What is a Second Career?

By the Ignite Career Center of JCS

Before we can delve into understanding what a second career is, let’s first clarify what a career is. 

While a job is any activity you can receive compensation for, a career focuses on prolonged employment where there is opportunity for professional growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports people change an average of 12 jobs in their lifetime, yet there is no definitive statistic on how many careers people hold on average in their lifetime. There are also no clear-cut definitions for which roles can be considered careers rather than jobs. While one person may consider dog-walking, for example, a job that they do to meet temporary financial needs, another person may see this activity as their lifelong career — one which brings them much fulfillment as they grow their client base and eventually begin their own dog-walking business.  

Thus, a second career could take on varying definitions: 

  • For one, it could mean that you are retiring and are ready to take on your second career, now that you have completed a long and satisfying career in one field for most of your life. Whether you work part-time or full-time, at this stage, you will hopefully have an opportunity to pursue something you always wanted to do. 
  • A second career could also mean that you have  started a career in one industry and are now realizing that you are interested in pursuing something else entirely. You have many years of work ahead of you and you are brave enough to change direction and pursue a second beginning.  
  • Still, a third definition could include a working professional in one field taking on a second role where they plan on growing and advancing as well. Whether it’s within a similar or different field, this decision could be made for a variety of reasons. 

Regardless of which definition resonates with you the most, here are some of the primary points to consider when thinking about a second career. 

A second career allows you to achieve personal and professional fulfillment.  

Some common reasons people seek second careers are: 

  • Dissatisfaction with their current organization or position 
  • A sudden change in priorities or life philosophy 
  • Desiring a salary increase or greater flexibility in work/life balance 

Whether or not you are clear on which new path to take, it’s important to remember that building a second career doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Here’s what you can do to prepare: 

  • Assess your interests and research occupations with high growth. A great place to start your exploration is O*NET. Not only do they have a free interest profile assessment, but they also let you browse lists of occupations, including ones with a “Bright Outlook” where growth is expected. Plus, they have detailed descriptions of job responsibilities, skills, and job titles related to your previous work. 
  • Uncover your transferrable skills. LinkedIn’s Career Explorer lists hard and soft transferrable skills based on your previous title and displays possible career transition matches for you. You can craft your resume and research career opportunities based on these suggestions if you’re struggling to know where to start. 

While you may need to brush up on new skills or even take a new course, it can definitely be easier to find your way to a new career than you think, especially if you use the power of networking, stick to a budget to make your goal realistic, and work with a career coach to make a career transition plan. 

A second career can allow you to build a financial safety net. 

About 39% of workers choose to change careers in order to earn more money, though it’s true that some might transition into a career that makes them happier but pays less. If you are choosing to pursue a second career after retirement or in conjunction with another career, however, you also have an opportunity to obtain increased financial security.  

As the cost of living increases, it can give you peace of mind to have steady additional income. Knowing that you have more than one revenue stream can ease financial worries, especially if you fear job loss or have debt. Consider these factors when reflecting on this decision: 

  • Calculate your Social Security benefits. Don’t assume that working will affect your retirement earnings. AARP has a calculator that can help you make an informed decision about whether you should continue working after retirement. 
  • Find the right fit to meet your needs. Should you work part-time, full-time, in-person, remotely? Should you work for an organization, be a consultant, or start your own business? Your answers may vary based on your financial needs, schedule, health, or other factors. Remember that sometimes you can negotiate flexibility, benefits, and other perks in lieu of a salary. 

While you should always prioritize work/life balance, opting for a second career to fulfill not only your soul’s, but also your material needs can be a great decision. If you’re ready to take the leap, but need support on your journey, contact an Ignite Career Coach for guidance.


Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. To learn more, visit ignitecareercenter.com or call 410-466-9200.

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