Purpose, Passion and a Paycheck  

By Terry D. Portis

          People in their 20s are regularly asked what their major is, or what career they plan to go into. Somewhere along the way we stop asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In recent years, though, people in their 50s and 60s, or even older, are starting new careers, new endeavors and looking to make a difference like never before.

          We’ll call one of these new trends the encore career. The goal of the encore career is to combine purpose, passion and a paycheck. An organization known as Civic Ventures (www.encore.org) is leading this charge. Its philosophy is that the second half of life can be about the freedom to work, not freedom from work.

       Encore careers often involve changing careers and going into fields such as health care, education or nonprofit work. One gentleman told me he always wanted to work with children with disabilities in a special education setting. He decided to contact Anne Arundel Community College’s TEACH Institute and go back to school to make this a reality. He went from, “I’ve always wanted…” to, “Very soon I will be…” His age did not matter, his lifelong dream became a reality.

          There are many other examples of people in their 50s and 60s who could not, before now, afford to teach or work for a nonprofit, using their freedom and resources to go into those fields. Many smaller nonprofits are held back because of the serious lack of executive experience on their staff and boards. They would welcome even a part-time consultant or board member who understands leadership, marketing and strategy.

          As we get older we spend more and more time interacting with health care professionals, either for our own needs or to help care for aging parents. Some people decide that they would like to become one of the caring professionals that have been such a blessing to them and their family. One of the best ways to do this is to work part time or full time in an allied health career.  The term allied health is used to identify a cluster of health professions encompassing as many as 200 health careers. One to two years of training or less will get you into many of these careers.  

          Some may want to return to school for training, but do not know how to get started. Thanks to support from Civic Ventures and the Deerbrook Charitable Trust, Anne Arundel Community College has developed two new short online courses. One goes through the steps for successfully returning to school as an older adult, the other explains the allied health field.

          These new online resources can be found at www.aacc.edu/lifestages and are available without charge. At the end of these courses is a short form to fill out that can connect you to an adviser, or get you more intensive assistance by working with a transition coordinator. There is every reason to pursue your passion, and get a paycheck at the same time!

Dr. Terry Portis is director of the Center on Aging at Anne Arundel Community College. He holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and can be reached at [email protected]

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