Switching Careers: Starting over again by helping others

Karla AndersonThe employment picture may be brightening. The Department of Labor recently reported that job openings rose in January. Indeed.com, a jobs search engine, is seeing a similar rise, with job postings increasing in certain industries.

"Of the 12 major industries that we track, 10 of those had more jobs in February than a year ago," Indeed co-founder and chief technology officer Rony Kahan tells WalletPop. "Hospitality stands out with 44% more jobs advertised in February than a year ago. Other strong industries are real estate and retail, both of which have bounced back. Compared to other industries, health care never did badly. It is less cyclical and didn't turn down in the ways many of the other industries did. These numbers are a leading indicator of what we are going to see from broader sources of data."

Health care's recession-proof reputation is what drew Karla Anderson, pictured at right, to retrain after years of being a massage therapist. Angelique LeDoux left journalism to become a retailer of green children's toys. Both share their stories of re-inventing themselves this month.
Karla Anderson: driven to become a nurse
When Michigan changed how massage therapists working in doctors' offices would be compensated in 2004, Anderson saw the writing on the wall. She knew that despite her nine years in the field, she would soon be out of a job. Urged by the physician she had been working with to pursue a nursing career, the single mom of four came up with a plan.

But as they say, even best laid plans go awry. When Anderson and her family relocated to Sault St. Marie in 2006 so she could attend Lake Superior State University, it turned out there was no family housing. But rather than abandon her RN degree at a cost of $30,000, she and her kids fought to make it work.

"We lived out of my car for 2-4 weeks," says Anderson, now 43 and remarried. "Then we camped out at a campground. We then found a room to rent. By late 2007, Michigan Works stepped in. We went to a homeless shelter for 45 days until we found a home. We had already committed to the program. It's one of those obstacles you had to get through." Michigan Works also helped her score $10,000 in scholarships and grants.

While she logged 60 hours a week in classes and clinical studies, her oldest kids would watch the younger kids. They studied in the university library right next to her. They endured pumpkin 15 different ways. They and new husband Doug survived her bout of uterine and cervical cancer in 2008.

In 2009, she graduated and now runs the night shift at War Memorial Hospital Behavioral Health Center in Sault St. Marie. It's been a tough journey but she made it. She credits the strong support team around her.

"Honestly, I was embarrassed to tell my family that we didn't have food this week," says Anderson. "I didn't want to burden them. So Cindy Suppa at Michigan Works stepped in and encouraged me to keep going. My last year, when I got sick and didn't know what it was, she said to keep going. You have to surround yourself with positive people and know you can do it if you have a dream and a goal. You just can't quit."

Angelique LeDoux: putting play back into work
Like many writers before her, LeDoux left Dallas for Manhattan in 1996 to see her name in print. Flash forward 10 years later; she saw the industry changing, with her employer, Time Inc., shedding jobs.

"In my last two years at Time for Kids Magazine, I watched people get let go who'd given 20 years to that company," she recalls. "It's just hard to watch yourself give up things you can't get back – like time with your baby or even having a child – knowing your company could potentially let you go any time for whatever reason. I just didn't want to have regrets."

When Time Inc. again looked to downsize in 2007, LeDoux quit and began a second career as a green Web toy retailer. The idea had been percolating for some time, after she had written several articles on green buildings and sustainable architecture. Then she had her daughter in 2005 and became "focused on giving her tools for learning that were fun and educational," she says. Jade's ToyBox, which combined her passion for green design and toys, was born within weeks of her leaving the publishing giant, in September 2007.

"I formed an S-corp, hired a lawyer, an accountant, and purchased my first orders for the company within two months, to the tune of a few thousand dollars" says LeDoux, now 39. "The expense could have been less, or more, but I specifically chose a business structure that made sense for us, even though the costs to set up weren't cheap."

She still writes when she can. She also moonlights as a green building consultant. And Jade's ToyBox has doubled in growth for the past two years, thanks to word of mouth. Business is so good that she's opened pop up stores during the holidays and hosts various events throughout the city.
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