Second Act careers - your questions answered

second act careers the careers company May 30, 2022

Nancy Collamer1 is the Queen of the Second Act Career, having written her seminal book on the subject back in 2013. Meena Anand, CEO and founder of The Careers Company recently spoke to Nancy in a webinar to find out more. To view the recorded webinar in full click here. Here we will look at the ideas put forward in Nancy’s book in relation to some of the other research on Second Act or Encore Careers, including definitions, motivating factors, gender differences and the role of organisations. 

There are various definitions of a Second Act Career. To Nancy the definition is “people over 50 who want or need to work part-time after they retire”. We at the Careers Company however define it as one which is embarked on once an individual has moved away from a full time corporate engagement. Different again is the term Encore Career which is defined by Murphy and Volpe2 (2015) as careers “initiated after achieving some degree of objective success” in a primary career. 

Why do people embark on a Second Act or Encore Career? Possible triggers suggested include the fact that all of us are living longer and therefore both men and women are working longer. There’s also the desire to do something meaningful in mid to later life. As Nancy says, you have “drawn a line in the sand”. You may be past your main income earning years and now looking to do something “more fun, flexible and fulfilling”.

When do people tend to embark on Second Act or Encore Careers? This varies in the literature. While the popular press agrees with Nancy that those pursuing a Second Act or Encore Career are more likely to be in their ‘golden years’, many younger people, particularly women, are embarking on a Second Act or Encore Career, which suggests age is not necessarily a driving factor.


Is the approach to Second Act or Encore Careers genderised? As women tend to be the main caregivers, whether for children and/or elderly parents, this can impact on women’s work choices. Subsequently one key motivator for women is work flexibility. Work flexibility is instead a positive byproduct for men rather than a key motivator in pursuing a Second Act or Encore Career. 

How does one prepare for a Second Act or Encore Career? We at The Careers Company suggest having good career conversations. In conversation with Meena Anand, Nancy Collamer agrees, saying “having good conversations and a lot of different perspectives is so important.” It can be difficult to predict when these conversations will happen so stay alert to opportunity! Nancy recommends having cross-generational conversations as these bring benefits to both parties. 

Nancy’s advice for having a Second Act Career? It’s “never too early!” Nancy recommends giving yourself a “weekly diet” of Second Act inspiration. There are many great websites and books that profile people doing interesting things later in life. For example, a website Nancy herself writes for, Next Avenue, contains many fun and inspiring stories. Attend webinars, continues Nancy. Or even take a targeted vacation to explore an interest. As she says, “you never know how one thing will lead to another”. 

What is the role of organisations in facilitating a Second Act or Encore Career? Nancy reflects that some companies are doing good work in this area, although they may be “few and far between”. Some companies are asking themselves how they can hold on to their older employees, because they realise that “to have a mass exit of their more seasoned employees means they’re going to have a tremendous brain drain”. 

In keeping with the ethos of The Careers Company that change is a two part process involving both the organisation and the individual, Canaff3 (1997) suggests “career counselors can play an important role in educating companies about the benefits of employing the older worker.” She continues that “the career counselor needs to effect change on an organizational level as well as a personal level.” We couldn’t agree more!

We at The Careers Company offer a range of products and services for both organisations and individuals. If you can relate to the information provided in this blog, you might be interested in our appropriately titled Second Act Careers package. To find out more about this product click here. Want to try a free session before committing to a package? Book a discovery call today by clicking here

Watch this space for future blogs from The Careers Company exploring the literature and research on Second Act or Encore Careers! 


 1Second Act Careers: 50+ ways to profit from your passions during semi-retirement by Nancy Collamer, 2013, Random House, New York
2Encore careers: motivating factors for career exit and rebirth by W.M. Murphy and E.H. Volpe, Handbook of Gendered Careers in Management, 2015
3Later Life Career Planning: A New Challenge for Career Counselors by A.L. Canaff, Journal of Employment Counseling/June 1997/Vol. 34


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