Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Senior Side: The encore career

By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published August 4, 2017

According to research, encore careers, also known as ‘post-careers’ or ‘second acts’ tend to provide more satisfaction than previous careers. People in encore careers express very high job satisfaction, and overwhelming majorities say they feel good about the work they are doing, see the positive results of their work, know that they are making a difference, feel appreciated and like that they are able to use their skills and experience.” The Wharton School

Early into my third retirement, I found myself getting a little bored. I had been a management consultant in my earlier life, and I missed the satisfaction I received from helping clients solve problems. On a spiritual level, I kept receiving a silent message from God that there was something else he was directing me toward.

I prayed for guidance until one day it came into focus. I was reading the Georgia Bulletin and ran across a notice in the classified advertising section for an opening in the Chancery for a director of professional development. I read the announcement with keen interest because I had done a lot of professional development of younger consultants and clients during my career.

I gave the newspaper to my wife to read. She responded, “Well, why don’t you send in your resume? Maybe this is what God wants you to do.” I quickly retorted, “Honey, you just don’t understand the way things work in large organizations. They are probably looking for an early or mid-career executive. I don’t think they would be interested in an old guy like me.”

I thought my persuasive response settled the matter, but she came right back and said, “How old is Pope Benedict?” I was surprised by her question but responded, “I think he just turned 85.” She quipped, “Well, honey, I don’t think you have anything to worry about with age discrimination in the church!”

This argument made sense to me, so I sent in my resume and learned they were evaluating about 10 other candidates. They asked me to make a presentation to a search committee. I did and then waited several weeks while they vetted all the candidates. Then one day I got a call—and they offered me the position. They said they were impressed with my experience and felt they could learn a lot from me.

That was five years ago. Since then I have helped to create a great many programs that assist our parish leaders, catechists and staffers develop their personal and professional skills. I’ve given many presentations in parishes and to Chancery associates. I’ve facilitated numerous meetings with pastors and parish leaders to help guide their planning processes. Basically I have been using the experience and wisdom I gained during my career to help my church. I love what I do and look forward to serving God for many more years into the future.

This story sets the stage for my topic: encore careers.

A new chapter, after retirement

An encore career is the creation of another chapter in life following retirement. For several decades we seniors worked to earn a living and develop a body of experience and wisdom. When we retired, we left all of that behind. In a sense, our retirement resulted in putting our talent and expertise on the shelf.

An encore career provides the opportunity to rekindle your hard-earned experience and wisdom to do something meaningful and rewarding while helping others. It is also possible that your encore career could be a source of additional income.

Research by the MetLife Foundation suggests that as many as 9 million retired Americans are re-engaged in post-retirement careers, and another 31 million Americans want to pursue an encore career.

Find out where you excel

If you have a desire to create an encore career, where do you start? Your first option might be to return to your former career. A great many organizations are bringing back retirees, full- or part-time, to capitalize on experience, stability and work ethic.

If you want to explore other options, try a personal skills assessment to determine your strengths and talents. In the corporate world, the process is called a “SWOT” analysis with the letters standing for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. All you do is identify your strengths (what you’re good at), weaknesses (what you should avoid), opportunities (areas that need your type of skills) and threats (things that might prevent you from following an opportunity).

The principle is that you will get more satisfaction from doing things that come easy for you than doing things that cause you to struggle. The internet provides many examples of SWOT analysis to guide you through the process. (Just search for “SWOT analysis.”)

After you have completed your SWOT analysis, you need to take some additional time and focus more intensely on your highest-level strengths, or the things that you do really well. For instance, some people are blessed with the ability to communicate with excellence, so a natural outlet would be to get involved in something that capitalizes on your outgoing personality; for instance, selling, fund raising or hosting.

Most of us have multiple strengths, but typically one dominant strength stands out and represents a person’s core competency. For instance, when Ted Williams, the Baseball Hall of Famer, was a fighter pilot during World War II, reportedly he had eyes like one in several million people. During training exercises he could count the bullet holes in a target from several hundred yards away. Is it any wonder that he was able to see a 90 mph fastball or the action on a slider or curve? His eyesight was his core competency.

What are the true core competencies?

An accountant’s core competency is not necessarily knowledge of accounting rules and regulations. It is more likely to be analytical skills.

An attorney’s core competency is not necessarily knowledge of the law. It is probably the ability to communicate effectively with a judge or jury.

A professor’s core competency is not necessarily knowledge of a particular academic specialty. It is more likely to be a strong ability to impart knowledge.

A surgeon’s core competency is not necessarily knowledge of the human body. It is more likely to be the ability to diagnose and solve a medical condition.

A mother or father’s core competency is not necessarily rearing children. It is more likely to be their ability to understand the needs of their children.

A management consultant’s core competency is not necessarily a detailed knowledge of a particular industry or specialty. It is more likely the ability to analyze and solve problems.

Finally, an architect’s core competency is not necessarily skills in designing buildings and structures. It is more likely to be the ability to envision something three-dimensionally that does not now exist.

Once you understand your core competency, you will be better able to identify the kind of things that you could do in an encore career that has a better chance of bringing a higher level of satisfaction and personal fulfillment.

Finally, it’s important to determine if you want to find an encore career as a volunteer or to be paid for your experience and wisdom. There are countless opportunities for seniors to volunteer in your parish and community. If you desire to earn additional money, you have to highlight your strengths and core competencies. You can compete effectively against younger candidates because you have wisdom and stability, something that younger people do not yet possess. Use it to your advantage.

If you feel inside that you are under-utilizing your skills in retirement, perhaps it is time for you to investigate an encore career. Let me know if I can help.

Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. To send Bill your thoughts on this and other topics, send an email to