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Going Places: Your Guide to an Encore Career in Commercial Driving

Encore careers—careers in the second half of your life—provide opportunities to supplement retirement pensions and savings, learn a new skill or set of knowledge, build community and friendship with others, and even explore new locations. Regardless of your reason for considering an encore career, these mid-life or later-in-life jobs can offer enjoyment and fulfillment.

For many, driving jobs are appealing options as encore careers since they provide good pay, flexibility, and opportunities to travel. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a long-haul trucker or a coach driver for a tour company, opportunities abound to meet your specific scheduling, location, and financial needs as you head into this new chapter of life. Keep reading to learn all about encore careers and see what’s waiting for you behind the wheel.

What Is an Encore Career?

Encore careers refer to the professional paths people take in the second half of their lives that diverge from their first career. Encore careers are usually characterized by a greater emphasis on work-life balance, social impact, personal enjoyment, and supplemental income.

A study commissioned by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that 72% of pre-retirees aged 50 and older plan to keep working after they retire. This continued engagement in the workforce is due to various reasons, including the elimination of pensions, increased life expectancy, economic uncertainty, and wanting to find greater purpose and fulfillment. For those 65 and older, the percentage who are still working has increased by 117% in the past 20 years—a trend that’s likely to continue.

Another 2014 study by Encore.org found that 4.5 million workers in the U.S. work in encore careers that address social needs, with another 21 million ready to join in the coming years.

With so many seasoned professionals thinking about their next career steps, it makes sense to understand what options are out there and how you can make an encore career work for you in more ways than one.

7 Reasons to Consider an Encore Career

Encore careers provide many benefits, including earning supplementary income. But they can also provide exciting opportunities to learn a new skill, develop an expanded community, find purpose, or decrease stress. These are six of the top reasons many choose to work in an encore career.

1. Supplement Retirement Income

If you feel that your Social Security and private retirement accounts don’t provide enough monthly income, a part-time encore career can help supplement your pay and make sure you have plenty of money for your golden years. This approach can also ensure you don’t need to draw funds from your savings account for everyday expenses.

2. Reduce Stress

After working decades in a high-pressure, demanding job, you may want to consider a less stressful position for your encore career. Work doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing, especially for those who have already spent most of their adult lives earning income. Look for jobs that keep the pressure to a minimum if you want to keep stress at bay.

3. Learn Something New

If you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill or talent but never found the time with your previous job, an encore career can provide a great pathway for learning something new. Whether you decide to learn a skill such as bookkeeping or try your hand at calligraphy for hand-lettering, you can use an encore career to build your skills repertoire.

4. Enjoy More Flexibility

Rather than working a full-time job with set expectations on how many hours you work and where you complete your work, an encore career can provide the opportunity to set your own hours, work from home or a mobile location, and make money without feeling chained to a desk.

5. Follow a Passion

Is there a career that always interested you, but you didn’t have the time or freedom to pursue it? An encore career is a great opportunity to do work in line with your interests, such as a creative pursuit, a cause you support, or even a flexible enough role to give you time to travel.

6. Develop Community

Encore careers provide a great option for workers who still want the community and emotional support that can come with a job. Because retirement can sometimes feel isolating or lonely, taking up an encore career—even on a part-time basis—can be a great way to stay connected and active.

7. Stay Healthy

Research shows that working past retirement benefits your mental and physical health. In fact, working just one more year is associated with an 11% decreased risk of death, while retirement is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline. Encore careers can keep you mentally stimulated and active.

Benefits of Driving as an Encore Career

Many people searching for encore careers consider driving an excellent option since it often provides flexibility in job type, hours worked, and location, along with a variety of other benefits.

Keep in mind that the below benefits can differ based on the specific job (e.g., whether you’re driving a school bus or an 18-wheeler), so it’s best to consider the specifics of each before deciding which option to pursue.

More Time with Partner/Spouse/Furry Friend

Many drivers who decide to pursue over-the-road (OTR) or long-haul trucking bring their spouse or partner with them to see the country together. In fact, sometimes both partners get their commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to take turns driving as a team and make money together while experiencing something new. Other drivers choose to bring their pets to keep them company across the many miles of road.

Great Schedule

Driving certain local routes such as a school bus appeals to many over-50 career changers as it allows them to do something they love while enjoying the same schedule as teachers and students. Sure, you may need to be up early on a school day to start your route and make sure all students get to school on time, but you’re also done early, and you get weekends, summers, and holidays off. Other driving jobs may have favorable schedules as well—do your research on truck driving careers to find out which are the best match for you.

Gets You Out of the Office

You might have spent a lot of time sitting at a desk in an office in your first career. Pursuing an encore career as a driver allows you to get out on the open road and enjoy the sense of freedom that comes from visiting different parts of the country without a manager looking over your shoulder all day.

Maximized Income, Minimized Supervision

Those who decide to work as owner operator truck drivers get to keep more of their profits while setting schedules that work with their current lifestyle. For instance, some drivers may decide to take the winters off to avoid inclement weather. By owning your truck and working for yourself, you decide when and where to work.

Even if you decide you want to become a company driver and work as an employee, you may be able to pursue additional skills and certifications (like learning to tow a flatbed trailer) that can earn you more income and give you the schedule you want.

Second Career Considerations in Transportation

If you’re thinking about a career in the transportation industry, working through the steps outlined below can help you make a confident and informed decision.

Identify Your Likes and Dislikes

Before doing extensive planning to transition into a driving job, consider your likes and dislikes. Do you enjoy being on your feet or sitting? Does driving sound like an enjoyable way to spend your time, or does traffic make you anxious? Those who enjoy seeing different parts of the country and deciding when they work often feel drawn to trucking and driving roles as they can provide so much freedom.

Research In-Demand Careers

No matter your age, it’s easier to find and keep jobs in high-growth industries looking to hire large numbers of employees. According to research compiled by Indeed, truck driving is one of the most in-demand careers, especially as trucking carriers deal with a nationwide truck driver shortage that shows no signs of improving.

With an estimated 80,000 more drivers needed to meet industry demands, trucking stands to remain a very secure encore career in the coming years.

Evaluate Your Skills

Before applying for a posted job or going too far down the encore career path, evaluating your skills can help you narrow your options and focus on jobs that align with your abilities and interests. In addition to completing a skills inventory, you should also take time to figure out which skills are transferable.

For instance, when evaluating various driving roles, those with excellent communication skills may enjoy a bus driving job because it allows them to interact with others during their shift. People who thrive working independently and have entrepreneurial skills may enjoy working as owner operators.

Research Companies and Employee Reviews

Even after you identify some companies you’d like to work for and the job you want, it’s important to identify an employer that treats workers with dignity and respect. Visiting sites such as Glassdoor, Vault, CareerBliss, and Comparably can help you learn more about company culture, management styles, average salaries, and overall employee satisfaction to help you avoid problematic work settings.

Review Your Finances

Understanding how much you need to work to live comfortably well into retirement can have a big impact on your encore career. Some over-50s may still need to work full-time jobs, while others may feel confident that part-time earnings match their financial needs, so figuring out your needed salary can help determine your career.

For instance, passenger vehicle drivers earned median salaries of $34,670 in 2020, while truck drivers earned median wages of $47,130 during the same year. Evaluating different pay rates helps you pick the best fit for your individual needs.

Best Driving and Transportation Jobs for Your Second Career

There are endless opportunities for encore careers within the trucking field, making it a great option for someone seeking variety. Your first step is earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL). Once you have that, some of the positions you can apply for with a CDL include:

  • Over the Road (OTR) Driver: Also known as long-haul drivers, these individuals transport freight over several days, which gives them the opportunity to see the country and enjoy the freedom of the open road. Many OTR drivers usually get home time every couple of weeks.
  • Local Truck Driver: While still carrying cargo, local truck drivers enjoy the benefits of shorter routes that allow them to be home every night.
  • Regional Truck Driver: These drivers fit between OTR and local truck drivers in terms of how far away they drive and how often they get to be home. They typically drive within 1,000 miles of their base and are home every week.
  • Hot Shot Driver: These drivers typically haul smaller loads requiring shorter delivery turnaround times. Because of this, they often get higher pay rates and can work when they want.
  • Bus Driver: Also known as passenger vehicle drivers, these individuals need a CDL if transporting 16 or more people. Whether helping kids get to school on time, driving a Greyhound, or operating as part of a tour group, these drivers usually focus on local or regional transport.

Resume and Job Search Tips for Career Changer Drivers

Before setting out to find the best encore career for your needs and interests, take some time to make sure you update your resume and understand best practices for finding, applying for, and interviewing for various jobs.

How to Refresh Your Resume

When refreshing your resume and transferring from your old job into new opportunities, it’s important to understand the language and vernacular of your new chosen field and update your resume with those keywords. For instance, you need to be fluent in the different driving positions and the licenses required within trucking. This applies to both your resume and cover letter.

You should also focus on highlighting transferable skills sought after in driving positions, including communication, time management, attention to detail, and patience. Since you may not have driving experience on your resume, explain how you’ve honed these skills in other positions and how you plan to utilize them in a driving career.

Job Search Dos and Don’ts

Even though jobs within the trucking industry are expected to increase significantly in the coming years, there are still steps you can take to stand out from the competition and ensure you don’t spend months applying for and interviewing for jobs before landing one.

Networking with people in the industry can give you a better sense of what to expect while also getting you on the inner circuit to hear about job openings. These connections can also provide references or put in a good word with their hiring manager.

Before starting the job search, be clear on what you want. Don’t waste your time applying for OTR positions if you’re only interested in local driving routes. Similarly, if you know you want to work as a bus driver, don’t sign up for job alerts about tractor-trailer openings. Using a reputable trucking job search engine can also help you weed out expired or unrelated jobs.

Lastly, remember to follow up with companies or individual contacts after applying for the job. Calling or emailing your contact lets them know that you are passionate about the role and makes you stand out from other applicants. Even if you don’t get the job, send a thank-you note. If they do have openings in the future, they may reach out.

Making the Most of Your Encore Career

After landing an encore career, try to squeeze as much out of it as possible. Given that you will likely not start another career, finding ways to enjoy your new job and get what you want and need out of it is key to feeling satisfied.

If your goal is to save enough money to transition into full retirement, consider what amount you need to feel secure and how long it will take to get there, given your current salary. Are there steps you can take to save more money? For instance, OTR drivers who come home only once a month may decide that paying rent or a mortgage doesn’t make sense with their new lifestyle.

To build a new community of friends and colleagues, look into opportunities to socialize and network near and far. Joining an online community like r/Truckers can put you in contact with drivers across the country, while more local MeetUp opportunities may exist where you live. If one doesn’t, consider starting a weekly or monthly dinner or outing to bring drivers in your community together.

If you hope to enjoy this new phase of life while still earning money, think about what you can do to make the job fit your interests and passions. If you decide to go for an OTR position, consider whether your spouse or partner might be able to join you on the road—either sporadically or full-time. If staying closer to home as a local driver, perhaps bringing a furry friend along for the ride will make your day happier.

And don’t forget to take advantage of any training opportunities that come your way in your encore career. You may be able to earn more money or find a more desirable schedule just by having specialized skills that most drivers don’t have.

Encore Careers After Truck Driving

While many people who’ve worked in other careers their whole lives decide to pursue driving as an encore career, even those who have been truck drivers for the majority of their careers can make the change to other driving jobs.

After working in trucking for many years driving big rigs, some drivers decide to keep driving for their encore career but stay closer to home with a local job driving box trucks. Those looking to set their hours and control their earnings may decide that a Lyft or Uber driver job suits their needs as they reach retirement age. Others may work for a food delivery company such as DoorDash or Postmates or a product delivery company like Amazon, FedEx, or UPS.

Former truck drivers who still want routine and guaranteed pay may decide to work as school bus drivers. These roles allow you to stay closer to home and follow a set schedule while enjoying plenty of time off during holidays and summer.

An encore driving career can translate into many short- and long-term benefits, so think about how—and where—you want to spend your time during this next exciting phase of life!