Working Transitions

Encore for the Labour Party front bench: Tips to secure a second career in later life

The veteran MP Paul Flynn has, at the age of 81, become the oldest person to serve on the front bench since Gladstone.  Not only that, he has been appointed to cover two briefs (Shadow Leader of the Commons and Shadow Welsh Secretary).

Whilst some may argue this meteoric rise has as much to do with Labour’s current problems than a concerted diversity project by the Labour leadership, it nevertheless is an interesting move for both the Labour Party and Flynn himself, something he is all too aware of.

In fact this is not necessarily something we should be surprised about.  It is actually something of a new phenomena, first seen in America, but now common in the UK too. That of the “Encore Career”.

Loosely speaking , an encore career is defined as  work in the second half of life that combines continued income, greater personal meaning, and social impact. These jobs are paid positions often in public interest fields, such as education, the environment, health, the government sector, social services, and other not for profits.

But before you start to move to your encore career, as with any career transition, you need to plan:

  1. Consider your strengths and the key skills that you have learnt in your professional career.  Which ones are transferable.  Also think about what motivates you.
  2. Immerse yourself in the industry you want to move in to.  Research online, set up alerts and read the industry specific news.
  3. Start by identifying any connections you might already have in your professional networks who can help you get into your target industry.
  4. Networking, whether online via LinkedIn Groups etc or physical events are a great way to learn more and make valuable connections.
  5. Volunteering is a great way to get exposure and experience.  It also serves as a “try before you buy” approach.  Many organisations offer internships, and whilst conventional thinking has been to assume these are for young people, that is not the case (both legally and in practice <link to our blog in internships for over 50’s>).  If you can undertake these whilst still working in your full-time profession, the transition will be easier and smoother.
  6. You need to keep up to date with technology, especially social media.  Nobody will expect you to be snapchatting whilst changing filters on Instagram, but they will expect you to know what that means! Linkedin is a must; Facebook and Twitter similarly are useful. If you have any other technological areas where you are weak, you need to address them.  It will be assumed that you can use word, PowerPoint and excel in most work places.
  7. Whilst there will be some appreciation of your age, you don’t want to conform to stereotypes.  Being current, appearing energetic and having bags of enthusiasm, will all help you get ahead.
  8. Research shows that in the USA securing an encore career can take between 1 – 2 years on average.  Like any personal transition it can be tough and challenging.  Whilst Al Gore may have transitioned from politics to climate change and environmentalism easily, he was in a more privileged position.  You need to make sure you have bags of resilience.
  9. Whilst a quarter of UK students are defined as “mature” most of these are still in their 20’s.  In the US they have seen a huge increase in the number of encore students.  If you have the money and the research shows it would help, thinking about going to university may help.  You are unlikely to be alone.
  10. Specific career coaching will help you address areas where you need support.  Giving you a sense of control over your transition, career support will ensure success is more likely, whether that be practical advice around networking, CV presentation, applications etc or more career planning and coaching type advice, anything tailored to you can only benefit you.

Whilst Paul Flynn is perhaps starting his career older than one would normally consider an encore career to begin (after all he will be 85 at the time of the next general election in 2020), with life expectancy increasing and pensions becoming less lucrative, many people will find themselves in this position and turn to second careers. The encore career is here to stay and is likely to grow significantly over the coming decades.


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Working Transitions
05 July 2016
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