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5 Ways to Start an Encore Career

Judi Henderson-Townsend


Retirement isn’t likely to make it onto any lists of hot trends for 2013. But if retirement is out, what’s in? For a growing number of people, it’s continued work. But not the same old work. Work that feels right. Work that matters. And work that may prove to be more significant than what came before. An encore career.

Want to get a move on your own encore? Here are 5 models for how it’s done, which you can also learn about by watching this recent segment on HuffPost Live.

1. Start a business that does some good in the world. Judi Henderson-Townsend (pictured right) stumbled onto a business idea when she realized there was a market for used mannequins. With Mannequin Madness in Oakland, Calif., she taps that market, while recycling mannequins that would otherwise end up in landfills. The business has earned her recognition as a green entrepreneur.

2. Solve the problem under your nose. As a foster parent to two young girls, Judy Cockerton knew the foster care system was losing out on people who wanted to help but couldn’t take on the full commitment of being a foster parent. So she created the Massachusetts-based Treehouse Foundation, Sibling Connections and Birdsong Farm to offer various ways to help foster kids as “honorary grandparents,” camp counselors, tutors and more.

3. Train for a new kind of work. After a long career in advertising, Beth Kempner tired of marketing sugary cereal to kids and longed to do something more meaningful. She applied for an Encore Fellowship, which prepares professionals from the private sector to move into nonprofit work. In her fellowship she was placed with the Center for Employment Opportunities, a New York-based organization that helps formerly incarcerated people find jobs. After the fellowship, Kempner joined the nonprofit as its director of public affairs.

4. Use your personal experiences to help others. Rosalind Joffe spent more than 30 years dealing with severe, debilitating symptoms caused by ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis. Throughout that period, she rejiggered her career in a quest to find a way to continue to work. In time, she was able to manage both her conditions. Now, from her home base in the Boston area, Joffe is coaching others who want to figure out how to work while living with chronic illnesses.

5. Channel your passion – or outrage – as an advocate for change. James Robinson was lucky to survive after years of drug abuse he attributes to living a closeted gay life. Determined to spare others his fate, he now works as founding director of GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services, a nonprofit he started to help gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths in Huntsville, Ala.

Last month, for the HuffPost Live segment I mentioned above, anchor Mike Sacks, and I spoke with Henderson-Townsend, Cockerton, Kempner, Joffe and Robinson. They tell their stories way better than I can. Have a look.

Marci Alboher is a vice president of Encore.org and author of the newly released Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life.

This piece originally ran in The Huffington Post.