Posted on 02 June 2011
By Mark Miller
Career reinvention was a big buzzword among many baby boomers even before the economy crashed in 2008. Now, tough new economic realities have transformed career reinvention from a virtue into a necessity for millions of older Americans who aren’t ready to retire or simply can’t afford to quit working.
But hard times have not forced many older boomers to give up their dreams of second careers with meaning. The aspirations are tied to the broader idea that our traditional notion of retirement needs reinvention–a concept that many retirement gurus have struggled to label, so far without much success. The name that comes closest, in my view: the encore career.
The phrase was coined by Civic Ventures, a California-based nonprofit think tank and incubator for social entrepreneurship led by Marc Freedman, author of the new book The Big Shift: Navigating The New Stage Beyond Midlife (Public Affairs, 2011). Freedman is one of the nation’s leading thinkers on how America can redefine the second half of life with a sense of social and individual renewal.
At a time when the jobs picture looks bleak, Freedman remains optimistic about the potential contributions of older workers. And his new book looks far beyond the immediate economic crisis. With people living healthier, longer lives, he argues for creating a new map that includes a new stage between the middle years and anything resembling old age. “People who are coming up to that juncture right now are realizing they are not going to be old for 20 years, and probably can’t sustain a retirement that’s decades in duration,” he says. “So they’re thinking about this chapter in a new way.”
But more is at stake than how boomers will spend their time. Freedman sees encore careers as a key solution to the challenges we face as the population ages.