Unemployed Businessman Saved By Sharks

Earlier this year, AOL Jobs solicited resumes from our readers as part of our "Employing America" Jobs Week Resume contest and we splashed the winning resumes, as voted by our readers, on AOL.com for millions of prospective employers to see. This Jobs Week, we caught up with a few of the winners to see how their job hunts had progressed.

Brandon Bethea had spent the last few years caring for his mother, when the cancer finally got her. Bethea then used her frequent flier miles to go and live her dream. And there he stood, a 12mm steel grating away from the great white sharks of the southern Australian coast.

"This is it," he thought.

"It changes your perspective on family, time, legacy," Bethea said, talking about his mother's death. "It showed me what was important to me. Starting a business, you get a little uncertain. But this, the way I feel in my gut, it's the right thing to do."

Bethea launched the Heart of Travel Foundation in 2007, which provided unique travel experiences to people with life-threatening medical conditions. The nonprofit quickly morphed into the more niche Fin Forward, which takes cancer survivors shark-diving.

"Like what Make a Wish does," Bethea said. "It's like sending a child to Disney World."

Bethea has technically been unemployed since he graduated from business school in 2004, but the man's never been busier. He's now visited 35 countries in five continents, and in the past 12 months, he has swum with mako, blue and leopard sharks, introduced a breast cancer survivor to whale sharks and manta rays, and helped a terminal 15-year-old tick off one of the boxes on her bucket list.

In fact, Bethea has been so preoccupied that he hadn't sent out too many resumes when AOL Jobs told him he'd won our Resume Contest in January. And Bethea has a good resume. At Franklin Templeton Investments, he was swiftly promoted and showered with awards for dedication and general awesomeness. He managed a territory with annual sales of over $200 million, and invented a research tool used by 1,500 employees. He's won prestigious scholarships and, more recently, the Conde Naste Traveler "Globetrotting for Good" competition.

But a few things have changed since January. All this action-adventuring has made Bethea ever-more-focused on working for companies dedicated to this field, like travel gear companies, or surf and scuba brands.

"But it's kind of like the music industry," he said. "It's hard to get into and there aren't a lot of jobs. They hire a lot of engineers or people with a marine background." That doesn't really describe an international businessman like Bethea.

But he's still open to opportunity, because Fin Forward, unfortunately, is never going to pay the bills.

"It's not going to be one of those nonprofits that bring in $20 million," he explained. "I'd have to balance it with another job or winning the lottery or something."

Although things are tight, he's recently flying to Mexico on a sailfish and bull shark expedition, thanks to a grant from Dockers. Bethea's unemployed life has sweeter perks than most.

Next: My Unemployed Life: A Job Can't Buy You Love

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