Career Tips


I have found myself becoming more reflective over the past few years as everyone, it seems, has been impacted by the Great Recession in some way.  But at the end of the day I remind myself and others what really matters:  Us.  And the memories we form together during the 525,600 minutes that comprise a year.

In the Broadway play RENT (that I was so thrilled to see in its first month on stage way back in 1996), there’s just the most amazing song that I’ve forever loved, “Seasons of Love”.  If you haven’t heard it or if it’s been awhile since you’ve listened to it, I highly recommend doing so.  It’s not at all a traditional holiday song but as you find yourself on “holiday deadlines” (tree needs to be decorated by Wednesday, outside lights are past-due, gifts need to be purchased by Dec 15, etc.), take a moment…come up for air…and take a listen to “Seasons of Love” on YouTube.  It will put it all in perspective for you.

And check out our really cool, latest newsletter HERE!  Includes a $100 gift offering to YOU….

Happy Holidays!

Brian

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I rarely use my blog as a forum for venting….but I do use it for feedback.  Today it’s a bit of both.

I hope you saw our VocationVacations newsletter this morning announcing a couple of our new, exciting career mentorship programs:  Phone Mentorship and our Saturday Workshops – VocationVacations 360 (the first one is, “So You Want To Get Into The Wine Business?” and will be on Jan 15, 2011).  These are in addition to our 1-on-1 VocationVacations that have served thousands of people since 2004 and our relatively new Small-Group VocationVacations.  There’s a lot going on!  Good stuff.

The subject line of the newsletter this morning was “How’s Life In The Cubicle?” followed by this verbiage to kick off the newsletter:

When we speak with clients prior to their VocationVacation career mentorship experiences, we ask them if their physical work environment is a nice, pleasant space. Rarely do we hear, “I love where I work!” Instead, we hear, “I am stuck in cubicle hell without a window!”, or “I was promoted and now have my own private office – complete with bad fluorescent lighting and a view of the elevator”, or “I sooooo need to be outside more than I am today!”

You get the picture. Are you stuck in proverbial cubicle hell? Well then, it’s time to explore YOUR dream career and discover what your life could be like outside of that cubicle.

Well.  Let me tell you, I inadvertently set off a small firestorm in response to the subject line….here are a couple of my “favorites”:

From David H:  Go f*#$ yourself!

From Sarah A:  ouch! offensive/painful/derogatory toward small businesses… subject line… I’m out…When you are an inspiration again I will check in. Buena suerte!

Time for my vent:  Really, David and Sarah?  Really?  Was what I asked so bad?

So, feedback.  What do you think?  Do you really think my asking “How’s Life In The Cubicle?” was such a bad thing to ask?

From outside of the cubicle,

Brian

I always love announcing new VocationVacations mentors.  So it comes with great pleasure to introduce our new TV Script Writer mentor, Mark Kunerth!

You’ve enjoyed Mark’s writing skills if you have ever watched “Friends”, “Roseanne”, “Veronica’s Closet” or Showtime’s hit new show, “The Big C” starring Laura Linney.  In addition to being a successful TV script writer, Mark is simply a super nice guy and is wildly passionate about what he does for a living.  He can’t wait to share with you how he made a career transition from writing press releases for Dairy Queen to moving to Hollywood and becoming a writer.  For real!

Give us a call at 503.720.4282 or sign-up online if you’d like to compare calendars and arrange your career mentorship with Mark.

Cheers!
Brian

It is with deep sadness that I share some bad news with you today.  VocationVacations mentor, Cristal Newell, owner of Mile High Mutts in Denver, died in a horrible car accident this past Friday.  Cristal was a wonderful, no-nonsense, kick-in-the-pants, detail-oriented VocationVacations mentor.  Cristal, wherever you are, it was wonderful working with you.  May you rest in peace and be surrounded by many beloved animals.

For anyone who would like to be part of the scholarship fund that is being set up for her two young sons, see more under Mile High Mutts on Facebook.  If you’re not on Facebook, here are the details:

The Cristal Newell Memorial fund has now been established for those who have been inquiring. Cristal had 2 young boys, Liam and Tristan. In honor of their mother, the employees of Mile High Mutts have started the Memorial for Cristal. Checks can be made payable to “Memorial for Cristal Newell” – Great Westeran Bank, 1543 Wazee St, Denver CO 80202

Best Regards,

Brian

Hi Friends!

Disclaimer right up front: I’m a complete CHOCOHOLIC, DOG LOVER and CRAFT BREWING FAN. That being said, let me share a few exciting career transition stories that include three of my favorite things:  chocolate, dogs and beer (not always in that order).

First, I want to share the very recent launch of a new chocolate-making business, The Art of Chocolate. Vocationer alums, Chris and Darcie Farrow, of Monument (between Denver and Colorado Springs), Colorado just opened their doors!  Chris had his VocationVacation career mentorship with our phenomenal mentor, Will Gustwiller, at Eclipse Chocolat in San Diego in May, 2010 and Darcie had her VocationVacation career mentorship with the venerable Jack & Iva Elmer at Jaciva’s in Portland, Oregon in July, 2010.  Well, Chris and Darcie haven’t wasted ANY time in making their dreams a reality and opened The Art of Chocolate just this month.  Congratulations to the Farrows!

Second, I want to share a couple of wonderful articles that recently appeared on AOL.com about two past clients of ours.

Toni Cory went from being a laid-off Motorola employee to a successful businesswoman.  She launched her business, Almost Home Dog Daycare, after her VocationVacation career mentorship under the tutelage of Dawn Walton at Dog Zone Dog Daycare in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Read more about Toni’s complete career change.

And…

Mark Peffers is a grocery store department manager who is in process of becoming a full-time brew master after having his career mentorship with our fantastic mentor, Darren Currier, at The Gilded Otter back in 2008.  Mark is now working part-time as a brew master and is off to the University of California-Davis this upcoming January to study the art and craft of brewing from one of the finest institutions in the United States (the other beer making institution we often recommend to people is the Siebel Institute in Chicago).  Read more about Mark’s career transition.

If Darcie, Chris, Toni and Mark can do it, so can you!

How do YOU plan to take your first step in trying out a new career?

My last blog was guest written by Martha Wagner.  She is encouraging me to expand more VocationVacations with an organic, farm-to-fork, know-our-own-food focus.

However, there’s a new twist to things, folks! The Wadester (my partner for those of you who didn’t already know) has been saying for years that he wants to move to the country…run for county office (he’ll die that I just wrote that but it’s true — he really does want to serve in rural government)….and “grow things”.

The Wadester grew up in rural Montana. Although he was a “townie” (population 400), his Mom’s family still owns and operates a gorgeous cattle ranch….all free range.  So he has some innate proclivities.

I was raised in rural Wisconsin just west of Madison….where I spent a fair amount of time helping out with chores at my friends’ dairy farms.  It was fun since I only had to do it maybe once every couple of weeks.  I had to beg my friends to help them with their chores since they really saw me as their meal ticket to AVOID chores in order to come to my house and play with Legos, Matchbox cars and commando with my GI Joe walkie talkies.

But even as a kid, I knew I didn’t want to help with chores every day.  Let alone TWICE a day!  No way.  I give full credit to dairy farmers.  It is the toughest job out there.  The cows need to be milked….every day…twice a day.   Soooooo……unlike The Wadester, I don’t have a proclivity to grow things…..or raise things…..four legged animals….two legged animals….or plants that grow from the ground.  I don’t even want the responsibility of growing plants in the house.

The Wadester is in Vermont at a conference this week.  It’s turning out to be a dangerous trip for me.  His desire to grow things has grown as he’s in a bucolic, agricultural state.  He just sent me this link about a gay couple who opted out and moved to upstate New York to farm:

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/blogs/the-fabulous-beekman-boys-gay-urbanites-turned-organic-farmers

He is inspired.  I am worried.

Are we moving to the country?  Will I put on bib overalls?  Does Banana Republic even make them?

Time will tell, I suppose.  I can truly manage VocationVacations from anywhere.  And if his dream job is to “grow things” then, as you know, I’m always the person who will encourage someone to pursue their passion.  I want to be the encouraging spouse.

But he will work the farm.

I will manage my business from the front porch of our farm with my MacBook and iPhone as long as I’m within an hour to a major airport so I can get to my beloved NYC, Portland and beyond.  I will not, however, drive the tractor to the airport.  I have my limits.

I enjoy inviting people to guest blog from time to time.  It adds an extra bit of content “flavor” to things, I think.  I love to get their thoughts…their take on things related to career transition and reinvention….and I love to be challenged myself a bit.  And that’s just what Martha Wagner did:  She challenged me as you’ll read below.  She adds some real flavor to the blog — both in a literary sense and….a culinary sense!

Introducing Martha Wagner.

Cheers!
Brian

It’s hard for me to imagine Brian Kurth sitting in an office cubicle or even behind a big desk in his former corporate life in Chicago. In a recent chat at one of his favorite Portland coffee shops, he looked relaxed, like an entrepreneur affected by, but not crushed by, the current economic times.

I’d recently read Brian’s book, Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love, and found it to be an innovative “how-to” guide to creating your own career mentorship.  But when I went to the VocationVacations website, I thought there were some possible gaps in the list of career test-drive experiences, so I called him and we set up a time to meet. He was happy to listen, but before long he was twisting my arm into writing a guest blog about the gaps I detected in his list of career paths. He said that his blog readers might provide valuable feedback about whether I was onto something.

What expertise do I have? Well, I’ve been following local and national stories about food and farming for 30 years. I am resuming an earlier freelance writing career, now focusing on food and local farming. I devour foodie blogs and newsletters from local and national groups such as Slow Food, Friends of Family Farmers and the Organic Consumers Association. I go to meetings of my county’s Food Policy Council. I’ve been shopping at Portland’s many local farmers markets for years, and more recently have witnessed the sprouting of new home gardens and the arrival of backyard chickens all over the city.

Even though Brian has a number of food-related careers on his VocationVacations list—including baker, brew master, chef, chocolatier, cheese maker, farmer, ice cream maker, restaurateur, winemaker and wine retailer (he’s got a passion for that business)—there are other career paths in food and farming that I think people are eager to explore. Just one example: Camas Davis, a 30-something Portland-based food writer and chef I recently interviewed for a story, wanted to learn about what she calls “the dying art of the butcher shop” and through a friend of a cooking teacher she knows managed to set up a summer internship with a family of farmers and butchers in southwest France. The experience gave her the confidence to start the Portland Meat Collective, a venture in which she and other chefs are teaching a range of butchering skills to restaurant and home cooks.

When the First Family put in an organic kitchen garden at the White House it was one very visible indication of growing interest in farming and in organics. In the Northwest, the number of organic farms growing vegetables, specialty grains and beans, and garden starts is increasing. Farmers markets and natural food stores are selling meat from small farms that are practicing sustainable animal husbandry. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms are providing a way for eaters to connect with farmers and farmers to sell direct to the public. Farmers markets, grocery stores, even food banks and in Portland, the city Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, are sponsoring food-related classes these days focused on topics as diverse as eating economically, canning and preserving, raising backyard chickens and almost-vegetarian cooking.

So where am I heading with all of this and how does it relate to VocationVacations?  As I watch new food and farm related businesses open, I see a need for more VocationVacation mentorship choices across the country—for careers such as butcher, organic and/or CSA farmer, cooking instructor, personal chef and garden designer (vegetable gardens and mixed gardens). In the world of baking, organic, vegan and gluten-free baking are up-and-coming specialties. Food cart businesses—from waffles to tamales to barbecue—are one of the hottest new restaurant trends. I just met a first-time food cart owner in Portland, newly transplanted from Chicago and loving his new livelihood. VocationVacations, I suggest, should make it easier for people like him to test the waters of new careers related to food and farming.

So now I leave it to you, dear readers. Let Brian know if you think he should expand the VocationVacations list. Do you have some ideas of your own for him?

Best!

Martha Wagner

Martha Wagner arrived in Portland in the late 80s, following a circuitous path from the Midwest to Connecticut, England, New Zealand, Northern California and Eugene, Oregon. She has written about food and health, from tofu to walking shoes, for numerous magazines and newspapers. In her “day job” (www.marthawagner.com) she edits and proofreads countless words for colleges, nonprofits and businesses. She lives at a 3.7 acre urban co-housing community where her neighbors include 37 chickens.

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