How to Start an Encore Career After 50

How to Start an Encore Career

ByJulie Kendrick

Updated: March 22, 2024

ByJulie Kendrick

Updated: March 22, 2024

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In just a few generations, the second half of our lives has undergone a rapid transformation. Many of us are taking on career paths that change and adapt for our "second act." Whether that involves continuing education, volunteerism, consulting work, entrepreneurship or a new adventure altogether, life after 50 has a wealth of career opportunities.

Why Choose an Encore Career?

There are many benefits to choosing a different direction on your career path, or to switch lanes, turn around and head in a different direction altogether. Usually, that decision is based on desires to:


How to Decide Which Path to Take

While our grandparents might have been content to receive a gold watch after decades of service to one company, younger generations tend to reimagine themselves several times before they hit the half-century mark. If you're considering an encore career, you may want to give some thought to how your current skills and past accomplishments can translate into another field or endeavor. If you spent your main earning years as a salesperson, you might want to become a consultant for small businesses in your area. If you just retired from the military, perhaps you could go back to school for teaching certification, helping others learn how to succeed in a field you've already mastered.

  • Make an assessment of what parts of your job you like best and which ones you'd be happier to avoid. Think about a favorite project, and ask yourself why it went so well.
  • Review volunteer work you've done that was most satisfying, and consider how the mission of that work and your skills might line up for a future career.
  • If you're still unclear, consider making a visit to a career counselor and taking some assessment tests to determine which encore career suits you best.

Job Search Tips for Older Workers


Job Search Resources

AARP's Work Channel
Is a great resource to help over-50s look for work, polish resumes, and explore second career paths.

Has articles and a job board aimed at helping you make a smarter job search.
Features a library of informative articles, plus job boards from employers in many industries.

Quintessential Careers
Aims to provide content, tools, and motivation to empower people to find their true career passion.

The Five O'Clock Club
Started in 1986 as a research-based organization, testing techniques to help job hunters find success. They continue with a stated goal of helping outbound employees transition successfully.

Financing the Transition into an Encore Career

For some people over 50, financial stability is a given, so they seek the fulfillment of finding a more purpose-driven, but less lucrative, encore career. But for others, an encore career requires the flow of new income. While you may not have the inclination or the ability to work at a high-powered job as you age, you can find flexible, interesting work that allows you to have additional income in an uncertain financial landscape.

If you're hoping that a new career will help you create a more secure future and a more stable income, there are several steps to consider before you begin searching for that new job:


First, if you're thinking of an eventual job-switch in five, 10, or 15 years, start planning now to set aside savings that will tide you over as you establish yourself in your new career. The more you save now, the greater peace of mind you'll enjoy as you launch yourself into those uncharted career waters.


If possible, hold off on cashing in retirement funds or pensions and delay accepting Social Security benefits, if that makes sense for you.


You might also want to take a look at your current lifestyle and make some adjustments before your first day on the new job. This change in career might be the perfect segue for you to make changes in other parts of your life. You may want to downsize from a house to an apartment or seek more budget-conscious living arrangements. Perhaps it's time to sell that car and rely on public transportation.

Keeping your eye on the fulfillment of a new career can help you adjust to a new set of economic circumstances and feel more in control of your future and your finances.

Profiles: Successful Career Changes after 50


From Cube Farm to Health Coach

When she was struggling with the decision of whether or not to leave an unsatisfying corporate job, one of Carrie Boe's friends gave her some advice: "You gave them the first 20 years of your career. Do you want to give them the next 20, too?" Realizing the answer was a decided "no," Boe made the transition from working at a marketing services agency to becoming a certified health coach and holistic health practitioner. "I had worked in a number of roles for the same agency, including incentives, project and product management, corporate training and marketing," she said. "I held a variety of positions and titles within the same company -- all with increasing responsibility and compensation."

Boe says her encore career evolved organically. "I'd left my previous position thinking it would just be temporary," she said. "I wanted to take a year off and get healthy, so I hired a trainer and nutritionist and lost nearly 100 pounds. That's when I realized I couldn't go sit in a cube again. I wanted to figure out a way to share my story and help others get healthy, too. I explored some health coaching certification programs and decided on the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and embarked on their 18-month program." She also appreciated the career-building assistance she received.

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The program really connects you with graduates and what they're doing, and the last six months of study are focused on building your practice and business.

These days, Boe has firmly bid the cube farm goodbye. "I own my own company, SuperStrongChick, LLC and I partner with a clinic, Ascent East Asian Integrative Care." Her advice for others considering a move into a field like hers is to do thorough research and understand the options. "Be patient," she says. "It can take years to get established. But if you can find something you love and are passionate about, I truly believe the money will come. "


Making the Leap to Non-Profits

Ann Ness was 58 when she moved from vice president of corporate brand management at Cargill, the largest privately held corporation in the United States in terms of revenue, into a position in higher education. Her responsibilities had included elevating the profile of Cargill worldwide and helping employees understand a changing business strategy. In free time, she volunteered as a trustee at Hamline University, an American private liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minn. Hamline, founded in 1854, is the oldest institution of higher learning in Minnesota.

During her work as a trustee for the school, Ness says she became intrigued by the challenges and complexity of higher education. She began researching the field, thinking that a second act in higher education might be a good fit for her. "Seminars were the most helpful so that I could meet and learn from colleagues at other universities," she says.

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I read a ton because I found there is no shortage of material on the fascinating challenges facing our nation's higher education system.

Eventually, she made the switch and took a job as vice president of marketing and enrollment management at Hamline. She learned a great deal during and after the move, she says. One important lesson: "Nonprofit doesn't mean non-stress!" Overall, the transformation from corporate executive to non-profit team player has been good, if not as financially remunerative. "I'm certainly living less disposably," she says. "My car has 90,000 miles on it, for example, but overall it was a good decision."


AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 this award has recognized innovative, forward-looking employers who are ahead of the curve when it comes to valuing experienced workers.

Know your rights The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

The National Council on Aging provides content on economic security, healthy aging, and public policy and action.


About Julie Kendrick

Julie Kendrick headshot

Julie is a freelance journalist who covers finance, science, health and food for national publications and web sites.