Many of us, after 20, 30 or more years in one career, find ourselves looking around mid-life for something different. Whether it's from boredom or economic need, a second career — an "encore" career — may be just the answer.
One local organization designed to help people, especially Baby Boomers, find a new passion to pursue is Encore Tampa Bay. And one of the organization's most popular and praised offerings is its half-day What's Next workshops.
For Christine Acosta of Tampa, the journey to a new career began when her 20-year role with American Express ended in 2006. She left the business-to-business corporate sales world to become a family caregiver, then to finish her college degree at the University of Tampa.
A career coach recommended the workshop. "I didn't want to go back to the career I previously had," Acosta, 51, says. "The workshop is all about discovering and rediscovering what motivates you. What's your sweet spot?"
Acosta says she is "a work in progress." Still not fully employed in her encore career, she is taking on special projects, such as being corporate sales director for the upcoming Working Women of Florida annual conference Sept. 11-12 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
She said she learned in the workshop to "explore. Be engaged in groups and organizations that interest you."
In Nanci Cole Odom's 30-year corporate career, she was head of human resources for six different companies in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and, for the last nine years, St. Petersburg, until her position was eliminated about a year ago.
"I had a wonderful HR career; I felt like I made a difference," she said.
Odom, 60, wants to continue to make a difference, and the workshop, which includes manuals and journals, "has been really helpful in giving me structure and a framework to sort through what I want to do when I grow up. I am totally enjoying the journey," she said.
Odom said she believes her new direction will involve using her corporate skills to create more internships and business community opportunities for college graduates with unclear job futures and high student loan debts.
For Plant City financial adviser Mark Gray, 56, the insights of the workshop underscored something he had known for years. Despite an MBA in finance, he worked 25 years as an IT project manager, an arena that offered him opportunity and advancement. When his corporate career ended when he was laid off at age 52 and ordered to train his replacement, he looked toward an encore career working one-on-one with clients young and old.
Gray said he works more hours now than he ever did and enjoys working with clients, helping them plan for retirement or enter a new career. "I'm very passionate about spending time with people."
"I want everyone to have a Plan B," he suggests. "Never plan on having a secure job. That's almost an oxymoron."
Fred W. Wright Jr. is a freelance writer who lives in Seminole. Contact him at email@example.com.