3 steps for starting an encore career
So you’ve taken a bow and stepped off the stage, gracefully completing your long and successful career. But just like a musician giving a concert, the show’s only over if you want it to be. You can always come back for an encore.
Many executives come out of retirement — or dodge it completely — because they know they’ve got more left to do. Encore careers can take many forms.
For Vistage CEO coaches George Glover and Niels Lameijer, who both had held chief executive roles, the choice was simple: executive coaching.
Here’s what their encore careers mean to them, and a few tips to help decide which kind of second act may be best for you.
What is an encore career?
For most people, an encore career begins after the first has ended, whether that means coming out of retirement or beginning a new path immediately after an exit. It’s for people who feel like they still have more to give — or who aren’t content sitting still.
Glover ran into that feeling during a nine-month sabbatical he took to support his wife’s battle with cancer. In between getting his wife to appointments and bussing his kids to swim meets, he found himself with a lot of free time. “I was missing something,” he says. “I don’t do well if every day is a Saturday.”
When a Vistage recruiter contacted him about getting into executive coaching, Glover knew right away it was the kind of fulfilling work he had been itching for. And so, his encore career began.
Lameijer, on the other hand, never left the figurative stage before returning for his encore. For him, it was just a change in direction that meant getting to use hard-earned wisdom in a new way.
“It’s about being able to give back, to share some of what I’ve learned, and to guide other leaders into great levels of success,” he explains.
So, how do you find an encore career that resonates with you?
1. Know what you want
An encore career can take you in many directions. When deciding which path to follow, both Glover and Lameijer agree that it’s important to consider what you want to get out of your secondary endeavor.
Do you enjoy the free time of retirement, but want to contribute to ventures that inspire you? Consider joining the board of directors of an organization that interests you and that could benefit from your guidance. You’ll still have plenty of time to hit the golf course on a weekday.
Does additional cash flow matter, or are you happy to volunteer? Getting involved in nonprofit work can be emotionally fulfilling if you’re not concerned with finances. Plus, many nonprofits tackle some of the most pressing and community-oriented issues out there — it’s a great way to leave a lasting legacy.
Or maybe you’ve got a business idea that you never got a chance to launch. Now’s the time to do it — it will likely be a far smoother lift-off now that you’ve got decades of experience under your belt. And it’s never too late to join the entrepreneurial race.
Most importantly, “You have to have a purpose that resonates with you and that you firmly believe in,” Glover says. For both him and Lameijer, that purpose is coaching the next generation of business and community leaders.
2. Embrace community
Over the course of your career, you’ve surely built a robust network and found your place in your community — both professional and personal. When it comes to defining your encore career, that preexisting network is valuable. Leveraging it is a great way to find the kinds of opportunities you’re looking for.
For many former execs figuring out their next step, the most appealing opportunities are centered around giving back. For Glover, that was the No. 1 motivation behind his return to the workplace.
Lameijer also sees this advantage in executive coaching. “When you get to work with somebody longer, you really get to make an impact.”
And that impact, he says, reaches not only the CEOs he coaches but also all their employees — and even their families — who benefit from having a growing, confident, and well-balanced leader. “It’s a ripple effect.”
The rewards run in both directions. Glover and Lemeijer both consider it a privilege to work with what Lameijer calls “the top athletes of the business world.” Knowing that their guidance helps shape the next class of executives is gratifying.
“With Vistage, there’s a really high passion for the work and a deep caring for the community,” Lemeijer says. “That’s something that really attracted me.”
3. Be intentional
“The No. 1 thing in terms of preparing for an encore performance is intentionality,” Glover says. An encore career, even if it’s not full-time, should be approached with the same amount of care and dedication as an initial career.
For Glover, that means giving his full attention to his mentees, which sometimes entails turning down other offers and opportunities. “If I say yes to all these other things, that means I’m saying no to spending more time serving my members,” he says.
It’s the same for Lemeijer. He recommends researching whatever possibility most attracts you before going all-in. Talking to people who are already doing the kind of work you’re considering or immersing yourself in the community before sealing the deal are great ways to make sure it’s a good fit and something you can truly commit to.
At a concert, the encore is often the best song of the night. If you go into your encore career knowing your strengths and how best to use them, it just might end up being your greatest hit, too.