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Now, for My Next Act ... a Career Change

From nonprofits to Fortune 500 transition programs, encore careers abound

Great New Careers for the 50, Keith Gordon

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Keith Gordon, 61, skipped retirement to become a math teacher.

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Engineer to Teacher

Keith Gordon

Made the leap: Age 61

Previous career: Systems engineer

New career: High school math teacher

Program: IBM Transition to Teaching program

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Keith Gordon spends his time these days instructing teenagers, as a newly minted Maryland math teacher. Gordon's reinvention came courtesy of his employer, IBM. He'd planned to retire at 66. Then he got curious about Transition to Teaching, which helps longtime workers nearing retirement move into second careers as math or science teachers.

Eligible workers receive up to $15,000 to earn a teaching certificate while they're student-teaching. Gordon says he wouldn't have considered it without IBM's help. "Now I'm thinking 66 is so young, I can easily imagine teaching well past that." —Carole Fleck

Great New Careers for the 50, Beverly Robinson

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Beverly Robinson, 57, used savings to become part of the booming 50+ farmer crowd.

Provost to Farmer

Beverly Robinson

Made the leap: Age 57

Previous career: College provost

New career: Goat farmer

Program: Government technical assistance

Beverly Robinson tapped her savings as seed money to raise goats on part of her 22-acre spread in Soperton, Georgia. She says she wanted to return to a way of life she's familiar with. "Our family has been in that area for three generations, and I always grew up with lots of animals," she adds. To get going, she received a technical-assistance grant — to install a well, paddocks and a watering system — from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Many of her fellow new farmers today are 50-plus. Of the more than 522,000 farmers with 10 or fewer years on a farm — considered beginners by the government — about half are over 50. Robinson, who now turns a four-figure profit, advises prospective farmers to write a detailed business plan and devote as much time to marketing as harvesting. —David Wallis

Great New Careers for the 50, Kate Young

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Kate Young, 67, took a big step into sustainable agriculture, helping young women in Guatemala understand nutrition.

Director to Volunteer

Kate Young

Made the leap: Age 67

Previous career: Nonprofit director

New career: Sustainable agricultural specialist

Program: Peace Corps

Kate Young's issue was typical: boomer burnout. She spent the past decade running a nonprofit for underserved families in Durham County, North Carolina. The grueling fundraising efforts to keep the center going and the demands of the job just about did her in.

So Young followed in the footsteps of thousands of other boomers who refused to retire to a leisurely life. She joined the Peace Corps. Some are using their service to gain new skills and experience they can transfer to their next career. Volunteers also earn a stipend, which pays for housing, food and other necessities. In Guatemala, Young has helped small groups of women learn about nutrition. She says she plans to get involved in sustainable agriculture in the U.S. by working in underserved communities to start community gardens. "It was a big step and it was really scary, but it's been a wonderful, satisfying journey so far," she notes. —Carole Fleck

Great New Careers for the 50, Noel Durrant

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Noel Durrant, 59, educates teachers in developing countries on how to use technology.

Manager to Educator

Noel Durrant

Made the leap: Age 59

Previous career: Quality and reliability program manager

New career: Technology educator

Program: Intel Encore Fellowship

Noel Durrant cheerfully fires up his laptop and shows inquisitive teachers in Kenya how to use technology in the classroom. Durrant first thought he'd be retiring in about a year. Instead, he recently was halfway around the world, helping people become "crazy eager" about learning when they witness what computers can do.

"I used my retirement to launch a second career, and I'm working my butt off," says Durrant, who retired from Intel, the computer-chip maker, in December 2013 after 26 years with the company. Now he works for Team 4Tech, a nonprofit that helps improve education in developing countries through innovative technology. Intel's program, along with a $25,000 stipend, made it possible for Durrant and some 200 other longtime workers to partner with local nonprofits, putting their skills and experience to new uses. —Carole Fleck

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