’t be overlooked is your local community college, which likely offers a multitude of continuing education programs.

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About The Author

Dr. Donald Zytowski

Dr. Donald Zytowski has served a key role in facilitating internal and third-party research for Kuder, including development of new assessment and content for the vast database of career biographies in the Kuder® Career Interests AssessmentTM. He is a well-established counseling psy ... read more