January 2009

Frank Szivos of the Fairfield (CT) Minuteman wrote a great article yesterday (OK, it includes some tips from yours truly…I’m a bit self-promoting…ha):

Strategies for job hunting in a down economy

Money.  It is by far the thing that is on most minds these days — especially if you are facing a career transition.  How should you finance your career transition whether it’s being forced due to a layoff or if you’re planning ahead in advance of a possible layoff?  Good question.

Here are my thoughts on how to finance your career transition in difficult times….but I look forward to hearing your suggestions as well….please feel free to comment:

1. In transition, do some part-time work.  Anything that drives your passion.  It doesn’t matter that it may not pay big bucks, it’s going to serve two purposes:  helping you reduce “your burn” and it’s going to get you OUT of the house, more motivated and will force you to manage your time better.  Love dogs?  Go work part-time at a dog daycare facility.  Love kids?  Go work part-time as a teacher’s aid.  Love chocolate?  Get a part-time job working at your favorite chocolate shop.  Even if it’s just 5-10 hours a week.  It’ll help you think more clearly about what you really want to do — while earning a few bucks exploring.

2.  If you think that some course work or a more advanced degree is needed, then look into a variety of ways to finance it:  loans, grants, etc.  If you’ve made too much money and you can’t get student loans or grants (yes, even if you’re 50+ you might be eligible for loans and grants!), then still consider taking the coursework needed to change careers but first chat with your accountant.  It depends state by state, but there may be some tax write-off opportunities in April 2010 for you, based on what you do now in 2009.

3.  One quick “don’t”.  Don’t touch your 401K.  Don’t!  It’s tempting.  But don’t!  If you touch your 401K, you’ll realize up to a 40% tax/fee liability.  First there’s a 10% penalty fee for early withdrawal PLUS you have to then pay taxes on what you’ve withdrawn.  Don’t do it.  Go get a part-time job before you touch your 401K.

4.  Get paid to make the switch!  There ARE job training programs out there.  They are offered at a federal, state, county and even city level.  Check out organizations such as VISTA, the Peace Corps, Americorps, Transition to Teaching and the list goes on and on.  Explore your options!

Those are just a few of my quick thoughts….what are yours?

Due to requests we’ve been getting these past few months, we recently launched Resume Writing Services.  We’re thrilled to be partnered with Julie Ghatan and Miriam Salpeter.  Check out their excellent resume writing services.  Do you need to brush things up a bit?  Are you starting over as an encore career?  Have you just been laid off or fearing being laid off?  Call us.  We can help you become fully prepared.

I am also excited to say that Myriam Gaete (all the different Miriams/Myriams this blog!) of Plantation, Florida won the three free career strategy sessions with me as part of our New Year’s kick off.  Since nearly 1,000 people signed up to win, I have also extended an offer to everyone:  

Buy three career strategy sessions with and get the fourth one free!

That’s an $800 value for only $550 — “now, that’s a good deal” as my Norwegian mother used to say!  

Read more.  I look forward to working with you or a loved one on an ACTION plan to move forward toward a fulfilling career — EVEN in this economy.  It can be done.


Brian Kurth is a former “Dilbert” who worked for the phone company in Chicago.  After realizing there was more to life than telecom calling plans, he founded VocationVacations (www.vocationvacations.com) in 2004.  He is the author of Test-Drive Your Dream Job – A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love (Hachette, 2008).  Brian is a sought-after career planning expert, strategist and speaker.  He has appeared on CNBC, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NBC’s TODAY Show and National Public Radio (NPR), and his career advice has been featured in articles in Fortune Magazine; Men’s Journal; The New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, just to name a few.

You may be thinking that I’m using my blog to recruit mentors for VocationVacations.  Not this time around.  

Instead, I want to encourage you to give back if you are a successful businessperson, entrepreneur, academic, healthcare provider, etc.  Mentor someone at your work.  Or in your community.  Mentor adults.  Mentor teenagers.  Mentor women.  Mentor men.  Doesn’t matter, just mentor!

Why?  Our country needs you.  Allow me to ever so briefly get on my soapbox.  Regardless of our political views and opinions, I think most would agree that our country needs some big-time revitalization.  This country needs people to give back without looking for something monetary in nature in return.  You’re not a not-for-profit so this doesn’t mean you should give 40 hours a week to mentoring an individual or group.  But, instead, think about what impact just five hours a week would make if you mentored a bright young individual at your company, organization, school, etc.  Don’t wait for them to ask you.  Offer yourself up!  They will be grateful.  

Call your favorite charity or not-for-profit that assists people who are struggling to stay afloat in this economy; or organizations that help teenagers coming-of-age; entrepreneurial associations; or an organization that assists retiring people find an “encore” career (quoting my pal Marc Freedman) in the areas in which our country needs assistance:  education, renewable/sustainable energy, not-for-profits, healthcare, and the list goes on.  Just do it.  Get out there.  Mentor!  You have so much to offer.  

If you’re gamefully employed, have money in the bank, have your health and are wildly passionate about what you do, I urge you to reach out and help.  Our country needs a shot in the arm.  It needs quality, passionate, POSITIVE-thinking people teaching and showing us the ropes to so many in so many different vocations.

Are you a successful IT Manager ?  Do you know how many not-for-profit operations managers could use some assistance in pro bono IT mentorship so they can learn how to make their systems run more efficiently without having to pay a consultant they can’t afford?

Are you an advertising executive who LOVES telling a client’s story?  Then reach out to your local high school and ask the business teacher (if the school even has one!) and see if he/she would like you to come in and teach a class or two.

Are you a successful female entrepreneur who “made it” because of a small cadre of sisterhood of friends and family who cheered you along in your business endeavor some years back?  It’s now your turn to give back.  Reach out to your local women’s entrepreneurial group or to SBA’s SCORE program and offer your entrepreneurial mentorship.

You get my point.

If you are successful, love what you do and have a spare hour (or five to ten) each week, then reach out and offer your expertise as a mentor.  Please become a mentor.  This country needs you more than ever.


Brian Kurth

Career Strategist, Founder of VocationVacations and Author of Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love  – Hachette 2008.

I am really excited to bring on a new VocationVacation this next week – a new Tour Director VocationVacation (Stay tuned!  Sign up for our e-newsletter on VocationVacations’ hompage to be one of the first to know when it goes live!).  

The mentor is Kent Taylor who already serves as our phenomenal Park Ranger mentor at the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO.  The new VV will go beyond the Garden of the Gods, however.  As a Tour Director vocationer you’ll embark upon exciting group tours with Kent to the US national parks and the likes.  Really cool!

Well, given the economy, Kent and I were chatting about how it’s impacting the travel industry.  Here are three really good points from Kent about why it is NOT a bad time to still think about getting into the travel industry:

1.  It isn’t all that bad.  According to the Travel Industry Association, travel is only expected to be down by 1.3% in 2009.  Given the state of the economy, that’s not too bad!

2. React to the dollar.  When the dollar is weak, as it has been the last couple of years, it’s great for incoming international tours.  When the dollar strengthens against foreign currencies (as it’s beginning to do), then it’s a perfect time for outgoing international and domestic tours.  So there’s ALWAYS a market.  You just have to know who to market to and when.

3.  Find your target customers.  Some people will always have money.  It’s that simple.  Wealthy people still travel even in the worst of times.   

So there you have it from one of the experts in the field.  Dream of becoming a tour guide or director?  Don’t give up on that dream!

Keep on vocationing,


Career Strategist, Founder of VocationVacations and Author of Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love  – Hachette 2008.

It was 6am on an already sunny, hot and humid day in August, 2001 in Chicago.  I drove off to my job as a Director of Business Development for a managed Internet security company in Downers Grove, IL — 28 miles from my condo in Chicago.  It would take me the usual one hour and twenty minutes or so.  The drive home at night would for sure be an hour and a half.  Or so I thought.

Instead, I left the office about two hours after arriving.  I got laid off.  Needless to say the drive home was forty-five minutes at 9:30am.  

And the day had only begun.  A few hours later, back home getting accustomed to the fact that I was now unemployed and already filing online for unemployment, my partner, Doug, called me from his office at the online marketing company he wored for in downtown Chicago.  He, too, was being laid off.  His layoff would not be “flashcut” like mine since he had 60 days to still work but it was absolutely the most traumatic moment nonetheless.  We BOTH were getting laid off!  On the same day.  The sense of joy and relief of being laid off from my lack-of-passion job was one thing.  Doug being laid off as well was entirely different story.  I was now scared.

I recently read this AP story entitled, “Losing Job For First Time A Painful Experience”, about people like me who were losing a job for the first time….and how painful it can be….and it brought back that day in August, 2001 for me.  If you’ve been laid off or think you might be laid off, give it a read.  But……

Just know that things DO get better.  A lot better.  It’s the time I set up my “Action Plan” to move forward toward my dream job.  And if you’ve been laid off or suspect you might be, this is the time in your life that you need to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment (yes, ENJOY THE MOMENT!)…AND create your action plan.   New beginnings!  Be curious.  Explore.  Discover.  Survive to thrive.

(If you want to read about how I went about creating my action plan and how you can create yours, then I shamelessly suggest you pick up a copy of my book, Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love (Hachette, 2008).

I love this story about Mike Stuart – a man who literally wanted to run away and join the circus.  And he did.  The best part is that he is truly combining his dream job with his family time.  He exemplifies balancing life and work balance.  Check out his great story from the Miami Herald.

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