Success Stories: I Changed Careers

Today's economy has compelled job seekers to do some crazy things: standing on street corners wearing billboards advertising their unemployment, sending gifts to hiring managers, applying down for entry-level positions, or even switching careers entirely.

But you know what's really crazy? None of those things are that crazy at all. In fact, each of those things is a pretty smart move -- especially the latter.

Although people switch careers for many reasons and at different times, the economy is a strong factor in why millions of people are currently opting to do so. We asked our readers to share their career-changing success stories and got hundreds of responses.

Here are a just few we thought you'd enjoy:

Wall Street to cupcakes

After years on Wall Street, I was laid off last summer. Rather than getting back into finance I decided to pursue my hobby of cooking with kids as a full-time venture. Today, I'm the proud owner of Cupcake Kids!, a company in New York City that specializes in hands-on cooking events for kids. We offer cooking birthday parties, classes, school and camp visits, and more. Needless to say, my life has done a total 180 but I couldn't be happier."

-- Jessi Walter, owner, Cupcake Kids!

Corporate to geese herding

"Five years ago I could see a layoff coming. I stumbled over a story about a homeowners association in Maryland who rounded up and killed 100 geese. It was legal, but ugly. In the story, I saw a sentence about people hiring dog services to herd geese away humanly. I talked about it until my wife told me to go ahead and start a goose herding business. Gone in a Zip is now five years old. I'm not getting rich, but it sure beats sitting in an office and I have been profitable for a few years now."

-- Dan Laxton, owner, Gone in a Zip

Rabbi to comedian

"I served two congregations. Having earned a doctorate and really wanting a) to get out of the fishbowl and b) spend more time in our beloved Vermont, I resigned mid-contract, and planned to open a counseling practice. That summer, the local Jewish paper ran a "Jewish Comic of the Year Contest" which I entered. [I] came in 3rd [and] started doing free shows. Soon I was earning a decent living at comedy, so I never pursued the counseling practice. Twenty-three years later, I live in Vermont and perform internationally."

-- Bob Alper, comedian

Magazine editor to fashion designer

"I was laid off in March from my magazine editor job and it felt like Christmas in springtime. I started my fashion label last year and it's going great. We're due in boutiques this August and being laid off allowed me to focus all my energy on growing and expanding label."

-- Fresia Rodriguez, owner, Kingley & Posh

Catering to wedding pastor

"I owned a catering and event planning business for almost 20 years with my [ex] husband. Last year, after completing seminary in New York City and training in New Jersey, I started a practice writing and performing ceremonies. It is now a full-time, self-supporting business and I love it. It has blended all my years of being the caterer/planner, my writing and performing skills, and my marketing abilities in one place."

-- Celia Milton, wedding ceremony officiant and minister

Speaker/author to charity promoter

"For the past 18 years I have been a professional speaker and the author of 12 books. My husband was working from home doing marketing for a charity called Soles4Souls. When our daughter left for college, my husband and I decided to change careers. We sent a scrapbook-style business proposal to the CEO of Soles4Souls. We suggested he buy an RV and have my husband and I travel the United States for a year, promoting Soles4Souls. He went for it! Two months later, we are on the road, living in a different place every day."

-- Silvana Clark, sole ambassador, Soles4Souls Inc.

Education to music

"I have no experience in the music industry; I have a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of education degree. While I was on maternity leave [with] Hannah, I started singing songs to her, and including her name in the songs to make it fun. Tunes like "If You're Happy And You Know It" became "If You're Hannah And You Know It," and so forth. My husband works in the music industry, and we sat around the table talking about this, and he thought it would make for a great personalized CD. We started with 9 songs and 800 names recorded -- we actually had to invent the technology in order to create Name Your Tune. Since our launch, [the CD] has become the leading personalized CD in the world. Children will hear their name more than 80 times throughout 14 much-loved songs, and we now have over 4,500 names to choose from. We've come a long way since those days discussing the idea around the table."

-- Candace Alper, Name Your Tune

IT to culinary

"After graduating from college I spent seven years in the IT industry. Although it was a good job, it wasn't my real passion in life. Life is too short to have a career that I don't love, so I decided to start my own business making gourmet culinary sauces. In October of 2007, I started Simply Boulder Culinary Sauces and the business has taken off and is growing at a fast rate. Even thought my new career is a complete 180 from my previous [one], I've found that several skills from my old industry have helped me tremendously."

-- Seth Mendelsohn, president, Simply Boulder Foods

English instructor to multiplication guru

"I was a [university] English composition instructor. With endless office hours and a deluge of e-mails from students every night, I felt it was time to pursue my dream. I had a big idea -- a better way of teaching the times tables. As any parent knows or remembers, learning the multiplication tables represents a dread rite of passage for many children. When my son struggled with rote memorization, I invented a method based on easy number patterns. I published "Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, Fast, Fun & Easy!" to help other families and launched my company, TeaChildMath. This journey has been fantastic!"

-- Eugenia Francis, founder, TeaChildMath

Carpenter to LEGO model designer

"I was a carpenter for many years throughout the housing boom. When the housing market started to go south, I knew I needed to get out. I tried out for a local 'LEGO' competition. The position was for the master model builder at the brand new Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago. I fought in an American-Idol type contest, with experts and children judging me to make the final call. I won everyone over with my LEGO happy meal and am now the designer of models for the Chicago-based attraction."

-- Dan Morey, model designer, Legoland Discovery Center

Sales to bridal boutique

"My mother and I recently opened an eco-friendly bridal and special occasion boutique [in Watertown, Mass]. My mother had been in the travel industry; I, as a pharmaceutical rep at the ripe age of 26, was already burned out and did not feel right promoting pharmaceutical products any longer. We opened an eco-chic bridal and special occasion boutique Viva Amore on July 7, 2009. Our motto is to 'shop green while saving green.' It has been received extremely well thus far."

-- Mena and Anita, owners, Viva Amore

Graphic designer to soap maker

"I went from working in the corporate world as a magazine graphic designer and photographer, to selling my house, quitting my job and teaching myself to make soap. I now live in my grand dad's old dairy barn, which I renovated into a soap studio, and have a booming natural body care business. I also recently just started my own charity, Soap for Hope, where I plan on teaching at risk girls and women to start their own business and thrive (not just survive)."

-- Jennifer Jack, owner, Good Fortune LLC

Next: Cool Jobs: How Four Women Found Better Careers >>

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Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow her on Twitter:

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