Over 50 and looking for a job to serve the greater good? You’re not alone

In our recent job seeker survey we discovered that 30% of job seekers are over the age of 50. We invited Encore.org, a nonprofit that helps people find meaningful careers in their second half of life, to talk about what this means for job seekers and organizations.

by Marci Alboher, Vice President, Encore.org

It’s no surprise that Idealist’s recent research shows an increase in the over-50 crowd searching for nonprofit jobs. Some feel it’s time to give back after years of other kinds of success. Others are done with the for-profit sector – after it decided to be done with them.

Still others have always worked in cause-oriented environments and are ready for new challenges. According to the latest Encore.org research, 9 million people ages 44 to 70 are in encore careers – second acts for the greater good – and another 31 million are interested in launching their own encores.

Dick Goldberg is one of those 9 million. And he’s one of the lucky ones: He landed in just the right place.

Though over the age of 50, Dick Goldberg found a great nonprofit career opportunity. (Photo Credit: Dick Goldberg)

An accomplished playwright and screenwriter, Goldberg wrote for various television shows, including the hit comedy “Kate & Allie,” in the 1980s. In time, Goldberg – also a capable musician – began using his skills to contribute to causes he cared about.

He wrote and directed a cabaret fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; created a video about Philadelphia history for the Franklin Institute’s launch of its Imax theater; penned sermons for rabbis on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League. He felt increasingly drawn to make this kind of work more central to his life.

Offhandedly, he told his daughter, a “social activist who gets things done,” that if the right nonprofit job came along, he’d take it. She suggested he start looking around on Idealist.org.

The first time he browsed the site, he saw a posting for a job at Coming of Age, an initiative that helps boomers become volunteers and helps nonprofits best use the talents of the 50-and-older set: “My approach was fairly narcissistic,” he recalled. “I’m doing that and loving that. So clearly that’s what we all should be doing.”

When Goldberg was hired at 57, he was a natural fit for an organization whose mission was to help people 50-plus figure out next steps and connect and contribute to their communities. “I was all about that and had an inside view,” he told me.

Meanwhile, is the rest of the nonprofit sector ready to embrace 50- and 60-year olds, and are 20- and 30-somethings eager to work alongside people who remind them of their parents – or grandparents? Would Goldberg have received a warm welcome in a tech-driven environment loaded with 20-something engineers? (In that setting, would a woman be as welcome as a man?)

It depends. But savvy organizations of all kinds (not just in the nonprofit arena) are finding ways to leverage the assets of people in different generations. When a 60-year-old can relate experiences of being in a consciousness-raising group in the ’70s and a 20-year-old can translate those lessons into a viral video campaign, all of us stand to gain.

So let’s start putting pressure on organizations to value age diversity as much as other kinds.

It can start with the job seekers. As you consider your prospects, look around and see who’s in the office. Do you see folks like you – whatever age you are? Ask whether the organization encourages cross-generational mentoring (younger and older employees advising each other in their areas of expertise). Will you be the only one texting – or the only one not on Facebook? Maybe the next Idealist survey can report on the steps nonprofits are taking to best utilize a multigenerational workforce.

Have you seen examples of successful multi-generational workplaces? Or do you have ideas about what nonprofits can do to make the workplace friendlier to all ages? We’d love to hear about them – and so would the millions of people looking for encore careers. So please leave a comment below or email me at info@encore.org. And spread the word!

Marci Alboher is a Vice President of Encore.org, a nonprofit that promotes second acts for the greater good. She is also the author of the forthcoming book, “The Encore Career Handbook – How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life,” to be published by Workman Publishing in January 2013.

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Headlines: Egypt; social enterprise; Boomers’ encore careers

A few of the articles and images that caught our attention this week.


Cyclone Yasi via photohome_uk (Flickr)

Week in photos

And speaking of Egypt…

On another note: “Encore careers” movement grows in U.S.

This Jan. 27 USA Today article (hat tip: Michelle Hynes at Civic Ventures) says, yes, there are economic forces keeping many Boomers from retirement – but more than that, they are marketable, tend to be altruistic, and “desire to work directly with people after careers that were more impersonal.”

We tweeted this and asked for examples, and Jessica Stein tweeted back:

@idealist My mom “retired” from her near 15 yr job as a principal to go teach literacy in the inner city

and then went on:

Tweets from @jessicahstein

Know someone looking to transition into nonprofit work after a career elsewhere? Our free Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers might be helpful.

Social entrepreneurship trends and opportunities

Happy Friday, everyone. Make some good news this weekend.

Send us a headline! In the last 72 hours, did you read something that moved you to action or gave you hope? Leave a comment below or tweet it to us @idealist.

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Nominate an "Encore Careerist" for the Purpose Prize

Nominations for the 2010 Civic Ventures Purpose Prize are due March 5.

The Purpose Prize recognizes outstanding innovators who are working creatively to spearhead significant social change in the second half of life. If you know someone over the age of 60 who has initiated important innovations in an encore career, and who is currently working in a leadership capacity on an initiative to address a major social problem in the United States or abroad, consider nominating them for the prize. Five nominees will be selected to win $100,000 and five more will receive $50,000 as a “down payment on what these 60-plus innovators will do next.”

Previous winners include a doctor and special education teacher who treat victims of terrorism around the world; a psychiatrist who recruits mental health professionals to provide free, confidential counseling to veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families; a computer executive who built a nationwide substance abuse recovery program based on Native American beliefs and traditions; an engineer who created “green” bricks out of fly ash, the residue of coal-fired power plants; and a telecommunications executive who brought broadband to Rutherford County and created an online ordering system that enables local farmers to sell their produce directly to Charlotte restaurants.

Funding for the prize is provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies and The John Templeton Foundation. Nominees must be residents of the United States or a U.S. territory.

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