Positioning Clients for Success in Their Encore Careers

By Norma Dávila

Today’s career paths follow more zig-zag than linear patterns, and as a result, job seekers are searching for new opportunities during later life stages. According to the U. S. Department of Labor, the number of workers ages 65 and older has increased by 144% in the past 20 years (Maurer, 2023).

HR Zone defines encore careers as “jobs taken between retirement and old age that balance remuneration, personal meaning, and community and societal impact” (HR Zone, n.d., para. 1). These career changes later in life enable people to keep using their skills and pursuing their interests (Fuse Workforce Management, n.d.).

The Emergence of Encore Careers

Encore careers are becoming more popular among workers who are willing and able to work after their retirement (Intriago, 2021). Workers are seeking encore careers because of changes in population trends, career paths, retirement definitions, financial situations, and social needs (Vantage Aging, 2019).  However, organizations vary in their readiness and openness to welcome these workers.

The expertise of career practitioners gains additional relevance as increasing numbers of older adults make decisions about what they want to do in the future. These clients not only face the typical challenges of job seekers, but also may experience additional levels of insecurity and self-doubt associated with leaving their comfort zones. Practitioners can help them identify potential workplace challenges and emotional roadblocks and provide solutions for moving forward.

Strategies for Clients Considering Encore Careers

The following is a list of concerns common to clients contemplating encore careers, along with some strategies that practitioners can take to support them.

Expectations – Clarifying what clients want to achieve through an encore career is fundamental for an effective strategy and action plan. Beliefs related to time, money and skill development may be different than when the client first entered the workforce. Being realistic about the alignment between what clients want and which organizations are ready to welcome their contributions is critical for their success. 

  • Questions Coaches Can Ask:
    • What are your expectations of an encore career?
    • How do you feel about working with people who are in life stages different from yours?  
    • What are your personal and professional non-negotiables at this stage?
    • How much time do you anticipate having available to work?
  • Actions Coaches Can Take:  Encourage clients to explore different options, such as gig and part-time work. Invite them to talk with the important people in their lives about how to anticipate any unexpected demands on their time. 

Ageism – Acknowledging that ageism exists is the first step to addressing it and the emotions that it can evoke among clients. Typical ageism concerns surround technology and self-esteem.

  • Questions Coaches Can Ask:
    • What advantages and disadvantages do you see in going back to the workforce?
    • What excites you about an encore career?
    • What would you like to contribute at this stage?
    • What can you do to stay up-to-date in your field of expertise?
  • Actions Coaches Can Take: Prepare clients to focus on what they can do to stay apprised of technology and industry trends and to leverage their professional network. Offer tips to protect their privacy online and manage their social media posts. Show them how to research age-friendly employers and employment resources online and through their connections.

Identity – Individuals who have allowed their careers and their roles to define them may face challenges articulating who they are when transitioning to an encore career. Clients are often unaware of what their strengths are, even after years of use.

  • Questions Coaches Can Ask:
    • How would you describe yourself?
    • What are you most proud of?
    • Describe a situation where you felt that you had done your best.  What were the outcomes?
    • What would you like others to remember about you?
  • Actions Coaches Can Take: Encourage clients to describe themselves according to their strengths and successes, instead of their roles. Ask them to identify what they do best, what they like to do, and their unique value propositions. Have them prepare stories focused on the results they obtained and how they contributed to the organization. Coach them to own their achievements.

Leadership – The new workplace demands different leadership styles from those of the past.  

  • Questions Coaches Can Ask:
    • How would you describe your leadership style?
    • How important is it for you to have a leadership role?
    • How would you feel about working in a non-leadership role, or to report to someone younger than you?
  • Actions Coaches Can Take: Encourage clients to research the culture of organizations and seek opportunities in those organizations aligned with their preferred leadership styles.   

Flexibility – Adapting to a changing environment and navigating organizational politics as a newcomer may present challenges, especially for clients familiar with more structured and predictable working environments.

  • Questions Coaches Can Ask:
    • Describe how you have you managed changes in the past.
    • What types of roles are you considering, and how will your strengths and skills be valuable for those roles?
    • How important is earning a recurring income for you? 
    • How comfortable are you with working on a remote or hybrid basis?
  • Actions Coaches Can Take: Guide clients to think about how they adapted to changes in the past and how willing they are to adapt in the future. Identify opportunities for quick wins and successes, such as phased-in retirement, volunteer work, and bridge jobs to acquire new skills before a major career pivot.

Learning – Today’s workforce demands learning, re-learning, and unlearning skills. Some organizations sponsor reverse mentoring, where younger workers share knowledge with older workers, as one way to capitalize on the strengths of different generations (Vozza, 2022).  

  • Questions Coaches Can Ask:
    • What new skills might you need for your next role?
    • What type of time commitment can you make to gain those new skills or learn new technology?
  • Actions Coaches Can Take: Initiate conversations about learning styles, openness to learning, readiness to unlearn previously adaptive behaviors, and interest in reverse mentoring. Create action plans to help clients obtain and practice new skills.

Istock 1186109757 Credit Inside Creative House

Positioned For Success

With proper planning and strategizing, encore careers can be a good option for older workers. By helping clients focus on their strengths, modify their expectations, and have open conversations about the current job market, career practitioners can position them for success.   



Fuse Workforce Management. (n.d.). What employers need to know about encore careers. https://www.fuseworkforce.com/blog/what-employers-need-to-know-about-encore-careers

HRZone. (n.d.). What is an encore career? https://www.hrzone.com/hr-glossary/what-is-an-encore-career

Intriago, J. (2021, May 3). Forging an encore career as a senior. Seasons. https://www.seasons.com/forging-an-encore-career-as-a-senior/2492339/

Maurer, R. (2023, March 16). Older workers are ‘unretiring.’ What can employers do to welcome them back? SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/Older-Workers-Unretiring-What-Can-Employers-Do-Welcome-Back-Retirees-Boomerangs-Mature-Workers.aspx

Vantage Aging. (2019, Jan. 2). 5 reasons people choose an encore career. https://vantageaging.org/blog/reasons-choose-encore-career/

Vozza, S. (2022, Feb. 9). The power of reverse mentoring. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/reverse-mentoring.aspx


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Norma Davilla

Norma Dávila, Ph.D., CPRW, CPCC, is a fully bilingual/bicultural developmental psychologist and certified career management coach and résumé writer. She has more than 15 years of experience in handling changes across the lifecycle and over 10 years providing career management services. She specializes in addressing the unique needs of clients who are in their mid-careers, exploring new fields, and in senior roles in Puerto Rico and stateside. Norma is the co-author of three books on employee engagement, succession planning, and employee onboarding. She may be reached at normadavila47@gmail.com or at linkedin.com/in/norma-davila

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Ray Giese   on Tuesday 08/01/2023 at 09:38 PM

Nice perspectives regarding encore careers. I am an example. After 35 years in corporate sales I decided to “retire”, become certified in career counseling, and help high schoolers and young adults achieve grater career clarity and satisfaction. There is need for all talents - why put them on the shelf? Let everyone share in your expertise!

Norma Davila   on Thursday 08/03/2023 at 09:52 AM

Thank you for sharing your experience with your encore career, Ray! We need to hear from professionals like you who have decided to stay active in the workforce in a different way.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.