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Jan 01

Fulfilling a New Mission in Your Encore Career

Marci MelendezAfter a long career in military service, it can be hard to imagine what other work you might find as fulfilling. Marci Alboher, author of “The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life” and Vice President of Encore.org says we should stop imagining and start doing! I asked Alboher how senior leaders in transition should approach the leap ahead into a rewarding and meaningful encore career:

VSB: Congratulations on the recent release of your book “The Encore Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life.” After working in any given field for an extended period of time, how can boomers best prepare themselves for their next act in life?

Alboher: These shifts usually involve two parts — figuring out what you want, and then figuring out how to get there. Some people know the what, so they can just focus on the how. But I encourage even those who think they know what they want, to do some digging around to confirm their hunches. As you go through this process, use methods that have worked to help you get through other significant life transitions. For example:

  • Do you prefer to reflect on your own or brainstorm with others?
  • Do you like to find your own way or would you appreciate a program to get some retraining or new skills?
  • Are you drawn to reading, talking to others, or trying things out to learn more about things that interest you?

 Knowing the answers to questions like these will help you find your own transition style and get started.

VSB: Many senior leaders retire from a long career in military service where they have been at or near the top of their game; they have established credibility and earned respect for their acquired knowledge and years of experience. What advice would you give to those who may feel a bit nervous inside about starting all over again, but are still interested in finding a new opportunity about which they can be passionate and through which they can still earn an income?

Alboher: You’ve hit the nail on the head. In order to successfully transition from a senior role to something new, you need to have a good sense of your talents and abilities as well as a healthy dose of humility and willingness to learn new things.

VSB: Career coaches typically advise those in transition to do their homework and research new fields that may be of interest in an encore career. Is there a more “hands-on” way to determine if a different career path might be a good fit, before making a longer-term commitment?

Alboher: Get out and do things! Once you have some ideas of roles and types of work that interest you, find some ways to get a closer look:

  • Volunteer.
  • Do an informational interview.
  • Identify someone to follow around for an afternoon.
  • Take on a pro bono consulting project to test the waters.

These kinds of experiences will help you pull back the curtain to see how the reality of a certain kind of work matches up with what you imagined it would be.

…pull back the curtain to see how the reality of a certain kind of work matches up with what you imagined it would be.

VSB: Senior military leaders in transition frequently think about post-military careers working for either the federal government or the private sector. How might a new career in the nonprofit arena be a better fit for some of these individuals?

Alboher: Seasoned members of the military are quite comfortable in an environment focused on accomplishing a shared mission. So that is an area where the culture of a nonprofit might feel familiar.

That said, people transitioning from the military might need to adjust to a culture where decision-making processes and hierarchy are not straight forward, as is often the case in nonprofits. That is why volunteering or finding some other ways to get to know any institution is so important.

Even within the nonprofit sector, cultures vary dramatically based on an organization’s size, management style and other factors.

If working in a mission-focused setting is a draw, those transitioning from the military shouldn’t confine themselves to nonprofits. The field of social entrepreneurship is filled with ventures that use both nonprofit and for-profit models to innovate around social change.

Some of the best insights come from the detours on the way to where you thought you were going.

VSB: Any final thoughts from your book that you might like to share with our readers?

Alboher: Transitions always take longer than we think, so don’t expect big things to happen overnight. And remember:

  • Some of the best insights come from the detours on the way to where you thought you were going.
  • Give yourself permission to get “lost.”
  • If possible, find ways to connect with others going through a similar process. Even if you’re at different stages of transition, having a network to lean on and support will be make the experience easier and more gratifying.

The Encore Career Handbook is available on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/10mHCD5

 

 

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