Whether you’re near retirement age with no desire to slow down or you’re longing for a Plan B to pursue a new goal, it’s never too late to start your “encore career.” In fact, many people change their careers once, twice, and even multiple times in an effort to take advantage of their interests and expertise, explore new opportunities, or just finally follow their passion.

“The old adage is true: Find something you love to do and then you’ll never work a day in your life. Our parents’ generation usually stayed in the same job at the same company for 40 or 50 years. Now that’s the exception, not the rule,” says Dr. Ward Ulmer, associate dean of Walden University’s College of Management and Technology. “Today, people are changing careers and doing something completely different. And they often find they are more successful and happier in second or encore careers.”

If you are thinking about your encore career, Dr. Ulmer offers the following tips:

  • Assess your career assets. Write down what you do well and what career you want to break into, and then find out what you need (skills, education, etc.) to get there.
  • Catalog your experience. Don’t just review your current job or career. Also look at your education, your hobbies and interests, and even your volunteer work. Your new career may ultimately have its roots there.
  • Do your research. Find out which careers or services are in demand now and expected to grow in the future. Also, look for any barriers that may stop you from being successful in a particular field.
  • Consider timing. It’s always easier to find a job when you have a job, but you don’t want to use, or abuse, your current employer’s time and resources to look for a new job. Take stock of your current financial, emotional, and familial situation to determine the feasibility of change.
  • Think globally. The global marketplace has opened opportunities for new careers not available even five years ago. Learn how this can work for you and what new skills you’ll need in order to work effectively and efficiently with others around the world.

Starting your encore career usually means acquiring new skills or enhancing your current ones. Dr. Ulmer offers these suggestions as good ways to start:

  • Take advantage of available professional development options. Whether it’s a training seminar about communication or even a simple class in using email more effectively, these opportunities can help you become more successful in a new position.
  • Consider more formal educational opportunities to help you move into a new career. Online higher education is an especially effective way to help individuals pursue encore careers in the global marketplace. Online students can develop important skills, such as working in virtual teams, and network with students and faculty from around the world.

“Everyone in today’s world who wants to be successful has made the commitment to be a lifelong learner. Those who remain stagnant are going to get left by the wayside,” says Dr. Ulmer. “Mimic a sponge and soak up as much as you can about what’s going on with your customers, in your field, and in the world at large. If you can speak knowledgeably about what’s happening in your industry, then you’re more likely to be successful in your encore career.”

Dr. Ulmer offers more tips in a radio interview, Preparing for Your Encore Career.

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