Public Sector Trends
The Encore Career
Mark F. Weinberg
Aging baby boomers, coupled with early retirement incentives designed to reduce salary loads, are swelling the ranks of retired public service professionals. Despite this crop of 60’s era retirees’ declaration that they would not toil into their advanced years like their parents’ generation, and notwithstanding generous pensions, many pursue encore careers. Motives may include bolstering financial security, sharing the wisdom and knowledge gained from decades of experience, or merely remaining active and vibrant.
Whatever the reasons, freedom from the constraints of supporting young families and building financial security for the future, encore careers can provide opportunities that are both unique and deeply satisfying. They can include self-employment, full-time, part-time or temporary employment or consulting. Travel or relocate. Work principally with your hands instead of your mind. Sell, teach, mentor, intern or apprentice. Convert a hobby or a passion into a business. Abandon the city for the country. Leave the ground and take to the skies. Join the circus.
Because whatever you do as an encore career, it should be both liberating and fulfilling.
Like so many others, I chose the less glamorous but practical and still-agreeable option of going back to my public service roots following my 2005 retirement as a City Manager. I found that not all respect has been ceded to youth and giving back is as gratifying as billed. I learned there is truth in the adage “an expert is a fool who is a long way from home”----and realized that the liberation accompanying encore careers cuts both ways.
Unencumbered by overarching concerns about career advancement or job security, those engaged in encore careers can exercise greater creativity and take more risk in pursuing uncharacteristically ambitious goals. Bold leadership can replace a formerly more reserved and measured approach. Diplomacy can be exchanged for increased candor. Working relationships, once guarded, can be nurtured in new and gratifying ways. Though not always, these fresh approaches can be transformative for both government and private organizations in a very positive way. Personal and professional rewards can be unparalleled.
And, now for the second cut. Curiously, I found a more compelling need to be relevant, to be furnished with required resources, to enjoy strong prospects for success, and to avoid petty politics and suffering fools. Not surprisingly, impatience with the less desirable elements of the job and its working conditions became far more difficult to temper. When entertaining an encore career with a new element of independence, some reflection of personal expectations and requisite mindsets should be carefully undertaken. You owe it to yourself and (if working for others) your employers.
Encore career counseling, advice and networking is often available through professional associations, social organizations and employment agencies. Workshops abound. In government, state leagues of cities often have “range rider” programs. Executive recruiters devoted to the public sector sometimes facilitate interim appointments. If retired from a public employee retirement system, be sure to consult the system for post retirement employment restrictions.