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Women of all ages compete in the Boston Marathon. Read The Spirit uses new media to explore religion, spirituality and values. Many of our readers and writers also are in the forefront of this creative work. Together, we’re trying to survive the collapse of traditional print media–and keep important resources in faith and values flowing toward the countless men and women seeking this life-giving information each day.
Occasionally, we invite other professionals to contribute stories about their work toward these goals. Today, we welcome Lynne Schreiber, a new-media marketing consultant, to tell us about work with her client Allison Stuart Kaplan. Their work on an “encore career” couldn’t be more timely! If that’s the first time you’ve heard “encore career,” then read this article–and watch the video of Jane Pauley at the end. Millions of older Americans are getting back into the work force, including Jane Pauley, because they realize that their life’s work simply isn’t finished.
From Journalism & Fitness
To Connection & Stronger Communities
By Lynne Meredith Schreiber
In the first 25 years Allison Stuart Kaplan led women in fitness classes and one-on-one personal training, she couldn’t help but tear out articles to share with them. Real-world information backed up their lofty desire for change: change in their appearance, their relationships and their whole approach to the world. Women would walk down the steps to the private gym in her suburban home and pass stacks of these copied handouts she encouraged them to take.
“I would listen to the concerns and the fears of my clients and feel for them, truly, from somewhere deep inside,” says Kaplan, a 50-year-old fitness leader in metro Detroit who has lived more lives than most women at the half-century mark. “I knew that most of the women I worked with, no matter how deeply they felt the need or desire to change their lives, would never get there. It wasn’t from a lack of desire or a lack of motivation or a lack of tools. It was because it is so hard to make lasting change–even as we know how important it is.”
Kaplan is slim, fit, hard-bodied and soft at the same time. Her smooth skin carries the typical wear of five decades of life but she glows with sunshine that has sunk in and stayed. At 50, Kaplan is making her own changes. She stopped copying articles and started producing original content on a website where she vows to never be silent, mousy or demure:Â ASKInYourFace.com, so-named for her initials (ASK) and her desire to be in-your-face as a motivating force to empower women.
Allison Stuart KaplanIt’s a labor of love, though one that Kaplan hopes will one day generate income–or at least pay for itself. She assumes she’ll never get rich off this online project, even though it demands her energies at least half of every day–and into most nights.
“It would be nice to recoup my investment, but this was never about money,” says Kaplan. “At this point in my life, meaning is much more valuable to me–I want to make a difference. And this is my way of trying.”
Millions of Americans Allison’s age and older are launching “encore careers,” work that combines income with meaning, community and social responsibility. This idea has been spreading for a while and now the phrase “encore careers” is showing up on the lips of an ever-growing number of celebrities, including Jane Pauley.
As recently as two decades ago, the vast majority of Americans assumed they would have lifetime careers, which they expected came with loyalty, job stability and financial security. A career change after the mid-40s was considered irresponsible, selfish and even indulgent.
No more. The undercurrent of today’s economic landscape is the need to evolve, to expand and to redefine oneself and one’s work constantly. When I began my journalism career in the early 1990s, the landscape was grounded in paper and the Internet was a pipe dream. I wrote for publications at bare-bones salaries and then ventured off into a decade-long freelance career that gave me the opportunity to be buoyant and scrappy–skills I would need to reinvent myself professionally in the middle of this turbulent decade.
Now, I work with companies as a publicist and marketing consultant, advising them on the myriad ways they can get before the paying public and convey their message in a captivating way. Kaplan is a client.
I tell everyone I work with that it’s a death knell to wager your future solely on launching a website. There isn’t enough revenue in a new website to fully support a professional staff. There has to be a tiered effort in today’s business climate, embracing social media, using its many tools and opportunities, and also making good selective use of age-old print practices and never forgetting the power of face-to-face.
Kaplan understands this. Her website is a hub–packed with virtual personalities moving readers toward real-life activities like a 10,000-step, walk-for-your-health initiative and real-person connections through local businesses and charitable events. What Kaplan is selling is empowerment, encouragement and community that readers learn about at the website and expand into their own lives in various ways.
“Any new business is a risky proposition,” says Kaplan. “You might think it’s even more risky at midlife–but actually, I think this is the perfect time to venture into something new. I don’t have any of the hang-ups of my earlier years and I’ve already fallen on my ass a million times. If I fall again, I know I won’t break. But I also know that I could succeed beyond even my wildest dreams. Getting older doesn’t strip you of your ability to dream or of your idealism. It makes you more resilient, more determined and better able to plow ahead.
“When we’re younger–in our 20s, 30s, even 40s–we focus on what we’re doing day-to-day: our children, our work, how to make ends meet. And there’s a certain amount of anxiety and selfishness that comes with it,” she says.
Kaplan createdÂ ASKInYourFace.com to “reach out in a more powerful, direct and personal way–to help women and to help the community,” she says. “It’s energizing. It’s given me a whole different purpose in life–it takes the focus off of me. … Everyone was put on this Earth with certain gifts.”
That’s a good summary of what’s fueling encore careers. Kaplan’s focus on the community includes her support of the HAVEN Garden Project (an organic community garden to feed the residents of a domestic violence shelter) and Kadima (a Jewish mental health organization). Doing good begets doing good–and the journey becomes the destination.
Fees from a collection of advertisers on her website are beginning to pay the costs of running it, but Kaplan doesn’t yet know whether she will turn a profit. “Whether I turn a profit or not is not going to determine whether I continue on with this website,” says Kaplan. The key to success in a new midlife career, she says, is taking it one day at a time and focusing on what is right in front of you.
“I’m so dedicated to my passion of reaching out to women–profit or not, I’m not stopping,” Kaplan says. “I always find a way to persevere. And I will with this. You never give up on your passion no matter what.”
In midlife, says Kaplan, the point of working is not to amass one’s life fortune. “All my needs are met. I’m not looking for material indulgences. The point now is to find meaning and to make meaning. To build a better world. It’s not about me anymore–it’s about leaving a sustainable legacy for future generations. I can take risks at this age because I have nothing to lose.”
And everything to gain.
Care to read more about encore careers and hear from Jane Pauley?
- ReadTheSpirit’s 10 Founding Principles:Â Intrigued by our introduction today? This list of 10 principles, which continue to guide our work, ranks as the most-read article among the 1,000s in our online magazine.
- Want to read a nuts-and-bolts industry analysis of encore career patterns? EHS Today online magazine, which covers emerging occupational issues for employers, published this May 25 summary of some of the major issues.
- Finally, listen to Jane Pauley herself! You should see a video screen below where you can watch a 3-minute video of Jane Pauley talking about her own encore career involving new media for AARP.
Lynne Meredith Schreiber has written five books and many articles for major magazines.Â She is Chief Creative Officer of Your People LLC, a company that provides community-focused marketing and public relations.