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Encore Careers Marry Money and Meaning

07/10/2014

HR Magazine featured Pace's Encore Transition Program in an article on June 23 by Robert J. Groossman. The article profiles Pace President Stephen J. Friedman.

From HR Magazine:

After spending years advancing in their careers, many older employees debut in second acts that combine purpose with a paycheck.

When Gregg Broome lost his job as the top HR executive with a global insurance firm, he figured he’d find a new one without too much trouble. He’d been in high-level HR roles for almost 40 years, including 15 as director of compensation and international mobility at Goldman Sachs. But he was approaching his 60th birthday, and his attempts to network were unsuccessful. “I was not prepared for the incredible age bias,” he says. “There was so much supply with people like me that search firms were not being civil—not even returning phone calls.”

Reluctantly, Broome began exploring other options, including starting over with a job in a different field. Though financially secure, he wasn’t ready for retirement.

Broome didn’t realize it at the time, but he was confronting a situation that thousands of older workers—professional and blue-collar alike—are facing. Either by choice or necessity, they’re taking new paths, and some are choosing so-called encore careers, or second acts that combine continued income with the promise of meaningful work.

“They need the money and the meaning,” says Marc Freedman, CEO of Encore.org in San Francisco, and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife (PublicAffairs, 2012).

Freedman has been striving to match older, experienced workers with meaningful opportunities for more than 15 years. These individuals represent low-hanging fruit for nonprofit employers desperate for seasoned talent, he says. Freedman helped develop AARP’s Experience Corps, which matches retirees with volunteer opportunities, and then he created Encore.org, a think tank aimed at helping older workers find paid work in new areas, often in the nonprofit arena.

Although some employers have started to grasp the benefits of hiring experienced older employees for jobs at all levels, many others have not.

“The mismatch between [the number of] those who want to move into encore careers and the [number of] opportunities is kind of outrageous,” Freedman says. “Compounding the problem, so many are stuck, fumbling forward because the pathways are confusing and poorly marked.”

Broome was one of the lucky ones. When he dialed back his corporate job search and began looking for alternatives, he discovered a fellowship program that led to his second act at a nonprofit that helps financially vulnerable families.

Big Supply, Lagging Demand

Logical employers for encore careerists include more than 330,000 501(c)(3) public charities, many of which focus on the arts, education, health care and human services. Yet even with plenty of potential encore career candidates available—the youngest of the enormous Baby Boomer generation will turn 50 this year, and 8,000 of them reach 65 every day—many organizations either have not figured out how to leverage their talent or lack sufficient resources to acquire it.

“The big bottleneck is on the demand side,” says Michael Sabatino, managing director of financial planning and education at McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union in East Windsor, N.J. “Nonprofits don’t really know what to do with these people.”

Most nonprofits are constrained financially and, as a result, become masters of multitasking and thus aren’t looking for as much specialized talent. HR coverage is a prime example. In a recent survey conducted by Nonprofit HR Solutions, a Washington, D.C., consulting company, only 12 percent of nonprofits had someone dedicated solely to HR.

Kim Wisckol, HR Director, Partners in School Innovation

First Act: Wisckol spent 22 years as an HR executive at Hewlett-Packard and at Accuray Inc., a radiation oncology company in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Second Act: Deciding she was ready for a change, she accepted a $25,000 fellowship through Encore.org with Partners in School Innovation, a 50-employee agency that helps to improve learning in underperforming schools in San Francisco. She was attracted by the flexibility of the assignment and the challenges of the work. Her expertise was readily transferable to the nonprofit environment. A month before her fellowship was set to end, she approached her bosses. “I know what you need from the HR world,” she told them. “All I need is the greatest possible flexibility.” Looking back, she observes, “It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.”

Perception vs. Reality

Even nonprofits with ample resources often shy away from encore talent. Some question the sincerity of individuals’ sudden interest in the organization. “They haven’t been committed to the cause from the outset,” says Leslye Louie, national director of the Encore Fellows program at Encore.org. “That causes hesitation: ‘Will they be here when the going gets tough?’ ” Anxieties about age loom as well. Can they keep up? Are they resistant to technology? How well will they relate to younger staff?

Those fears are grounded more in myth than reality. “You can get people who are open- or closed-minded at any age, and the technology gap for encore-age workers hasn’t existed for years,” Louie says. In addition, many organizations have found the synergism of intergenerational workforces to be an advantage rather than a drawback.

Nonprofits should look beyond stereotypes, says Jere King, a former vice president of marketing at Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif. “The primary selling point is access to talent they might not be able to find or afford,” she says. “Nonprofits should think about their skills gaps and look for encore talent who can get them to the next level.” King held a fellowship position through Encore.org at Abilities United, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based nonprofit serving children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Stephen Friedman, President, Pace University

First Act: Friedman is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and a former commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Despite his incredible resume, his initial attempts to find a new opportunity in midlife were unsuccessful. He knows how humbling it can be to search for a career later in life. “The typical person feels kind of at sea,” he says. “I was a practicing lawyer coming up against mandatory retirement.”

Second Act: After an acquaintance suggested he try higher education, Friedman landed an appointment as dean of Pace University’s Law School. Then, in 2007, while many in his age group were out playing golf, the Pace trustees appointed him president. Now in his 70s, he is passionate about helping people move into encore careers. He founded Pace University’s Encore Transition Program.

... HR’s Opportunity

On the corporate side, HR could be doing more to help employees who may want to consider a second career. “People are leaving, whether they want to or not, and I’m not sure how much guidance they’re actually getting,” says Joan Tucker, program director of Pace University’s Encore Transition Program in New York. “If we could catch them at the stage where they are beginning to look forward, we could help them prepare.”

View the full article.