“Is it too late for me to change careers? I’m 56 years old and am not feeling challenged or fulfilled in my profession anymore. I don’t know what else I can do, but I can’t go on pretending that I’m happy.”

I hear this often during meetings with my candidates and job-search coaching clients.

Dissatisfaction with one’s current career and the ensuing quest to do something different is now commonly referred to as an “encore career” — a term coined in 2009 by Encore.org CEO and founder Marc Freedman. The Wikipedia definition of an encore career is “work in the second half of life that combines continued income, greater personal meaning and social impact. These jobs are paid positions often in public interest fields, such as education, the environment, health, the government sector, social services and other nonprofits.”

More and more baby boomers are embarking on encore careers, whether it’s for financial reasons or to explore something completely different that will provide a renewed sense of purpose. Others are motivated to give back to the community through a new career in the nonprofit world.

Kathleen Boe made the transition from an operations and engineering leader to the nonprofit world as the executive director of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership. “I took a step back to consider my broad priorities (family, friends, learning, giving) in addition to my career,” she said. “Then I took on the interim role as an ‘experiment.’ It allowed me (and the organization) to figure out if it was the right choice. I advise others who are considering a career change to be open to possibilities. Take advantage of opportunities to pursue activities that you have a real passion for.”

If you are a candidate for an encore career, there are a few things to consider.

• Are you prepared financially and mentally for the long game? It takes an average of 18 months to make the transition and there is a high probability that your income will be greatly reduced during the transition. You will need to identify your reasons why and your end goals to keep yourself motivated during the process.

• Develop a strategic and tactical plan to enter your encore career. What will you need in terms of additional education, certifications and career training? What is your timeline? How will you leverage your current network, or build a new one that can lead you to contacts within your new career industry?

• Consider investing in the services of a career/job search coach to expertly guide you through the entire process. Job search strategies and tactics have dramatically changed. Using outdated methods and having a DIY attitude can lead to a dead end, waste your time — and empty your wallet.

An encore career can provide a new lease on life. Never say “I’m too old for this.” Instead, develop a plan, stick to it, and focus on how you’ll improve your future.


Marni Hockenberg is president of Hockenberg Search in Minnetonka, an executive search and job search coaching firm for the manufacturing industry: hockenbergsearch.com