More than 8 million Americans between 44 and 77 are embarking on new careers. And new research from the nonprofit Civic Ventures estimates that by 2018 there will be 3.5 million more jobs in health care and social services, 800,000 new education jobs and 400,000 nonprofit ones. These jobs build on work and life experiences, making them good matches for career changers. • But career expansion takes place in every sector, and many are following their passions into creative fields. • Take Rick Mofina. The former journalist became a novelist and has since written 11 thrillers. It helped, of course, that he was able to draw on his reporting experiences, including covering a serial-killing case in California and an armored car heist in Las Vegas. • "We've all had adventures that could turn out to be useful in our work lives," says Mofina, whose latest novel, The Panic Zone, features a reporter sent on a dangerous assignment investigating the murder of two of his colleagues. • But you don't need to be a jet-setting journalist to consider an encore career. Here are some tips for anybody deciding what's next:
For love or money: Determine if your savings will allow you to embark on a new career without return on investment. If so, be adventurous and follow passions. If not, seek to use your existing skills in new ways.
Narrow your search: Ask for informational interviews with different organizations to determine where you might fit within a new field. For example, business-minded professionals seeking to help kids might be ideal for nonprofit management positions.
Dig deep: Draw creatively on previous experiences. "Our lives might seem compartmentalized, but every experience informs the others," says Mofina, whose interaction with two CIA agents in Jamaica turned into a fiction plotting device. You may be surprised at how many experiences you've had that you can leverage into a new career.
Find a mentor: Just as you have helpful knowledge for someone starting out, someone younger may be able to teach you a thing or two. For example, a senior could learn computer skills from a recent college grad in return for sharing knowledge of an industry.
Tap resources: Join professional organizations in fields that interest you. Subscribe to newsletters or trade magazines. Websites like encore.org also can help with free career resources.
Know thyself: Do you want to work a few hours weekly, or are you willing to toil hard to launch a business or writing career? The beauty of an encore career is you now have a choice. "My alarm is set for 4:30 a.m.," says Mofina, who also works as a communications adviser and writes on the bus to work. "But I wouldn't be able to stop doing this if I tried."