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The Case for Encore Careers

by Michele Melendez, Civic Ventures

Terry Ramey spent more than a decade on a Ford assembly line in the Detroit area; now he’s studying to
become a nurse.

Scott Kariya had a 22-year corporate headhunting career; now he’s putting his skills to work for a New
York nonprofit.

Barbara Chandler Allen worked for many years as a museum administrator; now she’s running a nonprofit she founded to bring art supplies to at-risk children.

This country’s 78 million boomers—Ramey, Kariya and Allen among them—make up the largest, healthiest, best-educated population of Americans. People on the leading edge of the boomer generation are pioneers in a new stage spanning the decades between middle and late life. Neither young nor old, they represent an
extraordinary resource.

Millions of boomers are determined to apply their experience to make a difference for others. Some are able to do so as unpaid volunteers. But most want to combine aspects of work— income and benefits—with elements of service through encore careers.

Such careers combine social impact, personal fulfillment and continued income—purpose, passion, and a paycheck— enabling people to put their experience to work for the greater good.

The Potential

The number of Americans over 55 will grow to 110 million in 2030, according to the U.S. Census. That number is up from 71 million today. Americans are living longer and feeling younger.

Unleashing this vast potential requires fresh attitudes, policies, and practices that welcome the contributions of boomers who want meaningrul work that helps to create a world that’s better than the one they were given.

Civic Ventures, a national think tank on boomers, work, and social purpose, has set out to define this new stage of life and work as well as change policies and create new institutions that will help millions make the transition.

Too often, boomers find themselves managing this transition on their own with few guideposts, little support, and roadblocks at every turn. As a result, this massive group of Americans represents a largely untapped resource in a nation with many unmet needs.

Encore careers offer “work with powerful psychological and spiritual meaning that contributes to the well-being of others and draws on the true gifts and experience of the individual” writes Civic Ventures founder and CEO, Marc Freedman, in his book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. “They simultaneously provide a practical answer to both the challenges of financing a new stage of life that may extend for 20 or 30 years or more and addressing social need.”

The Numbers

People who plan to continue working into the traditional retirement years say it is important for the work to give them a sense of purpose, keep them involved with people, and help them improve the quality of life in their communities. Half of Americans aged 50 to 70 want jobs that contribute to the greater good. (For more information about this topic, read the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey.)

Between 5.3 million and 8.4 million Americans have already launched encore careers. Of workers aged 44 to 70 not already in encore careers, half are interested in them; specifically in jobs in education, healthcare, and the nonprofit sector. (For more information on this topic, read the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey.)

The Future

A great—and growing—potential exists for boomers seeking encore careers.

As surprising as it sounds, new research from MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures’ projects indicates that
more jobs will be available than people to fill them by 2018. (For more information on this topic, read about the new research at workers-key.) The research suggests that those 55 and older have the skills and experience to help solve serious problems and bridge critical labor gaps in education, healthcare, and the green economy.

Through several initiatives, Civic Ventures aims to help form distinct pathways to encore careers and to recognize encore careers where they exist. Those efforts include the Encore College Initiative, which supports colleges retraining boomers for encore careers, and The Purpose Prize, which awards up to $100,000 to people over 60 who are changing the world. (For more information about the initiatives, see

At a time when we face so many critical problems in our education and healthcare systems, in our government, in our environment, and on our streets, we can’t afford to let experience go to waste.



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