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The Work Second Act: What is an Encore Career?

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Last week Top Rated freelancer John K. shared his journey from corporate tech leader to an encore career in freelance voice-over and video production. But what is an “encore career” and where did the term originate?


One wave of people making a splash in the Great Resignation is folks closing the door on one career and starting another.  The term “Encore career” was made popular by Marc Freedman in his book Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life. Freedman is also the Founder and Co-CEO of Encore.org.


Encore.org defines an encore career (or just an “encore”) as “continued work in the second half of life that combines social impact, purpose, and often, continued income.” These roles can be paid jobs or volunteer work and are often more about life stage than physical age. 


According to Encore, “After leaving their midlife careers, 30 million Americans between 44 and 70 want to transition into work that combines personal meaning, social impact, and continued income.”




The work of Encore extends beyond simply finding a new career in the second half of life. For their first 20 years, Encore “worked to change cultural expectations for the years beyond 50 and spark a movement around second acts for the greater good.” In practice, this took the form of a number of legacy programs:

  • The Purpose Prize demonstrated that older people have a lot to offer in the realm of social innovation. In the 10 years that Encore operated the program, they received nearly 10,000 Purpose Prize nominations. Ultimately they recognized more than 500 people and invested $5 million in social innovators over the age of 60. In 2016, The Purpose Prize became part of AARP which continues to champion the cause.
  • Experience Corps connects people over 50 with children in 22 cities with the goal of helping the children to learn to read. In 2011, Experience Corps became part of AARP.
  • The Encore Network champions “the civic, social, and economic contributions of people 50+ by creating community, stimulating learning, and inspiring action to transform the encore stage of life.” In 2010, The Encore Network transitioned to being an independent, nonprofit coalition of leaders, but it continues to partner with Encore to advance its mission.

Like the people they’ve championed, Encore has itself entered into its second act and now “brings older and younger changemakers together to solve problems, bridge divides, and create a better future for all.” Their renewed focus is on leveraging the strengths of different generations and bringing them together to achieve greater success than they could individually. 


This approach acknowledges that older people may not have the same “modern skills” as younger workers, but, in turn, younger generations don’t have the same skills or experience as those over the age of 50.


Encore has developed new programs to support its second act mission: 

  • The Gen2Gen Innovation Fellowship supports the work of people of all ages with ambitious initiatives like racial inequality, climate change, and social isolation.
  • Co-generate! Livestream is an annual ideas festival for younger and older people who are eager to work together for a better future.
  • The Encore Fellowships program matches skilled, seasoned professionals with social sector organizations in high-impact, paid leadership engagements.
  • The Encore Physicians program matches retired physicians with paid, clinical roles in health centers that deliver care to underserved populations.
  • The Encore Intergenerational Vaccine Corps helps to vaccinate low-income residents in health centers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

With each of Encore’s programs, it’s easy to see how their mission is about much more than finding a second career. There’s also an element of finding purpose and doing good while still earning needed income. 


The second half of life can provide an opportunity to change more than just your field of work. In some cases, as with Encore Physicians, it’s not even a matter of changing fields, but rather finding new ways to contribute to one’s community.


Whether it’s burnout, “boreout”, or something else that leads to the end of one career, the second act can be just as - or even more - rewarding than the first.


Would you consider pursuing an encore later in life? If you already have, what has your experience been?

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