I recently had the honor of delivering a commencement speech, but this wasn’t your typical college graduation. The students were 23 people in their 50s. They’d just completed Encore! Hartford, a University of Connecticut workforce development program designed to help seasoned corporate professionals transition into encore careers through managerial positions in the nonprofit sector.
Here are some of the things I said to them; maybe they’ll help inspire you to get your own encore career under way:
Before I get into offering advice for the Encore! Hartford graduates, I’ve got to quickly point out how wonderful it is to look out into this audience and see all of you graduates sitting alongside your proud children! It’s a nice twist on the usual graduation, where parents beam as they watch their children accept their diplomas.
(MORE: Where to Get Help Launching Your Encore Career)
I want to briefly share a little bit about my own story and why Encore! Hartford is so near to my heart.
I first heard about encore careers in 2007. I was a workplace columnist for The New York Times and wrote a piece about the book Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life by Marc Freedman. The book introduced me to a big new idea: that many people hitting midlife are seized with the urge to make a difference in the world and are going through some kind of reinvention to do it.
My Twisting Career
This issue hit me professionally and personally. I had lived through a big career change myself, having abandoned corporate law to become a journalist in my 30s because I wanted more purpose in my life.
In 2008, I faced yet another career upheaval, only this time it wasn’t my choice. The New York Times abruptly canceled my Shifting Careers column and blog; they were extremely popular, but I was an expensive freelancer and the media industry was trying to figure out its own survival.
I was blindsided. After all, I was tweeting. I was on the cutting edge. I was also devastated and embarrassed. Remember, I was a workplace expert who was now out of a job.
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