Florida Matters: Changing Gears Mid-Career

Sep 22, 2015

Many baby boomers are looking for work to do after they stopped working full-time.

This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 27 at 7:30 a.m.), we'll take a look at what people are doing for their second half of life career with:

  • Bevan Gray-Rogel (president and founder of Encore Tampa Bay)
  • Marci Alboher (vice president of Encore national nonprofit and author of “The Encore Career Handbook”)
  • Chris Farrell (author of “Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life” and senior economics contributor for Marketplace from American Public Media).

We also meet Christine Acosta of Tampa, who  left her corporate job in 2005, when her children were entering high school, and her father's health started to decline. And like many Americans over 50 who have stopped working full-time, she eventually found she wanted to return to the workforce.  

“I spent most of my professional life in hospitality and financial services, Marriott and American Express, large corporations, and I really enjoyed that,” Acosta said. “I didn't even appreciate that there's an entire social movement of older Americans looking to do something different with the second half of their life,”

Groups across the country are helping people find those careers. Locally, Acosta tapped into resources through an organization called Encore Tampa Bay.

"It was through that course of study that I began to appreciate that I had grander sites than just doing a regular job, and wanted to do something with some social good,” she said.

At age 52, Acosta is working again, running a company called Pedal Power Promoters. Basically, she works to make Tampa businesses known for being bike-friendly, for both their customers, and employees.

“Many of the bike-friendly business do say they have a strong pedal population of employees, “ Acosta said. “They have a vested interest in making sure our streets our safe, fun, healthy and easy to get around.”

Karen Kress, who works on transportation and planning for the non-profit Tampa Downtown Partnership, says she had been interested in starting a bicycle in campaign in Tampa for a long time. She says Acosta came along at just the right time.

"That's really what this program needed, someone who understood how to work with the customer, listen to what their needs were, and then develop a proposal that meets their specific interests and needs,” Kress said.

As they sit at the table together at Ulele, a restaurant just north of downtown Tampa on the Hillsborough River, Acosta remembered how the bike project got started.

"I think the exact email was, would you like to spearhead this? And I just instantly wrote back, ‘sure!’ Exclamation point. ”

But Acosta says she wanted to be sure she would be paid for the work.

“And then I had  intense panic, because I thought, does Karen think I'm volunteering? Because I am looking for meaningful work,” Acosta said.

They found grant money to pay for the campaign, and so far, Acosta has worked with about 30 businesses to get the “Bike Friendly Tampa” designation. 

It's been a decade since Acosta left her corporate job. She says she was looking for work all over the country. She was about to leave Tampa -- and then she got the chance to start her own company.