How to Launch a Second Career Resources

That old F. Scott Fitzgerald line about there being “no second acts in American lives” may no longer apply — at least not in the professional world. As Forbes writer Maryalene Ponsie reports, there are 4.5 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 70 with “encore careers,” and in the next five years, the number will balloon by 21 million. While the prospect of pursuing a totally new line of work might seem daunting, Ponsie offers help in the form of “7 Tips for Launching a Second Career.” Her advice is pitched at aging workers, but much of it applies to anyone seeking a change.

1. Decide Between New Job and New Business — When embarking on a second career, there are two ways to go. You can switch fields and find a new job, or you can start your own business. Step one, LaPonsie writes, is deciding which is right for you. There are benefits to both, so think carefully. Simply finding a new gig might be quicker, but a business could prove more stable and sustainable over time.

2. Meet People In the Field — Whether changing fields or going into entrepreneurial mode, meet people in the industry you’re targeting and find out what the work is like. “Read what the professionals in your prospective field are reading,” says John Krautzel, vice president of marketing and member experience at Beyond.com, “and learn to talk the talk.” If you go the new-job route, it’ll increase your chances of convincing someone to hire you.

3. Get the Right Skills — Before you can truly launch your encore career, you’ll likely need to bolster your skills, even if it’s just fine-tuning some tech stuff. Consider interning or taking some classes, and as LaPonsie says, “don’t rule out nontraditional ways of earning a degree.”

4. Tap Your Network — The nice thing about being an experienced worker is that you probably have a lot of contacts. Reach out to your network and try to have conversations with people in the field you’re looking to enter.

5. Be Smart About Finances — Whether you change jobs or start your own business, there could be costs involved, and in the short term, you might not make money. Go in knowing where your finances stand and how long you can make do with less income. If necessary, hang on to your current job while you make the transition — perhaps by working part-time in the new field.

6. Form Realistic Salary Expectations — By doing salary research and getting a sense of the hiring outlook for your prospective new field, you’ll be able to suss out how much money you stand to make. This is important, because you don’t want to overestimate your earning potential. LaPonsie cautions older workers to think about how unexpected illnesses or disabilities might affect things.

7. Avoid Those Retirement Funds — While you may be tempted to use retirement savings to launch your new venture, the experts caution against this. “Be careful about how long you’re drawing down those balances,” says Jean Wilczynski, a financial advisor with the Connecticut firm Exencial Wealth Advisors.