Keli Rhodes had been working as an IT consultant for eight years, hitting the road every week for several days at a time, when she began questioning her career and lifestyle. She wondered if she really wanted to continue running herself ragged.
In mid-2006, she read in USA Today about a company called VocationVacations that lets people "test-drive their dream jobs," as founder Brian Kurth describes it. The Portland, Oregon-based company serves individuals of all ages interested in pursuing new careers, setting up one- to three-day internships with professionals who have succeeded in those careers, whether they be golf instructors, dog trainers or photographers. (IT jobs are noticeably absent from VocationVacations' list of most popular careers.)
But VocationVacations attracts lots of IT professionals who wish to do something different. "Attorneys are our number-one [customer] group," Kurth says, "litigating attorneys who are fed up and exhausted. Next is financial services, people who are making great money but are burned out. Technology is right up there. It's probably number three on our list of clientele."
Rhodes, who had dreamed of opening her own bakery, Sweet Geneva Jane's (named for her grandmother and confectionary inspiration), decided to give VocationVacations a shot. In October 2007, she worked side by side with Dawn Casale and Dave Crofton, husband-and-wife operators of One Girl Cookies, a Brooklyn, NY-based bakery that's been endorsed by such taste makers as Gourmet, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Weddings and InStyle Weddings magazines.
Cure for the Bourgeois Blues
VocationVacations provides an antidote for Americans' growing dissatisfaction with their jobs. According to the results of a 2007 Conference Board survey, more than half of all employed Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs, and 20 percent want to do something different. VocationVacations gives people with ample disposable income an opportunity to see what it's like to turn their passions into professions, and helps them decide whether such a move is right for them.
"The common denominator across all 'vocationers' is that they are lacking complete happiness and fulfilment, yet they're striving for it," says Kurth, who founded the company in April 2004. "They're passionate people who want to be more passionate about what they do day in and day out."
This Ain't Club Med
Each VocationVacation includes the internship, which lasts from one to three days depending on the profession; a Myers-Briggs evaluation; and phone consultations with experienced career coaches who contract with VocationVacations.
Rhodes, who is 34 and currently works as a project manager for document imaging company Perspective software, says the career coach with whom she spoke explained the results of the Myers-Briggs evaluation to her, asked her why she was embarking on a VocationVacation and what she wanted to get out of it, and helped her prepare questions to ask the owners of One Girl Cookies. After the internship, Rhodes had a follow-up call with the coach, who asked her what she had learned from the experience and helped her identify next steps. Rhodes describes her discussions with the coach as high-level and helpful.
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