Test drive your new
career -- Page 2
As for the travel guide fantasy, he started helping
other dreamers climb out of their cube
farms as he had done. Not the shy type, Kurth set one friend
up as a fashion model with Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City and
made a buddy's dream come true at a Northwest microbrewery. Soon
his hobby was a business.
Kurth and his vocation
guides have hand-selected more than 80 mentors in 40 vocations across the United
States and Great Britain, offering tailor-made, two-to-three-day immersions into
your wildest dreams, as general or specific as you desire. A Vocation Vacation
Spend three days with Mary Dann, host of the Style Network's "Whose
Wedding Is It Anyway?" in Los Angeles. Price: $2,499.
Golf pro: Spend
two days with John Hall, golf pro at Old Ranch Country Club in Seal
Beach, California. Price: $899.
Zookeeper:Work two days as a zookeeper at the Oregon
Zoo in Portland, Ore. Price: $1,999.
Auto racing pit crew:
Become a member of Jep Thornton's Automatic Racing team for a Grand
Am Cup Series racing weekend (locations vary). Price: $1,999 (two
days) or $2,749 (three days).
Country star: Learn
the music business, record a demo and attend songwriter's night
at the Bluebird Café during two days with veteran Nashville
songwriter and music publisher Bruce Burch (Faith Hill, Aaron Tippin,
etc.). Price: $1,899.
Half of Kurth's "vocationers" are corporate
executives looking to unleash their inner child. The rest are divided
between baby boomers and burned-out 30-somethings.
"Probably 50 percent of our business is curiosity
seekers who are doing it for fun," he says. "The boomers
are financially set, they're retired but they're not mentally retired.
They're not Club Med people; these are very active people and going
down to the retirement center is just not going to do it for them.
"And the 30-somethings are generally burned out
and wanting to make that change before they reach their 50s. They're
not willing to pay the price to become a multimillionaire and retire
by 52. They're saying, 'Look, I'm not going to make it to 52. I've
got a couple hundred thousand dollars saved and I just need to restart,
rethink and really follow my passion.'"
(not his real name), a 36-year-old Dallas IT professional, is thinking about a
career in wine after taking a two-day Vocation Vacation as a "cellar rat"
at an Oregon vineyard.
"I got to do a lot of different
things, such as lab work and working with fermentation in the barrels and crushing
grapes in from harvest," he says. "They were ready for me; they knew
I wasn't there just to goof off. The vacation part was in small letters. It was
very much two days of work. As serious as you want to get with it, they'll dial
it up or down."
This summer, Dale hopes to continue his
due diligence with a trip to the French wine country.
would happen if his employer found out?
"Oh, it'd be all
over if they knew," he admits. "Then again, they probably wouldn't believe
An end to corporate cling?
Vacations is at the vanguard of the test-drive-your-dream movement, although some
companies and industry groups offer their own versions. For instance, the Lion
and the Rose bed and breakfast in Portland offers a one-week innkeeper training
course for $1,000 to $1,500, room and breakfast included.
career-hoppers find that a work sabbatical gives them the time and access to pursue
their passion without the boss finding out. Internships are another good way to
shift gears if you're willing to start at the bottom.
Although job coaches such as Garfinkle and career
resources such as the Career
Change Network offer more guidance and advice than actual hands-on
experience, they can help you connect to like-minded people who
may serve as mentors or even train you privately.
Kurth knows he's in the coveted first-to-market position
with Vocation Vacations, but he doesn't kid himself; competition
will surely follow. To stay ahead of the curve he's launched Vocation
Innovations, a corporate team-building program that pulls corporate
execs out of their silos and immerses them in activities such as
blending fine wine. He says response has been positive at the more
progressive companies that are embracing the new realities of career
paths in the 21st century.
are a lot of employers saying, I need to do two things: Make my employees a team
and let them know it's OK to look elsewhere," Kurth says. "The days
of working for the same company for 30 years are generally gone. If I can get
10 really productive years out of you, fantastic.
if you, on the other side, are starting to pursue your real passion, your dream,
and you've done well for us and we part ways on a very cordial basis, mazel tov."
MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Mississippi.