Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Encore Careers

I've blogged before about signs in the for-profit marketplace that Boomers are transitioning to careers in the non-profit universe. Their retirement funds have been decimated by the recent financial implosion, and they're reaching the end of their careers, but still feel relevant and want to make a difference in society. What better time for Boomers to lend their considerable experience to running socially-conscious non-profits?

Well, now there's a term for that phenomenon--Encore Careers. And, evidently, a whole infrastructure springing up to help Boomers make it happen. Check out Civic Ventures and their companion website, Encore Careers.

Civic Ventures is a self-described non-profit think thank that is...

...leading the call to engage millions of baby boomers as a vital workforce for change. Through an inventive program portfolio, original research, strategic alliances, and the power of people's own life stories, Civic Ventures demonstrates the value of experience in solving serious social problems--from education to the environment and health care to homelessness. Founded in 1998 by social entrepreneur and author Marc Freedman, Civic Ventures works to define the second half of adult life as a time of individual and social renewal.

And they're getting such a big write-up from me because I find the whole concept fascinating. Among other things, Civic Ventures provides: — The growing network for people who want work that matters in the second half of life. provides news, resources and connections for individuals and organizations establishing encore careers that combine personal meaning, financial security and social contribution.

The Purpose Prize — $100,000 awards for social innovators over 60 creating new methods for solving the world´s biggest problems. The Purpose Prize is awarded to individuals who discover new opportunities, invent new programs and foster lasting social change.

Experience Corps — A national service program engaging adults over 55 as tutors and mentors for elementary school students struggling to learn. Today more than 2,000 Experience Corps members in 20 cities help 20,000 students learn the skills they´ll need to succeed in school and in life. Launched by Civic Ventures, Experience Corps is now an independent organization.

Encore Career Community College Grants — Grants for innovative community colleges preparing people 50+ for careers in education, health care and social services.

The Next Chapter — An initiative providing directions and connections for people who want to make a difference in the second half of life. Local Next Chapter projects in dozens of cities offer expertise and assistance to community groups working to help individuals set a course, connect with peers and get involved in significant service work.

BreakThrough Award — Awards for organizations that tap experienced employees to help solve serious social problems. Ten organizations were awarded MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Breakthrough Awards in 2007.

Now, that is some serious infrastructure. And there is evidently some real muscle behind it. Their website lists financial support from 30 or so major foundations, including the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The whole thing makes me long for an encore career!

But wait, there's hope for me yet. According to the survey they released (published June 2008), the cohort they've examined and are reaching out to are people between the ages of 44 and 70 (birth years 1938-64). That's a pretty wide definition for Boomers. Our friends Strauss & Howe say Boomers were born 1943-60. That means the folks in their cohort born 1938-42 are actually Silents, and those born 1961-64 are actually Xers.

And guess what else? The younger the individuals surveyed, the more interest there was entering encore careers. Using the survey's own terminology:
  • 50% of "trailing-edge boomers" (ages 44-50, birth years 1958-64) were interested in pursuing encore careers.
  • 46% of "leading-edge boomers" (ages 51-62, birth years 1946-57) were interested in pursuing encore careers.
  • 34% of "pre-boomers" (ages 63-70, birth years 1938-1945) were interested in pursuing encore careers.
Given how many Xers (or maybe Jonesers?) are in their "trailing-edge boomers" and how many Silents are in their "pre-boomers", I wonder how much of this for-profit move towards the non-profit world is really about Boomers wanting to give back, and how much of it is about people of multiple generations growing disillusioned with the for-profit environment.


Lisa Junker said...

Great post, Eric! Just so you know, there's an article on encore careers in associations in the December issue of Associations Now. Here's a direct link in case you'd like to check it out.

Eric Lanke said...

Thanks for the tip, Lisa. It's a good article. The most interesting part for me is:

"Associations must rethink their own roles as employers and change their approach," says Kathy Lynch, director of employer engagement at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. "Both employers and employees must focus on stepping away from the lens of chronological age. We must rethink our recruiting and staffing models and stop thinking of ‘new hires' as being 25 years old."

Makes me wonder if the encore careerists are interested in serving in roles other than the top spot--and then what implications that has for the on-going evolution of cross-generational leadership models.

JD said...

Thank you for bringing light to organizations that help older professionals find encore careers. Not only do older professionals have a career worth of experience to offer, but increased longevity should mean that they have the opportunity to contribute to their communities as long as they wish. At ReServe Inc., a nonprofit based in NYC, retired professionals as well as anyone age 55 and older can find engaging opportunities in nonprofits. If they prefer, professionals age 55+ can choose to participate in our "sector switcher" program that gives individuals real exposure to nonprofits. Thanks again.

Eric Lanke said...

Thanks, JD, for the comment. I spent a little time on the ReServe website, especially your About Us page ( Looks like you're another organization committed to helping older for-profit Baby Boomers make the switch to the non-profit sector. This fascinates me. ReServe was founded in 2005. Did organizations like this exist when the Silents started reaching retirement age? Will they exist when Xers get there? Or is this strictly a Boomer phenomenom? From my perspective, it's a great idea, regardless of the generation.

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