Could an Encore Career be in your future? How do you transition to a second career with purpose? Our guest, Ruth Wooden, is in her encore career – and it led her to create a program to help others build their own encore careers.
Ruth joins us from Hawaii.
Ruth Wooden retired in 2011 from her career in communications in both the commercial and nonprofit sectors. In retirement, she went back to grad school and received an MA in religious studies from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. That experience led her to design a non-degree class for adults 55 plus – the Encore Transition Program – which combines discernment about aging and spirituality and experiential social justice opportunities in the nonprofit, religious or public sectors.
Ruth Wooden’s career encompassed 30 years of experience in marketing and advertising, including serving for 12 years as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Advertising Council, the leading producer of public service communications programs in the United States. She also served as President of Public Agenda, which was founded in 1975 by former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and social scientist Daniel Yankelovich to help citizens better understand critical policy issues and to help the nation’s leaders better understand the public’s point of view.
Before serving as Public Agenda’s President, she was Senior Counselor at the international communications firm, Porter Novelli and she also served as the volunteer coordinator of the “Madison Avenue” advertising team for the Presidential Campaign of Senator Bill Bradley.
Ruth Wooden also served as the Board Chair of Encore.org, the leading voice in research and advocacy for building a movement to tap the skills and experiences of those in midlife and beyond.
“This was the one and that really clued us into service or community activism as a definer of the Encore stage, the Encore ethic, the Encore movement. It isn’t just about what you do in your Encore stage. Say at 60 or after retirement, it’s about purpose. That’s endemic to the definition in our view. There are lots of things we all do. I like to read and walk on the beach and play with my nieces and nephews and whatever, but purpose is inextricably linked to the idea of the Encore movement.”
On Seminal Moments
“If you arrive at 65, let’s just use 65, and you’re in reasonably good health and you feel reconciled to having a good ending to your work life. Then I think people do turn to, you know what’s right in line with Erik Erikson’s developmental stage model. It’s what he calls the longevity stage. But then he talks about the generativity stage. What do you generate at this time? And in history, most of that generativity work has been a legacy with your family, whether it’s a financial legacy or storytelling, but now there are a few more years of that legacy moment. And so people do turn to thinking about what’s next. For a lot of people, it’s a continuation of what they were doing, but they go deeper. I teach this class at Union called the Encore Transition Program. We can talk about our Encore transition phase because it is a seminal transition moment. It’s like getting married or [other] big moments like becoming an empty nester. These are seminal life moments where things change. So what I’ve noticed is that for a lot of people, their world, in some ways, gets narrower, but deeper. A number of people find themselves deeply engaged with their families or deeply engaged with a small group of friends. They don’t have as many acquaintances anymore and they also get more engaged in their community and with more one-on-one kinds of things. They’re not so likely to be writing the operational plan for a protest, but they might join it. It tends to be a little bit more individual. So I like to think of it for a lot of people, it’s a conscious choice to be somewhat narrower, but deeper.”
“So one big thing that we run up against is how to navigate new networks. New pathways are big because people generally come out of one set of networks and they want to get into another. So how do you do that? That’s where we use Marcy [Alboher’s] book The Encore Career Handbook to talk about how to present yourself into new networks. Don’t be afraid to network. The other thing is people are a little timid about trying [new] things. And I tell them that one of the things that we’re doing in this class is to find the clues for our own personal space. And one way we do that is to find out what doesn’t work. So we really want to encourage people to take little steps, make some choices, try something. If you think you’ve always wanted to volunteer with kids, give it a try. You may hate it, but you’ll know. Don’t be afraid to try something. Don’t expect it to be perfect. Manage your expectations.”
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