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Redefining Ambition In The Second Half Of Life

A road sign pointing to different directions. They all say Learning.

Each month, Marci Alboher, a Vice President of—a nonprofit that helps people find meaningful careers in their second half of life—will share ideas and strategies for experienced job seekers. This is an excerpt from her book, The Encore Career Handbook.

Many people in midlife and beyond have told me that they feel they have less to prove in their careers than in earlier life stages. As a result, they say they’re able to focus more on the impact of their work than on climbing the ladder, and they’re fueled less by ego than by knowing their work has meaning.

This adjustment doesn’t always come naturally. Wendy Bay Lewis, a lawyer-turned-nonprofit-leader, decided that her encore career – her second act – would be as a coach helping others find their encores while also continuing her work promoting economic development in Bozeman, Montana.

One of the challenges for her is letting go of her orientation toward “accomplishing” or “winning” – which was borne out by her choices of work, first as a lawyer and then as a fund-raiser. In both cases, she said, “There are lots of hard measurements and colleagues who use the same measuring sticks.” These days, particularly as she recovers from a breast cancer recurrence, she said she is much more oriented toward finding colleagues who focus on helping people.

Lewis said it’s still a work in progress. For example, she was having doubts about whether she could call herself a success if a client hadn’t landed a job. Her mentor convinced her that she could be making an impact even if she was the catalyst for a client taking the next step, or becoming aware of possibilities. Lewis said she continually has to remind herself that personal growth and fulfillment may be the most important measuring sticks for this time of life.

I’ve seen this scenario play out in other ways. You can:

  • Focus on mentoring and allow someone else to grab the spotlight (Check out a great example in this short video about Boston Children’s Chorus founder Hubert Jones.)
  • Trade a big title for a chance to work on the part of the work that most engages you
  • Give up a management or leadership position and instead choose to work in a more grassroots way

About The Author


Marci Alboher is a Vice President of, a nonprofit making it easier for millions of people to move into encore careers. She is the author of the newly released Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life (Workman 2013).

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