5 Red-Hot Second-Act Careers

new career older workersBy Susan Johnston

Although it can be to daunting to transition into a new career after decades in a different field, some professions are actually looking for experienced workers with well-rounded knowledge and experience.

Any type of role that involves coaching or mentoring can play to the strengths of more seasoned workers, explains Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers and vice president at Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work, and social purpose.

"People who are on the older side are attractive candidates to a lot of organizations," agrees Alexandra Levi, a workplace consultant and author of Blindspots: 10 Business Myths You Can't Afford to Believe. "They've got so many contacts to help get things done. They've got great management skills. By the time you're 45 or 50, you're able to cope with conflict and difficult situations."

In fact, here are five career paths fields where having a long resume doesn't make you overqualified – on the contrary, it can make you quite desirable:


As baby boomers age, emerging jobs like medication specialist and home modification specialist will help serve their needs. "These kinds of things make it easier for people to age in place," says Alboher. "There's a huge amount of expansion of roles that didn't exist years ago, where having experienced some health issues of you own and having compassion can help." The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2008 and 2018, health care will generate more jobs (3.2 million) than any other industry.

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Workers who've amassed a lifetime of wisdom and knowledge are ideally suited for roles in traditional classrooms and online education programs, which are gaining popularity. According to a data released by Babson Survey Research Group, more than 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term. In addition to college courses, "the whole idea of life-long learning is going to create a whole new category of jobs around adult education," says Alboher. And as Levit adds, teaching online is "great for flexibility if you're in the twilight stage of your career."

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Nonprofit Management

Although competition can be stiff for positions at nonprofits, a 2009 study released by The Bridgespan Group concluded that nonprofit organizations are struggling with a leadership deficit, created in part by retiring boomers, and that many value workers with for-profit experience. "They've got the maturity, the insight, the Rolodex," says Levit. "A nonprofit is going to find this desirable, especially if the person has been in a high place." Volunteering is one pathway to nonprofit positions, and Civic Ventures has a program called Encore Fellows to match experienced professionals with organization.

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Green Jobs

Job opportunities in the growing green energy and environmental industries include solar power engineers, recycling facility managers, and energy auditors. "I don't think we're ever going to stop seeing demand for creative solutions to our energy problem," says Alboher. "People who have the right skills should certainly be thinking about green careers." According to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts, between 1998 and 2007, clean energy economy jobs grew by 9.1 percent compared to 3.7 for total jobs.

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In addition to pursuing new career opportunities in industries that value their knowledge, experienced workers are also starting their own businesses. "People are going to be moving into entrepreneurship and self-employment both by desire and necessity," says Alboher. "Many people are coming up with some idea to meet a need in their community that has to do with an aging population or health issues." According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, the 55-64 age group made up nearly 23 percent of entrepreneurs in 2010 compared to 14.5 percent in 1996.

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