You know, these days, some folks are forgetting to have fun in their work or job search (yes, job search can and SHOULD be fun at times).  I feel there is a pervasive “heaviness” in the air due to the economic conditions in the US, the constant partisanship in DC, overall “worry” about world affairs and terrorism….and an increasing burn-out from those employed making up the hours for their laid-off colleagues who are equally burning out in their job search.  Hence, people are simply tired.  Let’s rid ourselves of this heaviness as best we can.

What is my advice to all of you burned-out folks – regardless of whether you are employed or unemployed – to reduce your feeling of “heaviness”?


Get out of your office or home office for a day or two and work remotely from a new and different locale.

“I’m too busy with work,” you say?  Take the work with you.  Have laptop & mobile phone, will travel.  This is the Internet/iPhone/Blackberry age for crying out loud!  Work can be done just about anywhere.   Any reasonable boss can be convinced of such (if your boss isn’t reasonable or rational, then you have another matter to address). You can take the work with you.  No excuses!

“I am unemployed and can’t afford to take a work vacation and leave town.”  Fair enough.  Then hop in the car, on the bus or subway and change your environment.  Head to a coffee shop with WiFi in a completely different neighborhood, town or city within, say one hour, than you’re accustomed.  No excuses!

Why is it so important to spend time working out of your office or home office from time to time?  How do you, your employer and/or job search benefit?   Here are a few reasons:

1.  Increased productivity and creativity – It is proven that when people shake things up a bit, they can actually increase the quality and quantity of their output by “clearing the mind”.  No excuses!

2.  Law of Diminishing Returns – as you burn the candle at both ends, the return on investment for your time decreases along with your productivity.  By “getting out of there” and shaking things up, you will actually mitigate and maybe even eliminate the diminishing returns you’re creating for yourself.  No excuses!

3.  Fresh air – mind, body and soul.  Now, I’m not a psychologist but it’s not rocket science to understand that seeing grass, snow, flowers, squirrels, trees, the blue sky and the sun is beneficial to your well-being.  Get out of your cubicle for a day or two.  Get out of your home office for a day or two.  If you’re job searching, you can make phone calls from just about anyplace as long as it’s quiet…..and you can email resumes and network  online via LinkedIn, et al from anywhere.  No excuses!

Do I practice what I preach?  Absolutely.  Here is a photo of my MacBook with a view of the Pacific coast in Lincoln City, Oregon just two weeks ago.  Only two hours from Portland.  Did I break the bank by getting away?  Absolutely not.  Getting away on a Monday and Tuesday during off-season is dirt cheap.  Especially in this economy.  And, again, if you can’t afford to actually get out of town for an overnight stay, then AT LEAST get out of your neighborhood, town and city and spend the day in a different neighborhood, town or city.  Just for a day.  No excuses!

I promise you’ll see an increase in your productivity and creativity while feeling less burned out.  And you’ll PHYSICALLY feel better.

So, grab your iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, writing journal and whatever else you need to get the job or job search done and GET OUT OF THERE!  No excuses.


Brian Kurth

Career Reinvention & Transition Expert, Speaker, Author, TV Contributor and Founder of VocationVacations

Brian Kurth + Company:


971.544.1535 Office




Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love

I have to say, I’m going to really miss working with Melissa Townsend.  She’s been with me since the beginning of VocationVacations….but by me announcing this really cool available dream job that was passed along to me by “Vegas Vickie”, I fear Melissa’s going to apply, get it and move to Vegas.  This is totally one of Melissa’s dream jobs.  If it’s yours too, you need to know that you’re up against some tough competition with Melissa.  🙂 

As I am always telling my career coaching clients, there ARE jobs out there.  And cool ones to boot.  Here’s the link to apply to be the Luxor’s Exec Casino Host:

Please send this blog link to your friends who may be interested.  And if not this job, check out the other dream jobs available at the LUXOR.  

Please become one of my Career Informers when you know of a newly announced dream job opportunity, please email me at


For those of you addicted to Dancing with the Stars (the new cycle debuts tonight!) like me, I want to encourage you to see YOURSELF as a star.  Yes, that’s right.  You are the star.  A few thoughts:

1.  OK, so you might not make it on the show, Dancing with the Stars, but you CAN still make your dreams come true of working in dance!  Live the dream.

2. Reach out to people in the field — get a mentor!  Volunteer some time at your local performing arts center…or a local dance studio.  Go to as many dance related events as possible.  

3.  Take some classes.  Feed your avocational passion!  Avocation sometimes leads to vocation.

4.  Perhaps you even are ready to test-drive your dream job.  We have some GREAT VocationVacations that fit the bill:

Ballroom Dance Studio Owner with Tina and Gabriel Simon — they’re a complete stitch.  You’ll have a blast and learn a ton!

Performing Arts Director with mentor Gracey Tune who happens to be Tony-award winning Tommy Tune’s sister

Choreographer with mentor Kishaya, who has choreographed Gwen Stefani and Disney’s High School Musical!

Broadway Director and Choreographer with Tony-nominated Jeff Calhoun!

Follow those dance dreams…and just know I’ll be joining you tonight at 8pm EST/PST for Dancing with the Stars!  🙂


Today’s blog is for the many of us “in between”.  We’re not rich but we’re not poor.

I  just keep thinking of those of you who have some savings, investments and/or home equity — but you may have just been laid off or you’re really worried about getting laid off or a loved one getting laid off.  You’re not a millionaire but you’re a skilled laborer or a mid-level manager and you have, maybe, $100,000 of savings and/or  investments, give or take, in addition to some home equity in your house or condo.  You’re not filthy rich but you’re not joining the soup line anytime soon.  You’re in between.

I keep hearing the following over and over again from folks like you:  “I can’t afford to take some time to get away and think things through about what I really want to do with my life.”

I disagree.

In fact, I would argue that you should take a very small amount of time and money to do some due diligence and plan your career future.  You can’t afford NOT to do it.  Now is the time to be more focused than ever before.  Those of you with a focused PLAN will get the jobs and opportunities out there in this challenging economy or will be innovative and create you own via doing consulting work and/or opening your own business.  But creating a plan doesn’t just happen.

So….here’s what I think you might want to consider:

1.  Get out of town!  It clears the air — and the head.  Now, I’m not talking about a 3-week Euro vacation, here, folks.  It could be a weekend get-away.  It’ll be a working weekend…but take time to also go on a hike….have dinner w/your partner or a good friend (if you want to go with someone — nothing wrong with wanting/needing to go solo!)….or simply do some reading.  You deserve it.  You’ve worked hard.  You DESERVE some time off even though you have been laid off or are fearing it.  Grant yourself the permission!  Clear your head a bit.  The small time and money investment will have huge return on investment for you.

2.  But it’s not all play.  Take your journal.  Write.   Take your favorite magazines and newspapers to create a collage of your interests to help you plan ahead — a vision board, as it were.  Put it all into a backpack or a small suitcase and off you go.  It’s your dream bag!  When you get home, lay-out your favorite pictures, quotes, etc into your vision board (For a great book on creating your vision board, see Joyce Schwartz’s The Vision Board ).

Ladies, I know you get this.  I don’t want to come off being sexist but women just do.  Us guys?  Well, many of us think such things may come off looking silly…or, God forbid, a bit sissy.  Bull#!)*, I say.  There’s nothing wrong with planning your future by keeping a journal and/or creating a vision board.  Get over yourselves, guys.  Let’s join the ladies on this one.  Hey, Oprah ain’t no fool and she has done pretty OK.  She’s a big “journaler” to this day.

3.  Get a change of venue no matter what.  Do you feel uncomfortable spending money flying to another city or state?  I understand.  Then, drive (gas prices are down!) or take the train to a city, town or the countryside that’s even within an hour or two of your home.  You’ll be shocked by what you find.  You’ll feel rejuvenated by meeting interesting people with vastly different backgrounds who may have a completely different perspective on this economic downturn than what you have.

The farmer in Yamhill, Oregon is going to think differently than the Nike exec from Portland who might be getting laid off in their just-announced lay-offs (expected to occur in June).  Or, the  diner owner in the Catskills will think differently than the recently laid-off media maven from Manhattan.  And the school teacher in South Haven, MI (on Lake Michigan) will have a different perspective than the laid-off automaker from Detroit.  Meeting people from other areas…from other occupations….from other income brackets will help you change perspectives.  Trust me.

Do you have any plans this weekend?  Do you or your your loved one(s) have off on Monday for the holiday?  It’s not too late.  Go online and find yourself a cheap get-away.  Call your favorite B&B that you’d like to revisit.  Go to Priceline and put in some ridiculously low price for a 4-star hotel in a city near you — you never know what you’ll get — it’ll be fun!  Check-out the water park you’ve always talked about going to with the kids.  If you’re in an area that’s warm enough, go camping!  Go cheap.  Just go.  Get away.  Grant yourself the permission.  You DO deserve it.  If not this weekend, then next.

Me?  I’m practicing what I preach.  Wade and I are heading to one of our favorite little cities, Astoria, Oregon (where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean — the river is as wide and beautiful as a Norwegian fjord!) for the Fisher Poets Gathering on Feb 27-28.  Should we spend the money?  On paper, and according to the media, probably not.  But we’re not going to break the bank doing it, either.  In fact, rather than staying at our favorite boutique hotel, we’re staying at a chain motel this time around.  But it’s going to give us both a wonderful perspective – a change of perspective.  I expect to meet and chat with a lot of folks about what they’re doing to survive in this economy.  I can’t wait to meet commercial fishermen, bartenders, freelance writers, attorneys, not-for-profit directors as well as those unemployed.  They’ll ALL be there.  I am anxious to hear what they say about what they’re doing to change perspectives during this economic downturn.  I’m taking my journal.

So….stop reading and join me in GETTING OUT OF TOWN!

Cheers! Brian


What are you doing to stay sane these days?  You don’t know?  Instead, you ask what am I (!) doing to stay sane through these challenging times, Mr. Dream Job Guy?  Fair enough….touche.

As an entrepreneur, it’s really difficult to stay one step ahead of the times — but, so far, I’m doing it.  It ain’t easy.  And I suspect it’s not easy for you either.  You’ve been laid off.  You worry about a loved one being laid off.  Or you perhaps you have “layoff guilt” — your coworkers have been laid off, but you’ve survived with a good job and benefits.  And you feel guilty.

Now, I’m not a psychologist….and I’m sure not a psychiatrist, but I do feel there are, what I call, “Simple Things” that we all have to do to remain sane during these crazy times.  Yes, HAVE to do.  A mandate, folks.  Now, the Simple Things are completely up to the individual — different strokes for different folks.  You may think that this Cheesehead from Wisconsin has gone all West Coast Woo Woo.  And maybe I have.  But, I’ll tell you what, my Simple Things are helping me to deal with this recession and keeping me sane.

Here are my 7 (my lucky number) Simple Things:

1.  Smile, damn it!  Regardless of how crappy my day might be going and how depressing the news is, I make myself smile.  Even if it hurts.  Make yourself smile.  Fake it to make it, baby.  Just as a frown is contagious, so is a smile.  In fact, you might even force yourself to laugh at something.  I did this morning.  I was walking to the VocationVacations office and a truck was going by with its stereo playing loudly….the news was being read, “This is the worst recession since the Great Depression,” the news reporter said.  I felt like I was in a movie.  Did I just hear that correctly? Were those words really coming from a random truck just driving by?  Why, yes there were.  I smiled and chuckled to myself.  Yes, times are surreal.  Smile, Brian.  Laugh.  Fake it to make it.

2.  Turn off the news!   At least limit your intake.  Now I love watching Anderson Cooper on CNN with the best of them…..but I’ve completely cut back my intake of the constant bad news.  A bit of burying my head in the sand?  Yep.  And I’m damn proud of it.

3.  Make love.  Yep, you read that correctly.  If you’re in a relationship, show that person how much you love him or her by having some good old fashion sex.  Didn’t think you’d hear that coming from Mr Dream Job, did you?  Well, I’m not suggesting you go out on a sexual rampage or anything (um, I’m nearly 43….I’m not having sex every day, believe me), but studies have proven that sex is a great stress release.  So, be a good, loyal American and have some great love-making/sex with your partner.  If you’re not partnered, well, I’m not going to suggest what you do….but I’m sure you can figure something out.

4.  Get some physical exercise.  I’m not a gym rat — far from it.  I was always the last kid picked for a sports team in gym class. But, about 5 years ago, I decided to make a conscious effort to get some sort of exercise every day so I would stop doing my own imitation of Jabba the Hut.  If it’s not the gym, then take a walk.  Go for a run.  Take a hike.  Yoga.  Stretch and do sit-ups on your living room floor.  Anything.  As the folks at Nike say, just do it!

5.  Treat yourself to something nice each day.  Keep it under $5 or $10, or whatever.  For me?  This morning I had a killer work out (see #4) — I even bench-pressed 110 pounds.  That’s a big deal for this geek from Mt. Horeb (Wisconsin) middle school.  So, for $10, I treated myself to my favorite diner breakfast at Fuller’s in Portland.  I just love the folks there.  The owner, Suzy, is the best.  I’m set to be in a good mood for the rest of the day after seeing Suzy and her smile (see #1, once again).

6.  Don’t sit in the dark.  Yesterday the sun was pouring into the office to the point I couldn’t see my computer screen.  I shut the blinds.  And then I was reading CNN news online (see #2)….and I started getting bummed out by what I was seeing on video and reading online…while sitting in the dark.  So, I quit and opened the blinds again.  I needed the sunshine — especially here in Portland.  So, yes, I sat at my desk wearing sunglasses so I could see my computer screen while letting the sun shine in.  No, I’m not crazy.  In fact, I’m staying sane.

7.  Help a friend or family member.  We all are feeling stressed these days.  We need each other.  We need community.  My partner (Wade)  my Dad, my siblings, friends such as Carolyn, Anne, Gwen and Glenn (and many more) have all been amazing to me during this last year when I’ve had some difficult decisions to make in order to keep my dreams alive.  I hope you’ve experienced the same from family and friends.  Repay the favor.  Just the other day a friend of mine who’s been laid off was having a difficult day.  I took the time to drive to her place to have a cup of coffee with her — and gave her a hug.  Did I solve her problems?  No way.  But she knows I’m there for her.  Help a friend or family member in need.  They know you don’t have all the answers or their mortgage payment or their kids’ college tuition, etc.  But it’s amazing what that smile (see #1 AGAIN) and a hug can do for someone.

So, there are my 7 Simple Things to keep me sane.  What are yours?  I’m really anxious to hear.


Brian Kurth is a sought-after career planning and mentorship expert 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. Brian founded VocationVacations ( 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.  

I was telling my freelance journalist and author pal, Michelle Goodman, about how we are getting more and more inquiries from people thinking they want to be freelance writers.  Some of the folks have been laid off from corporate jobs and dream of the autonomy and freedom that freelance writing work brings.  Others are stuck in a rut and are dying on the vine at their current job and are considering career change despite the fact they might have a secure position right now — they simply hate it that much.  

Michelle has offered up some great answers to the most frequently asked questions about becoming a free-lancer.   I want to share with you….a very realistic approach to considering freelance writing!  (PS, she really knows her stuff….check out her books, My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube.)

By Michelle Goodman:

1. Do you think that pink-slipped folks who can’t find jobs in their desired industry should freelance? What should they do to get started?

If you like working solo, can crack your own whip, and know how to be flexible when projects take a left turn, then, yes, I do think you should give freelancing a go. (If not, try temping.)

To get started as a freelancer, create a killer online portfolio or website (it can be all of two to four pages), whether you’re an aspiring writer, web designer, producer, or dog walker. WordPress make this simple. So do websites like VisualCV. A website not only shows you mean business as an independent professional, it saves you loads of time in that “So tell me about your experience” dance. If you don’t have relevant work samples, you may have to do a couple of freebies (don’t give away more than a few days of your time though) to flesh out your portfolio/resume.

Send out an email and Facebook blast telling everyone you know you’re now accepting freelance projects and link to your shiny new website. Be specific about the type of work you’re looking for. If you’re not on LinkedIn, Biznik, and Twitter, time to get there. Ditto for industry-related events and happy hours. The idea is to meet as many people in your field as you can, online and off. Learn from them. Trade ideas with them. Charm them. Spread the word about your knowledgable, talented self and your services.

Finally, learn to run a business. Half of working for yourself is wooing clients, negotiating contracts, managing projects, paying taxes, and making tricky judgment calls. So if you don’t know the first thing about running your own shop, now’s the time to learn. Read blogs and books on freelancing (ahem), take a workshop at SCORE (they’re usually under $100), and pick the brains of freelancers a few years ahead of you (you buy the coffee and come to our neighborhood, okay?).

 2. What can people do to hone in on a specialty and make their skills stand out?

Pick two or three topics that interest you most (for example, sustainability, social networking, and mobile technology), and run with them. Make sure these subjects intersect with skills you’ve already begun to cultivate and markets that are still hiring. Read everything you can about your pet topics online and off. Go to industry talks and volunteer at trade shows (to get in for free) — and don’t forget to network while you’re there. Essentially, become an expert. Clients want to hire someone who knows a lot about their MO/cause/business model. Don’t just be a writer — be a business, health, or women’s issues writer. Don’t just build software –build games, ecommerce sites, or social networking apps.

If you’re not blogging yourself, or not blogging about anything other than what your dog did on the carpet, time for a new plan. Use blogging as a tool to show clients how much you know about your pet topic. If you’re unemployed, you have the time, so no excuses.

Finally, if you don’t know how to record a podcast or make a video, time to get schooled. The better your digital skills, the more valuable you’ll be to potential clients.

3. How do you recommend that workers who flee the cube learn find colleagues and learn about industry gossip and job leads?

It’s imperative you connect with others in your chosen field and that you rinse and repeat on a weekly basis. Pick five freelancers in your neck of the woods whose footsteps you’d love to follow in. Check their social network pages and blogs to see what professional events they’re attending and online communities they belong to (as well as what books, blogs, and sites they’re reading). Then follow suit. Find out what free email lists pro freelancers in your field belong to, too, and sign up. These places are often where you’ll find the best job leads, insider gossip, and professional tips. And if you’re not finding the online or offline industry meetups that resonate with you, start one of your own. Banding together with four or five or fifteen aspiring freelancers can teach you a lot. Freelancers Union makes it easy to organize your own face-to-face meetup.

4. How long do you think it would take new freelancers to start making enough money to live on? 

That depends on how much money you need to live, which you should definitely figure out right now if you’re not sure. It also depends on where you live, what field you’re in, how much time you have to look for work, and how hard you hustle. Some new freelancers line up a full schedule in a matter of weeks. This is not the norm, however. For most it takes months, if not a year or more. To be safe, expect that you won’t have a full workload and you won’t have enough money to live on your first year, and expect to spend at least 30 to 50 percent of your time looking for work, unless you’re taking longer-range projects.

Ideally, you want at least six months’ living expenses (if not 12) before striking out on your own as a freelancer. (Admittedly, I only keep about four in my savings account, but I have a lot of employment options.) I realize saving even two months’ living expenses for someone who’s barely scraping by sounds next to impossible, which is why I suggest keeping your day job as long as you can and freelancing on the side at first. If you do find yourself freelancing without a net (due to a layoff or the fact that you never had a day job to begin with it), you may have to rely on temp work or odd jobs to supplement your income during those early lean months or years.  

5. Anything else you want to add?

To beat the recession as a freelancer, diversifying is key. Don’t let any one client dominate more than 30 percent of your workload, and don’t limit yourself to one type of project. Maybe you want to write personal finance stories for the mainstream media. But writing copy for creative agencies and newsletters for business associations too helps ensure you have more clients (and checks) to line your bank account with. Ditto for writing for both print and digital outlets, especially now, when the print media is suffering such heavy layoffs. The more toes you have in the client pond, the more work you’re have access to.

Likewise, the more skills you can offer, the more employable you’ll be. The freelance writer with translation, proofreading, editing, tutoring, or production skills has more job security than the freelance writer who only knows how to write. Likewise for the graphic artist who can also code and host her client’s websites, or the virtual assistant who knows a thing or two about web research, social media marketing, and SEO. 


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 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.


I don’t know about you but I’m tired of the doom and gloom.  Yes, times are indeed tough.  But there IS hope out there.  

For instance, I love hearing from friends working in the sustainable energy sector.  They tell me that their firms are HIRING!  In fact, one company, Vestas, plans to expand its number of employees here to Portland by HUNDREDS of people.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Engineer?  Marketer?  Have construction experience?  Check out Vestas’ job openings!  And that’s just one company.

But there are other areas of hope.  I speak first-hand that now may be the BEST time to start your own business.  If you can make it through these challenging times, you’re going to be golden when the economy turns around again.  You feel entrepreneurial but starting a business from scratch just seems too scary?  Then perhaps buying into a franchise is the best option for you.  

Another expanding field is education.  People are going back to school in droves.  Now, I’m not quite sold on getting more education is always the right answer — see a great blog from Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk on that, but working FOR an educational institution may be just the right answer!

Obama’s stimulus plan is all about pushing dollars out to the masses for the public need — road & bridge construction, education, healthcare, etc.  Even if you’re not an engineer, a teacher or a doctor, there will be more jobs in these sectors — including project management, finance, marketing, etc.  

Don’t despair.  Stay focused and targeted.  As I said to a client yesterday who wants to go into venture capital, obviously now may not the right time for that.  Many venture capital firms are actually laying off.  BUT….I suggested to him to look into a targeted strategy that will allow him to attain a skill set foundation for his dream job further down the road once the economy turns.  So, for him, my best advice is to work for a start-up.  What better way to learn about venture capital and entrepreneurialism than by working for a stretched start-up during the worst recession in decades?  His experiences now will be invaluable to becoming a better venture capitalist a few years down the road.

Anyway, I could go on and on.  Just keep the light on, folks.  It is NOT all doom and gloom out there.  Don’t allow yourself to think it is.  Stay focused and determined.


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 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.

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