If you are coming up to retirement and are keen to do something more personally meaning, the Encore fellowships may be for you.
Are you approaching retirement and looking to do something more purposeful? If so, you are not alone. One organisation that is tapping into this growing desire among older workers is Encore.org.
It has been running in the US for 20 years and includes a fellowship programme which helps professionals who want to transition to more socially useful roles by providing fellowships for them in charities. The charities tend to pay individuals a good salary to do a project or their employers sponsor workers as they approach retirement.
The fellows programme has been going for around 10 years in the US and about 2,000 people have gone through it and Encore has gathered a lot of best practice in the process.
Julia Randell-Khan is leading the UK branch of the fellowship which has just started up. She was based in California for two and a half years and returned to the UK last year. A lawyer originally who left the profession at 55, she set up a women in transition organisation to explore the energy older women have to change their working lives and do something more personally meaningful. Through her research she came in contact with Encore and with Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute which she and her husband applied to. After doing the institute’s programme for a year, Julia got a role as a fellow at Stanford’s Centre on Longevity which she combined with work for Encore, building its international links.
Julia says the UK programme has some differences with the US one. In the UK, for instance, Encore is focusing more on larger charities who have more funding to be able to pay fellows a stipend as it is harder to find host organisations to sponsor employees. In return, she says, the charities get people with lots of professional expertise in fields like HR, IT and marketing who can have a big impact.
She adds that she is having to be fairly creative and is looking, for instance, at repurposing people’s notice period so they can wind down their main job – and still receive their salary – while doing a fellowship.
The Encore model is, in any event, very flexible and can be used, for instance, to support people who are being made redundant and the matching process takes into account different individuals’ needs. Julia would like to see the fellowship programme become part of ongoing work on career development over employees’ life courses. Some employers, for instance, do midlife MOTs which help employees gain a better insight into what their values and ambitions are so they are clearer about how they see their working lives developing in their later years.
Julia says Encore helps employers to support their employees as they transition into a new phase in their lives, plugging a real gap in provision. Its curriculum includes a deep dive into the social sector. “We help the pool of talent that is exiting and help employers harness what they have to offer for the benefit of business and wider society,” she says.
She would like to see employers being more creative and bolder about confronting that next stage in people’s working lives, including the business benefits of more multi-generational teams. “A lot of employers have not really thought about this older demographic or the long term impact of people having to work for longer,” she states.