It's never to early or too late to plan your encore
PRIME – March 2013
By Debbie Gardner
I think perhaps my husband John and I were a bit ahead of our time.
We began thinking in our 30s about what we would like to for our "encore" when we retired.
I don't know what prompted our far-in-the-future posturing, but I know we discussed what we thought we might like to do many times, always looking for something that would allow us to use what we thought would be the unstructured leisure we saw many retirees experiencing to do something to help our community.
We both came from a strong service background – we met while working in the hospitality industry – and toyed with several volunteer scenarios, from volunteering to tutor children to helping out in disaster situations through the Red Cross.
Of course, the landscape has changed dramatically since we started making those early plans. We welcomed our son, Evan, in our early 40s, automatically pushing any thoughts of retirement later in our working lives than many of our contemporaries. Then the economic downturn hit, and we found we weren't alone in planning to work longer.
But, as the hourglass of life begins to hold more sand at the bottom than the top for all of us of a certain age, it's easy to understand how some might question if the career path they've been following is the one they want to stay on for the rest of their work life.
Thus the appeal of searching for what Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook, called "late in life, high-impact work" – or careers with passion and purpose, not just a paycheck.
"People are very concerned about [their] legacy," Alboher told PRIME during an interview about her new book. "The instinct [for this] gets very strong in mid-life."
As vice president of Encore.org, a website that has, during the past 10 years, devoted itself to helping individuals discover how to create careers that both fit their passion and, if necessary, their economic needs, Alboher knows of what she speaks. She said the impetus behind the handbook was the many questions encore.org received from individuals looking to find purpose in their working lives.
"People start thinking about what [they] will be remembered for, and how to make what time [they] have left matter," she said.
It was a theme that reverberated strongly with the three local individuals PRIME also interviewed for this month's feature.
Both former American Saw Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing York Mayo of Wilbraham, and former TV40 News Director Kathy Tobin of Springfield cited their strong faith as a motivating factor in their choice of encore careers.
Mayo said that "It seemed in church there was too much talking and not enough action," but in his first encore job with Habitat for Humanity he could "take my faith and go and do" in a way that produced tangible results.
"I'm a doer. I like to be out on the front lines doing things," he said. "I'm really having the time of my life as a community activist and volunteer."
Tobin said the opportunity to leave the broadcast world to become director of development for Friends of the Homeless felt, in a way, like "a calling." She added that the role models of the Sister of St. Joseph who had been her teachers in Catholic school, were "part of my inspiration to do this."
Joel Morse, who left the high powered world of newspaper advertising sales for a job helping public television find sponsors, said it was the experience of meeting "the happiest people, [who] had nothing" while staying in hostels during an unstructured trip that changed his vision of what was important in life.
"I wake up in the morning being grateful for what I have," he said. "I love getting up and feeling that I'm making a difference."
Alboher said that's basically what an encore career boils down to – finding a way to make a difference. And, she said, if you can't move to that career right away, start working toward your passion in some other area of your life.
For my husband and I, that other area is volunteer work for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), helping to raise money to someday find a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). Our son, as I've mentioned in previous notes, is T1D. It's easy to find a passion when there's a cause that's close to your heart.
And someday, I know we'll get to that other encore.