You are one of the nation’s leading authorities on career issues and workplace trends. What challenges do you see for women in midlife who are seeking to re-enter the workforce or to change careers?
I see two main issues — confidence and ageism, and they are quite related. When you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, everything seems different, and everyone seems younger (it is and they are!). People work in new ways, are using new tools, and even if you’re returning to a field you worked in previously, it’s very easy to feel out-of-date. So that’s why women (and men too) who’ve taken time out from the paid workforce can feel insecure as they prepare to return. On top of that, anyone over forty knows that ageism is real; and it’s not just what others think, we tend to question our own ability to keep up with younger folks, who just seem more plugged in.
All that said, I think the solution to both issues is the same: Figure out how to develop new skills that will ensure you’re ready to work in new ways; and begin to re-cultivate a network filled with people of all ages, who can help you navigate what work looks like today. For many parents, this is where grown kids can come in very handy. I don’t have kids of my own but am constantly learning from younger friends and relatives. Of course, they learn from me as well, about things like how to navigate relationships and manage tough situations. Those cross-mentoring relationships are crucial.
Why is this a time filled with opportunity for these women as well?
As we hit midlife, life feels precious and there’s a new sense of urgency many of us experience. So often we’re drawn to work that has greater meaning. It’s very common to think about legacy — work that will live beyond today. And often, with that new work comes new roles, new learnings, and new ways to be a student or beginner again, while also passing on life experience to younger people. If you have the right mindset, it can be invigorating.
You work with Encore.org. Tell us more about this organization and what it seeks to do.
Encore.org is a small nonprofit building a movement to tap the experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve society.
We do three things:
- We’re helping to reframe extended midlife as a time to be a change agent.
- We’re creating and promoting new pathways to pursue purpose-oriented work in later life, like our Encore Fellowships, a one-year program to help people nearing retirement move from corporate jobs to roles in nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations.
- We’re building a movement of like-minded individuals and organizations. One example of that: Our Generation to Generation campaign, which seeks to mobilize a million people over the age of 50 to stand up and show up for vulnerable young people.
Can you give us a few examples of success stories of midlife reinventions supported by Encore.org?
So many. For ten years, we awarded the Purpose Prize, a $100k award for social innovators over the age of sixty (that prize is now operated by AARP). Ysabel Duron is a great example. As a successful news anchor, she began to change her focus and priorities when she was diagnosed with cancer. She turned the camera on herself and became a subject — documenting her treatment as a journalistic project. And she started a nonprofit on the side, Latinas Contra Cancer, to bring cancer awareness and support to Latina women. Once she retired, she dedicated herself full-time to that venture. The Purpose Prize helped her to do that.
We have a rich storytelling section of the Encore.org website that has examples of so many everyday people using their life experience and skills to make a difference in their second (or third) acts. If you have a story like this, we’d love to hear from you!
What resources do you recommend on the subject of midlife career reinventions?
A few favorites:
Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life by Chris Farrell
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith
Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash Your Talents, Reinvent Your Work in Midlife and Beyond by Mark Walton
The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption by Farai Chideya
Anything by Kerry Hannon, such as:
Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills
What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond
Getting the Job You Want After 50 For Dummies
Marci Alboher is a leading authority on the changing face of work and a Vice President at Encore.org, a nonprofit making it easier for millions of people to pursue second acts for the greater good. Her latest book The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life (Workman Publishing, 2013) was hailed by the AP as ‘an invaluable resource.’
Prior to joining Encore.org, Marci worked as a journalist, creating the Shifting Careers column and blog for The New York Times and the Working the New Economy blog for Yahoo. Her articles have appeared in scores of national publications. Her earlier book, One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash Career (originally published in 2007 and re-released in 2012), popularized the term “slasher” to refer to those individuals who can’t answer “What do you do?” with a single word or phrase.
Marci makes frequent appearances in the media, offering advice and commentary about slashing, encore careers and other workplace trends. She has been featured on numerous broadcast outlets – including NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News and National Public Radio – as well as countless print and web publications. Marci is on the board of Girls Write Now, which mentors underserved high school girls in NYC; she also serves as a mentor-editor for The Op-Ed Project, which focuses on increasing the number of women and minority voices in public conversations.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from The University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University. Earlier in her career, she spent a decade as a corporate lawyer.
A bit of the personal: Marci grew up on the Jersey Shore, living above her family’s motel, and has lived in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong. She always finds her way back to New York City, where she has spent more than 15 years. In her free time, she reads, travels, walks (excessively) and plays low-stakes poker. She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband, an entrepreneur/designer, and their French bulldog, Sinatra.