Quitter to Winner

Monday, August 30, 2010

INTERVIEW: Career Breakers Coastingnow.blogspot.com

CoastingNow is the career break journal for Alice Gray and Lyon Graulty. They're taking several months off between jobs to bike the West Coast and raise money for Posada Esperanza, an Austin-based shelter for immigrant women and their children. Here they talk about what prompted them to take a break on bikes.

What made you both decide to leave your jobs (and Western Mass) for a career break bike trip?

Alice: I'm originally from Austin, Texas. While I love Western Mass, I've always missed home and my family. Austin has changed so much since I left when I was 18. I want to be a part of the growing art, cycling, film and music scenes. As for the cycling trip, that was an idea that always lived in my mind, but one I never thought possible. When we decided a year ago to move, we racked our brains trying to think of a zany, fun way to spend our time between jobs, between apartments, between cities. I kept hearing about friends of friends who were going on insanely long cycling trips. The thought excited and inspired me. The West Coast is one of the more popular touring destinations for cyclists, and I've never been to California, so it just developed from there.

Lyon: I've lived in Western Massachusetts all my life and I've been in bands for nearly half of it. Over that time, I've been lucky enough to enjoy the support of a loving family and a great group of friends and musicians. I have been fairly successful as a part-time musician and have been employed as an audio editor at More Than Sound since early 2008. So why leave this steady job that allows me the freedom to pursue my musical career? I didn't want to become complacent and too comfortable in my life. This move is a challenge to myself to go somewhere different, make new connections and have new experiences. But this move is less about turning my back on my friends and family as it is about extending the network that they form. The bike tour is an extension of this desire for a challenging experience that will at times be uncomfortable, but will also offer exhilarating rewards.

How long have you been prepping for the trip?

Alice: We can trace the original spark for the idea back to a coffee shop in Burlington, Vermont where, on a cold January morning, we met a waiter who was about to quit his job and fly to Arizona with his bike. His plan was to ride all the way to Vancouver, which made my jaw drop. That night I created the blog, Coasting, and wrote my first entry, but didn't share it with anyone (except Lyon) for quite a while. Since then, we've been making small steps towards preparing for the cycling tour, and recording our progress on our blog.

Lyon: When we first got the idea, I was a bit hesitant because we are not expert cyclists by any means. I am a commuter biker that will occasionally go out for longer rides, so the cycle of six weeks of biking/camping/biking/camping/etc. seemed a bit daunting. It still seems a bit crazy, but we have been slowly getting prepared for it since the winter.

Tell us about the fund raising aspect of your trip. Do you have a monetary goal?

Alice: It seemed natural once we had decided to embark on our ridiculously long cycling trip, to pair our efforts up with a local organization. When I was in high school I volunteered at an Austin-based shelter for immigrant women and children called Posada Esperanza. I knew that any money we raised for them would go far. Lyon was familiar with the organization too since for the past couple of years we'd been donating a little money on each Mother's Day to Posada (and in exchange they send our mothers a card).

Lyon: We are hoping to raise a dollar for every mile we travel on our bikes. (It is about 1000 miles from Seattle to San Francisco.)

What are your plans after your trip?

Alice: Good question! Immediately after the trip we are driving to Louisiana for a music festival that some of Lyon's friends are playing in. Long-term, however, is a bit fuzzy. We'll stay with my family in Austin while we recover from the trip, and look for jobs and a place to live. I plan on using that limbo time to explore things I always think I don't have time for; learning how to sew, reading and writing more, finishing some film projects I started, learning how to play the accordion. And then there's salsa dancing! I love to salsa dance and I'll need to find the cool places to go for that in Austin.

Lyon: I am looking forward to being in Austin and enjoying the vibrant music scene. I am hoping to meet up with some good players and play as much as I can.

Alice and Lyon will periodically check in with Quitter to Winner while "on the road."

Visit http://coastingnow.blogspot.com/ to check in their Alice and Lyon on the road and to support their fundraiser.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Business Week Interview: Career Reinvention

In today's tumultuous workforce, flexible talents, skill sets and a willingness to change means job security. Best-selling author and Business Week columnist Marshall Goldsmith talks with The Reinvention Institute's Pamela Mitchell on how to effectively transform careers.

You say that in today's marketplace, the old concepts of career change don't work. Why is that?

Over the past several decades, the pace of business cycles has sped up considerably. Cradle-to-grave employment is a thing of the past. Within the space of a decade, what's been considered to be a good field for jobs can disappear. Take a look at the phenomenon of outsourcing, which has decimated U.S.-based opportunities for many industries, like software programming. Or consider the media field. With traditional revenue models struggling and new technologies competing for audience attention, newspapers are trying to find new niches to replace lost profits.

How do you cope with these factors? Career change has tended to focus on typical job transitions—strategies for climbing to the next level of seniority within your organization or moving to a similar position within the same industry. But what do you do when your company is reducing headcount and opportunities in your field are disappearing?

Great point. How is career reinvention different from career change? In this day and age, the ability to reinvent yourself—to recombine your skills, talents, and experience to move between job functions, departments, or industries—is the new form of job security. More than just repackaging your background, career reinvention involves changing your assumptions about how your career will evolve. It means being prepared to take advantage of new opportunities by developing your skill sets with a strategic eye toward emerging business models.

That sounds great for someone who is new to his career, but what about if you've been working for 10 or more years in the same field? Is still possible to reinvent your career when all your experience has been in the same industry?

This is one of the most common questions we get! Yes, it is possible; in fact, we have a number of clients who have made successful switches after long careers in a particular industry.

That said, it is crucial that people understand that career reinvention is not an easy process. I like to draw the analogy that switching between job functions or industries is similar to moving to a foreign country. To be successful in your new land you'd have to learn the local language and familiarize yourself with its customs and cultural expectations. The same is true when you want to move to new career territory. To bridge the divide between your old and new careers, you need to learn the language and customs of your new field…and decide what to bring along from your former job.

If someone with 10 or 20 years of experience is leaving a field, that's a huge loss of talent for their organization. How does the trend toward career reinvention affect companies?

Over the next 5 to 10 years, as boomers retire and the available pool of workers shrinks, companies will be forced to rethink their strategies for retaining talented workers. But this requires that they break out of the old mindset of slotting employees into function-based boxes. They need to ask themselves: Do our people feel they can transform themselves beyond their current role, or do they need to leave us to grow?

For corporations, reinvention is the road to retention. Leaders need to become the architects of employee reinvention within their companies. One of our recommendations is that companies develop their workforce by facilitating ways for their talent to move within the firm.

Along with reducing layoff costs, this strategy can minimize the expenses associated with pursuing new business opportunities. Some forward-thinking organizations are already creating these types of reinvention programs.

What are some of the stumbling blocks people face when they're trying to reinvent their careers?

People tend to fantasize about new careers and are often unprepared for the amount of work that's involved in actually making the switch. They also have a hard time shifting out of their old work identity, which means that they often try to pitch themselves in a new field using their old language. This results in a translation failure, where hiring managers don't understand how the candidate's background applies to the job they're seeking.

Identity can also be a big obstacle when people are trying to reinvent themselves within their firm. Because they've been defined by a particular job function, they cannot get a shot at a new role. A number of clients come to us after hitting this barrier.

What advice do you have for people looking to reinvent their career?

Understand that whether it's within your current firm or a totally new field, successfully reinventing yourself requires you to establish your legitimacy as a candidate. Hiring managers, both internal and external, have goals they need to meet. Your mission is to prove—in tangible ways—that you can be a valuable asset to them in reaching those objectives.

Minimize translation failure by learning how to repackage your background so that it highlights those skills that will be directly useful in helping you succeed in your new role. Ask yourself: "How can I benefit from what I've done in the past?" Analyze your talents and identify the work successes that demonstrate them. Match those previous accomplishments to future career deliverables—this will help you see what achievements in your background are of value to hiring managers in your new field.

Source: Business Week, Marshall & Friends July 1, 2008

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

INTERVIEW: The Robin Hood Rally's Michael Ferrier

Michael Ferrier took a break from corporate consulting to pursue his passion: cars. Now it's his second career. Michael is now the Vice President of Financial Operations with the new race car reality TV show The Robin Hood Rally. Here's how he landed the new gig.

What were you doing before you helped start The Robin Hood Rally?

I spent about 20 years in the financial services industry. I worked for several major organizations, my last being a contract gig for MassMutual. When I finished my project ahead of schedule, the economy broke loose. They wanted to keep me on but couldn’t afford me at the time, so I said thanks but no thanks. It was a good time to explore something different. I was burned out on the corporate culture.

What did you do during your career break?

Racing and collecting cars has been a long-time passion and hobby. A friend of mine races down in Connecticut. I started hanging out with him at the track racing Ferraris. This was September 2009. That’s when I was introduced to my current business partner. We started hanging out at the track. One day he invited me to lunch and pitched me the idea of The Robin Hood Rally. He wanted me to help build the company, the show and be the Vice President of Finance. I didn’t hesitate to jump on board. He started several successful entrepreneurial ventures, so I was confident he could pull it off. Plus, how could I turn down an opportunity to work with cars and finances. It was a dream situation that fell right into my lap.

Tell us a little more about The Robin Hood Rally

We’re a production company that puts on a reality TV racing show. We race legally on public roads across the country. The large part of the show is the back stories on the racers and some on the town. Another large part is the charity aspect. We attempt to raise as much money as we can. At the end of show we present a check to an individual in need or a local charity. This year we’re filming races on 10 roads in 10 states. The series will air in late Fall of 2010 through the Spring of 2011.

We’re purchasing the time to air the series, and are independently producing it. We want to maintain control of the content to focus on the cars, drivers, and charity versus manufactured reality TV. We want it be remain a competition for individuals that are interested in showing, not telling, everyone what they are made of behind the wheel. The show will run on closed scenic public roads. People won’t know the course until they arrive at the venue. This makes it a true test of driver skill.

What’s it like going from the corporate world to a reality TV production start-up?

Exciting, nerve wracking, fun, tiring, scary, and anything but boring. I love it. It’s great because we’re breaking industry records. When shopping around the essence of the show to potential investors and producers, everyone is shocked by our well thought out our concept. It normally takes people years to get the where we’ve gotten in months. Of course, we’re still learning as we go. None of us have ever worked in the TV or film industry. We’ve hit some roadblocks but it has not deterred us.

How have you generated buzz without a big budget?

We’ve gotten a lot of momentum from our website and just from word of mouth within the passionate racing community. We get some good turnouts in the towns we race in. Plus some fans have been posting clips on YouTube, which has also helped get the word out. The local media has also covered our races.

How have you navigated the drastic income shift?

It’s not easy but I’m managing. I’m on a very lean budget. I went from a comfortable job with a steady income to putting everything I have into this venture with virtually no income. I’m not going to lie. It’s scary. But I haven’t once thought about going back to a corporate job. Despite the drawbacks, I have freedom in my job. I can work from home. I get to meet new and interesting people. And I’m following my passion. The image of success isn’t important to me. When you do what you love, success will follow and everything else falls into place. I’m also doing something good for others. We’ve helped out some people in need in the towns that hosted our races.

What would you have done differently?

It’s hard to say. When I left my consulting job I wasn’t out looking for another job. I was just enjoying myself, then one thing led to another. I’m very lucky to play with cars and money for a living. I will say that it’s a good thing I’m good with money. If you’re going to get into an entrepreneurial venture, you need to budget your finances very well. You can’t spend like you did when you had a steady paycheck, especially when you’re first starting out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

INTERVIEW: Ghostwriter and entrepreneur Jeanne Yocum

Ghostwriter and public relations consultant Jeanne Yocum has been on her own for decades. She shares some words of wisdom for those thinking about making the entrepreneurial leap.

Jeanne, you've been working for yourself for nearly 21 years. Why did you decide to go solo?

I freelanced for a couple of years in the mid 1980s before I was offered a job at a Boston public relations firm. The offer was so good that I didn’t feel I could turn it down. But after three years, I realized two things: 1) I really was much happier being my own boss. 2) I really am a writer at heart. I was spending more time managing people than I was writing. So I decided to go back out on my own. I’ve been at it ever since.

I am a public relations consultant, helping people get their company’s news in front of key audiences either through publicity or through Web sites and marketing brochures. I also do event management. The other part of my business is ghostwriting books and book proposals, primarily about business topics. I’ve co-authored two books, ghostwritten four others and edited another handful.

My Web site is www.yourghostwriter.com. You can see my blog, “Small Business Success: 20 Years and Counting,” there and I also write a blog on business topics for MassLive.com.

What are some of the perks of self-employment?

The thing I enjoy most about being self-employed is the ability to pick who I want to work with, which was something I didn’t have at the PR firm where I worked. I have specialized in working with consultants in various fields who are coming up with cutting-edge ideas. I always say I’ve earned an MBA from my clients because they’ve taught me so much about all aspects of business. The variety is great and intellectually challenging.

The other thing I enjoy most about being self-employed is the ability to make your own dreams come true. For example, 10 years ago I decided I needed a new writing challenge and that I wanted to try my hand at business books. A year later, I had sold a client’s book idea to a publisher and we were working on the manuscript.

How about the pitfalls?

The most obvious pitfall is that you’re out here all alone and if, like me, you’re single, you have no financial fallback position. It can be scary when a client is slow to pay or if business slows down as it did in the recession. But I’ve managed to survive three recessions, so I’m more sanguine that things will work out now than I used to be.

Some people may also find it lonely to always be working on your own. You have to arrange your day to include people in other ways than seeing them around the water cooler at work.

A third pitfall can be the unevenness of the workflow. Just yesterday, I had a sudden influx of business that made me wish I could clone myself. If you’re all on your own, you can end up working some pretty long hours and on weekends.

What advice do you have for people making the entrepreneurial leap?

Have a realistic view of self-employment, not a pie-in-the-sky view. Talk to a lot of people who are self-employed and ask them to share with you the good points and the bad points. And really listen to the bad points; don’t just let them go in one ear and out the other because you’re so enthusiastic about the idea of working for yourself. Self-employment is definitely not for everyone; be self-aware enough to know if you are someone who could cope with the downside.

Also, make sure there is a market for what you’re offering. Too many people start businesses about something they’re passionate about without really doing the research that is needed to know whether what they’re selling it something people will want to buy.

Is there a social media outlet that's helped your business more than others?

So far, I have used Facebook only for non-business purposes. But I am quite active on Twitter (as JeanneYocum) and in various groups on LinkedIn. I’ve met new people through both of these sites, but I can’t say I’ve gotten new business as a result. But I am ever hopeful!

Anything that introduces you to new people is a good thing and eventually will pay off. I had my Web site up for years before I landed any clients through it, but several of the clients I have gotten through it have been big ones, including book project client. So you just have to stick in there and sooner or later, you’ll see results.

Can you recommend some profiles on your blog that might help new entrepreneurs?

I’ve been doing a series of blog posts in which business owners answer questions about how they have succeeded. Here are a couple that I especially thought had valuable advice:

Small Business Success Q&A #1: Ann Brauer, Quilter Extraordinaire

Small Business Success Q&A #4: The O-Tones

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From Consulting Rehab: Interview with Three Month Visa

Consulting Rehab recently published an interview with Tara Russell, founder and president of Three Month Visa. TMV is sponsoring the Briefcase to Backpack Meet, Plan, Go event on September 14. Here's an excerpt from their conversation about the event and Tara's involvement with the movement.

Tara, tell us more about the origins of Meet, Plan, Go! How did it get started and why does it exist?

The seed for Meet, Plan, Go! was planted back in January of 2010 when Michaela Potter and Sherry Ott who founded Briefcase to Backpack were in town and we met up for coffee. We realized that there were so many cool ways that we might work together that what was meant to be a half-hour meeting turned into a 5-hour brainstorming session! Our goal working together has been to take this conversation about Americans and career breaks and start building some critical mass behind it – get it out from the underground and take it national. One thing that came up was the success of a group I have been running for a few years now in SF – SF Travel Book Club and Lectures Series – and we started to wonder what it would look like if we could take the strength of that in-person group dynamic and expand it nationwide by doing a day of coordinated events across the US. From there, Michaela and Sherry were able to leverage the strength of their online network to recruit hosts and panelists from across the US and that’s how Meet, Plan, Go! came to be!

Why do you think that taking a Career Break and traveling is beneficial for people?

I would go beyond even saying “beneficial” – I think career breaks are absolutely essential for people…perhaps now more so than ever. Consider that our office desks are no longer stationary items that we can leave behind after 5pm…with the introduction of cell phones and PDAs, many of us are forever wired and always accessible from the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night. In an age when we are hearing more and more about work /life balance, it seems increasingly difficult to truly “unplug.”

Career breaks and travel give us that opportunity to unplug…to really take a step back, get perspective and regain balance in a way that we just can’t do while we are caught up in the pace of our hectic 9-5. (Or – let’s be honest – given the crazy hours many of us work, our 5-9.)

Travel gives us fresh and new perspectives, expands our horizons, strengthens our sense of adventure, pushes us to challenge ourselves, feeds an appreciation of our own strengths and abilities and provides us with space and time to examine who we are and what we truly want out of life. I’m passionate about helping my clients find that and taking that message national is what MPG is all about!

Who is this event for?

Well, it’s pretty simple, really. Here’s a quick and easy exercise to help readers determine if MPG is right for them…

Close your eyes and imagine taking time for yourself to do exactly what you have always wanted. Do you see:
* Surfing lessons in Costa Rica?

* Taking classes at a local university?

* Hiking the Himalayan Annapurna Circuit in Nepal?

* Renovating your house into the home you dream of?

* Volunteering at an orphanage in Brazil?

* Japanese lessons in Kyoto?

If you came up with anything other than “I’d like to be right here where I am…in my beige cubicle.”, then Meet, Plan, Go! is definitely for you.

This event is for anyone who has ever had a travel dream and wondered how to make it a reality. Anyone who has ever thought “Oh, I would so love to do something like that, but… Anyone who is currently reading this from their tiny little corner of cubicleland and thinking “Man, I wish I was lounging on the beach in Fiji right now.”

You get the picture…if you close your eyes and dream of being somewhere other than where you are, this is the event for you.

What exactly will happen at the event?

We have put together a stellar panel of travel experts – travel writers, photographers, podcasters and bloggers as well as me wearing the hat of Travel Coach. We will be presenting on the big Whys and Hows of career breaks and long-term travel and helping participants get an idea of resources that they turn to when they can start planning and go for support as they move forward.

What do you expect that people will get out of it? Why is it worth their time?

I would say this really breaks down into the “big three” of what you need to make your plans for a career break a success – inspiration, resources, and community. People who attend will be inspired by a panel of speakers / travel industry experts, they will be connected with some of the resources they need to start making their travel dreams a reality and they will be surrounded by a dynamic, supportive community of people who “get it”. Each element of that formula is really key for us.
Ok, let’s talk about the San Francisco event for a minute…

What are the logistics (e.g., when, where, how long, how do people sign up, etc.)?

The SF event is being held on Tuesday, September 14th from 7-9pm at NextSpace in downtown San Francisco. The event is free but participants do need to reserve their space and print and bring their ticket with them. RSVPs can be made at: http://meetplangosanfrancisco.eventbrite.com
Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about you…

How and why did you personally get involved in this?

When I met Sherry and Michaela back in January, there was such a cool synergy there when we combined our skill sets. Given their professional and personal backgrounds and their experience running Briefcase to Backpack and also blogs of their own, they are incredibly savvy about the internet, blogging, online networks and marketing, etc. What I brought to the table was years of experience running in-person travel-related events and also working with one-on-one coaching clients as they prepared for career breaks of their own. From that, (coupled with my own experiences planning and realizing a year-long career break of my own,) I had a keen understanding of the self-imposed limitations and perceived obstacles that often deter people from taking the sabbaticals that they really want. When we put our heads together, in short, I saw the opportunity to work with really cool people on a project I was extremely passionate about – how could I say no?

What do you do with your time when you’re not working on Meet, Plan, Go?

I am thrilled that I get to spend a great deal of my time working with one-on-one travel coaching clients, helping them work through the logistical and emotional preparations that go into making a career break possible. In addition, I’ve been able to do quite a bit of speaking in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond on topics revolving around career breaks, life sabbaticals and long-term travel. Loving my work makes it something I am pleased to dedicate a lot of time to.

When I’m not coaching, reading travel books or arranging events for SF Travel Lit & Lectures or working on MPG, I do my best to get out in this gorgeous city with friends to enjoy all the great sights, music, food and museums that SF has to offer. I also dedicate as much time as possible to my passion for photography and some of my work can be seen at www.greentaraphoto.com

And (of course,) whenever I can, I travel!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

INTERVIEW: Briefcase to Backpack's Michaela Potter

Briefcase to Backpack co-founder Michaela Potter talks about her mini-career breaks over the last 15 years.

How did Backpack to Briefcase begin?

Here’s a synopsis. Briefcase to Backpack began when Michael Bontempi and I decided to leave our jobs at the same time. We capitalized on the opportunity to hit the road. I was a seasoned backpacker, so I was used to traveling for extended periods of time. But after 14 years in corporate America, this was a huge step for Michael.

During the same period, Sherry Ott was well into her own 16-month journey half way around the world. She also had grown tired of her corporate career and a fast-paced life in New York. She decided to leaver her job, box up her life and hit the road.

In 2008 we all returned to NYC. Each one of us gained new perspectives on life. We also shared the same thought: How could we inspire others to take a cultural career break and gain insightful lessons on life.

Sherry gained a following from her travel blogging. We knew that there was a similar group of people wishing they could also take a break from their Blackberry. And thus began Briefcase to Backpack.

Tell us more about your career breaks. You’ve taken more than one, no?

I’ve incorporated several mini-career breaks into my ‘career’ over the past 15 years. It all stemmed from having backpacked through Europe and studying abroad during college. After I returned from my junior fall semester abroad, I knew that I wanted to incorporate extended travel throughout my life.

My next big trip was about eight months after I graduated from college. Rather than worry about a ‘career’, I got a job in my field to gain some experience, but also to make money so I could travel to Australia and New Zealand for six months. That set the stage for my future career breaks. Here’s an excerpt from journal entry from my first trip. [Gap Year to Career Breaker: http://briefcasetobackpack.com/2010/06/gap-year-to-career-breaker/]

When was your first “official” career break?

The first one came in 2001 after working for five years at the Starlight Children’s Foundation in NYC as the Event & Marketing Manager. Originally I was to spend three months in Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia but my departure was delayed due to the fact I was flying out of Newark Airport on September 11th. Needless to say, I spent the next month sleeping on my couch (I had sublet my room) and volunteering for the Salvation Army (I had left my job) before finally leaving. I wrote more about my experience here. [Reflecting on Nepal: http://briefcasetobackpack.com/2010/07/photo-friday-nepal-mandala/]

What did you do when you returned?

I transitioned into a video production career, which actually stemmed from my time at Starlight. Part of my role was overseeing Starlight’s fund raising videos. I worked closely with the corporate facility that sponsored them. As I enjoyed the production process immensely, I jumped at the chance to join the company when a position was offered. During the next five years I worked in all areas of video and event production, even becoming the in-house editor – a skill I learned on the job.

I was starting to get antsy after five years with the production company. I was ready to move on. I decided that I wanted to return to the non-profit world, but before doing so, I spent the summer volunteering outside of Cusco, Peru with the organization – Peru’s Challenge. I wrote about that experience here. [http://briefcasetobackpack.com/2009/02/peru-cusco/]

That particular career break experience then led me to my next job, which was with a similar international volunteer organization. I was inspired to help others prepare for volunteering abroad and loved using my personal experiences to help guide them through the process.

And that leads us back full circle to how B2B started.

Yes, my most recent career break is what inspired Briefcase to Backpack. My boyfriend (now husband) was frustrated with his corporate job. He had been with the company for many years and was ready to move on. He’s a great example of a “Quitter to Winner”. Rather than look for a job while he stayed in his current one, he decided to leave. That’s when I jumped at the opportunity to suggest we go backpacking first, and he was up for it. We wrote a testimonial about that experience here. [Testimonial: Michael & Michaela - http://briefcasetobackpack.com/2008/12/testimonial-michaela-michael/]

Read more about Michaela’s story here:


Sunday, August 15, 2010

INTERVIEW: James Morgan's successful career transition

It's never too late to start over. James Morgan talks about his difficult transition from a teaching career into architectural woodworking.

You gave up not just your teaching job, but your teaching career. What happened?

There were a couple of factors in play here. For one, I had promised myself from day one that teaching would be viable only as long as I was effective. I have worked with lots of teachers who have far outlived their “expiration dates,” and I did not want to become one of these creatures. For me, being an effective teacher has to do with many things and includes, but is not limited to, relating to students, relating to college leadership, relating to peers, and generally being happy in the role. I found that I had trouble with all of these areas toward the end.

Another factor was my growing interest in transitioning from a service job to a skill-based, production-oriented job. Quite frankly, I wanted to be able to see the end result – and the quality – of my work. With teaching I was finding that students were nearly universally resistant to learning (sometimes resorting to astounding measures to get out of doing schoolwork). Administrators were nearly universally incompetent. My fellow teachers were fragmented and isolated for the most part. I wondered daily whether or not I was doing any good at all. About two years ago I decided to make a change. After a yearlong course of study at the New England School of Architectural Woodworking I made the transition from college teaching to woodworking. I now spend my days in the finishing area of a local company. I walk or bike to work. I could not be happier with the incredible transformation in my life.

What was the most difficult part about leaving your job/career?

Leaving my job was surprisingly easy, at least logistically. In fact, it was cathartic on some levels because I was able to say a few things that needed to be said (even though I am certain the words fell on deaf ears). What was difficult was philosophical: worry about finances during my year in school, worry about what would happen afterward, and the break in the existential connection one makes with their identity and career. I was also worried about the impact my change in direction would have on my partner. There was one other more ethereal worry about how I might feel at the end of my life with choosing to leave academia. That is a question I will have to answer in about 40 years. What I can say is that, given my current level of happiness, I am now far more likely to live that long.

You're now an architectural woodworker. Was making the switch easier or more difficult than expected?

The transition is happening, but is not by any means over. My work is going to take shape in two important ways. First, I am continuing to learn by working for an established business. The field is vast. With an open attitude one can learn indefinitely. I’m fortunate to have found a position where the culture is keyed into this concept. Second, I am interested in creating my own business. This was, in fact, always part of the vision of this transformation. The initial switch has been practically frictionless: I had almost no down time between attending NESAW and starting work after graduation. The establishment of my own studio will in all likelihood be a more drawn out process, and I am doing my best to prepare for whatever challenges await me!

Would you have done anything differently? Perhaps listen to your gut early on when you knew teaching wasn't for you?

I find this to be simultaneously the easiest and most painful question to answer. I remember a day in graduate school, after about $50,000 in loans had been taken out and perhaps two-thirds of the way through when I had an epiphany (with appropriate thanks to the Scottish play): “I am stepped in blood so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er.” I remember feeling that I had invested so much, and not just money but time, sweat, tears, everything that I just had to press on. Honestly, I don't think I will ever feel that my master's degree was worth it – at any level. I lost too much time for the return. And, for those who know me well and know just how well I can teach, and how much I really liked teaching, this is a powerful statement. So here it is: I wouldn't change a thing. I firmly believe that all of my experiences are critical to my composition as a person.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone contemplating leaving a job/career without another one to fall back on?

1. Have a plan that is not just a formula but that speaks from your being. And, as important as formulas are to a math teacher, this is a serious thing: do what you have to do, not what you think you should do. The key is a plan that is well thought-out, includes options for unexpected hurdles, and encompasses short, medium, and long-term goals.

2. Make sure that you have a support system in place: family, friends, social network of some kind.

3. Don't expect everything to happen overnight. Prepare for endurance. Real change is exciting, challenging, and takes time. In change you have to balance the opportunity you are creating with the difficulties of the journey.

4. Don't forget to fully experience the journey. If you always keep your eye fixed to the future, you will miss out on the joys of the change you are creating. This simple idea kept me energized along the way because I was so happy with the day-to-day progress I was making. Some ways to do this: take pictures, write a diary or blog, and talk lots with friends and family.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tis the week to quit your job

In grand, messy, burn-your-bridges fashion. New York Magazine assembled the "best" of the best stories on the web. Do you have one to share?


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

INTERVIEW: Consulting Rehab Part 2

Jennifer Ransom of Consulting Rehab offers her perspective on the couple's career break and what's next for the pair.

Congratulations on getting named one of the top 10 travel blogs in Argentina! You're a hit there, no?

Thanks! We’re flattered that we seemed to have gained traction in the Argentina travel blog space, which is pretty crowded. It’s so gratifying to hear from readers from all over the world planning trips here and hearing that our blog has been helpful to them - people from the US and even as far away as Australia. We’ve made plans to meet up with a few people who’ve used our blog once they make it here - so fun to meet like-minded travelers (although it’s a little weird that they know all about us)!

Is this your first foray into blogging? Has it been learn-as-you-go, or did you consult any how-to sites/blogs?

Yes, this is definitely our first attempt at blogging. Ryan has a tech and entrepreneurial background, so this was right up his alley (and, as such, he’s the blogmaster in our family). He’s spent a lot of time reading different things online about how to build a good blog and we’re starting to get the hang of it. We’re definitely learning as we go.

Have you considered the ironic opportunity of changing your career to blogging about career breaks?

I can’t say it hasn’t crossed our minds! We love what we’re doing and we’re so glad that we took the leap to leave our jobs that made this possible. It’s incredible how much perspective you gain by being away from the daily grind for a while. The typical 1-2 week vacation just isn’t enough. We absolutely believe that besides this being a great life experience for us, we’re much healthier and happier than we were before. We also have a clearer perspective on our life priorities. As such, we’d love to encourage and enable other people to do the same. Not sure if this will turn into a career, but we definitely plan to continue sharing our thoughts on career breaks and the adventure that life can be!

What's been a typical day on the road for you and Ryan?

We took the approach of trying to get to know one place well, rather than traveling around to a lot of different locations. We haven’t been on the road all that much. As such, for much of our time, our day consisted of getting up “early” (I use the term lightly - typically 8 or 8:30am) and walking to our Spanish school for four hours of intensive Spanish lessons. After class, we’d usually go to a leisurely lunch, and then a nap was necessary. Post-nap, we’d study and do our homework, then do something fun like check out a new neighborhood or walk over to our favorite park to watch the dogs play (I love the dogs in BA!). Then we’d usually go to a low-key dinner and enjoy some good Argentine wine. We found that we needed a break from so much studying every couple of weeks so took a week off here and there to travel and see other parts of Argentina or just be tourists in Buenos Aires.

Do you have a return date to the states/back to work?

We thought we did. Then we discovered Santiago, Chile. Our plan was to return to the US at the end of August and start looking for jobs, but it’s looking like we’ll delay our return flight. Until when is TBD. We visited Santiago as an afterthought, after our wine-tasting trip to Mendoza, and absolutely loved it. It’s such a bustling city and seems to be a great, exciting place to live. We’re thinking we’ll hang out here for a bit, spend some time learning about the economy and job opportunities and see where that takes us. It’s definitely about time to go back to work, but that might end up being here in South America rather than back in the states.

Have you learned anything new about yourself while on your career break?

Yes. We’ve learned that we need to have some sort of purpose in order to feel fulfilled and happy - we’re definitely not perpetual vacationers. At first, vacation mode was great and we just enjoyed not having to get up early and work late. We signed up for Spanish classes pretty quickly after we arrived. We’ve kept busy with learning Spanish and working on the blog, but we’ve definitely noticed we start to go a little crazy when we don’t have anything productive to do.

At this point in our journey, that “something to do” might turn into work (or some other income-generating activity). I think this time around we would put a lot more weight on finding something that we enjoy doing, rather than just something we think we’re “supposed” to be doing to advance our careers. There are things we genuinely enjoy about working (camaraderie, pursuing and achieving a goal, building something), and we’d like to work in jobs that highlight these without being clouded by all the things that made work too intense before.

What are your plans for the blog if/when you return to work? Or will you travel to another country and start Consulting Rehab Phase 2?

We’re still trying to work that out. If we stay in Chile, we’ll have plenty to write about, with the extra spin of how to live long-term and assimilate in a different country. Regardless, we’d like to explore more the “career break” theme - we’re starting to meet other people who’ve designed their lives to allow them to travel and take career breaks periodically. We’ll be featuring them on our blog in the future. After that, we’ll just have to see where life takes us.

Do you think you have a story to pitch a TV show idea to the Travel Channel? It certainly would be a unique angle: couple leaves high-powered job to explore/immerse themselves in another culture. I think many professionals would relate and enjoy the show.

Love it!!! We hadn’t thought of it but think it could be so much fun! There are so many people, particularly in the US and particularly with our backgrounds who feel this external pressure to climb the ladder without really knowing why. Something like this would be a great way to share an alternate path, whether temporary or as a long-term shift in life goals. That might be relevant for a lot of people. Our day-to-day life isn’t as thrilling and dramatic as “Man vs. Wild” but there might be an audience out there for it nonetheless!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Briefcase to Backpack's Meet, Plan, Go Event

Considering a career break, sabbatical, or a self-designed “gap year?” Briefcase to Backpack wants to help you make it happen.

The group is hosting their first Meet, Plan, Go! event on September 14 – a nationwide movement to raise awareness about career breaks and long-term travel.

Together with Three Month Visa, B2B will host a night of FREE events with travel experts in major cities across the country.

Attendees will:

- Meet inspirational speakers and like-minded travelers.
- Get motivation, contacts and resources necessary to plan their trip.
- Start taking steps forward and get ready to go!

And if you have already made the escape, they’d love to have you join them to share how you did it!

Be sure to sign up for updates on the Meet, Plan, Go! site as they add locations and participants. Also let them know if you would like to host or participate in an event in your town/city.

http://twitter.com/ #meetplango

INTERVIEW: Erich Bennar is not his career

Erich Bennar's life and ambitions were shifting. Instead of muddle through his job at a company he helped build, he decided to take action and create new opportunities. What he thought would be a terrifying experience turned out to be a relief.

What prompted you to say "ok, not working might be scary, but working just doesn't work for me right now."?

It came down to me wanting to be happy. I had reached an impasse at my job. I was with a technology company for about six years. The company was experiencing growing pains. The direction the company was growing toward and the direction that I wanted to grow in didn't match up anymore.

For the previous three years I'd been involved in Pioneer Valley Roller Derby as a coach and a team captain. I really enjoyed working with people and helping them accomplish their goals. I also learned a lot of great communication skills, management tactics and leadership skills that just weren't being utilized at my job. I felt restless sitting behind a computer and was ready for the next step in my career.

How long did you process the decision?

It's hard to tell. Prior to leaving the company, I was stepping out of my roles with the PVRD to free up some time to pursue other interests. Part of me was realizing that giving up so much control in the organization I helped build wasn't as scary as I anticipated.

Stepping down from my derby roles and leaving the company were intensely personal decisions. Both organizations represented things that I helped build, refined and kept moving forward. At some level I used them to mask insecurities surrounding my divorce.

The decision had a lot to do with me taking a leap of faith, embracing change and having confidence in myself and my abilities to not only survive, but to find something better.

Once you made the decision, did you panic or feel relief? Or both?

More relief. I felt good for making the decision. It was hard to give up generous benefits for who knows what I'd find, but ultimately it was a relaxing break. I definitely needed that.

What have you been doing since you left?

During the couple months I was out of work, I halfheartedly looked for a low relief job to draw out my vacation. I also started building a pretty serious business plan to open a roller skate shop. Numbers weren't looking too optimistic so I put that project on hold, while I looked for something else.

I picked up a couple jobs - one moving boxes at a wine cellar, and the other as a management consultant for another local technology company.

What's your next move?

Next move is taking on a new role in a new industry. Both the technology company and the wine cellar wanted to bring me on full time. Both offered benefits comparable to my previous job. At the technology company, I enjoy working with the people and helping them build their team, but the industry is more fast-paced and demanding than I want to be involved in.

I took the job as the Warehouse Manager at the wine cellar. The job is laid back, still allows me to utilize my management and leadership skills, and will eventually use my technology skills as we enhance our inventory infrastructure and company portal. The environment is more in line with what I've been working to build in my other organizations, so it feels like less of a struggle. Also I get to immerse myself in a topic that is new and exciting.

Some people feel a slight identity crisis after leaving a job without a traditional plan/job in place. Did you experience that?

Maybe a bit. When you're a kid everyone asks 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' It makes you think that you are your career. I struggled with that a bit. But between my roles in derby, and an earlier identity crisis, my biggest concern when finding a new job was balancing: 'what are my skills worth?' with "what am I willing to accept if it makes me happy?" I'm fortunate that I found something that I don't have to compromise on either.

Do you know anyone else contemplating making the leap into the unknown? What advice do you have for them?

If you're seriously contemplating it - then something is wrong. Try to figure out what's wrong first. That way you won't regret it or keep wondering 'what if..?'. If it's not something that can change - then take the leap.

Also, take some time to figure out your expenses and income for the next few months and budget yourself. It'll be much easier if you know that you can survive without a job for one month or six months.

And don't be afraid to apply for government assistance. If you have a pride thing to contend with - get over it. You need to eat.

Whatever you do, keep your head up and keep working toward finding something that makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Consulting Rehab hits the top 10

Consulting Rehab was named one of the top 10 travel blogs in Argentina. Take a look:


Don't forget to read Part 1 on Consulting Rehab's interview on Quitter to Winner:


Stay tuned for Part 2!