Skip to main content
Visit our new News website at
Friday, September 6, 2013 - 3:38am

WORKING: Encore Careers

We’ve all heard the story of the executive who decides late in life that his real passion is cooking, so he opens a restaurant.

Or how about the lawyer who decides she wants to become an author, so she quits the firm and writes a book.

The cultural buzzwords for these situations abound: reinventing yourself, a second act, an encore career.

“It’s always driven by passion,” said Brandon Smith, a career coach and workplace consultant who is a regular commentator on careers for GPB. “It’s a question of what triggers you to unleash that passion.”

For some (like the aforementioned executive and lawyer), the choice is solely one of following a long-held passion and feeling comfortable enough to take the financial risk. But that’s not always the case, Smith said.

“As we all have seen in this economy, if you’ve got a ‘5’ in front of your age and you’re out of work, it is a tough place to be,” he said. “So we’re seeing encore careers pop up because people just don’t have any other options.”

Nearly 9 million Americans aged 44 to 70 are pursuing an “encore career,” according to the nonprofit, which promotes the idea of older workers finding a new career that’s fulfilling and meets social needs.

Smith said the challenge to getting started down that path is to ignore reality.

“Where people go wrong is they start thinking about, ‘How am I going to make this work? How am I going to get my bills paid? I need to make this amount of money right away,’” he said. “Get your head out of reality and start dreaming first.”

For Smith, that means imagining what the perfect life would look like three to five years in the future, then working back to the present. He said that will make it clear what will be your next steps.

Brandon Smith teaches about leadership, communication, and workplace culture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. More of his advice is on his blog and at While you’re there, ask him your workplace or career question. We might answer you in a future radio segment.