Lose Your Job? Follow Your Passion Instead

Some of the tens-of-thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs in the recession are turning crisis into opportunity. Instead of searching for a new job in the same field, they are turning their passion into a paycheck.

Jamie Rubin returned from maternity leave to her job as an online news producer at Yahoo! earlier this year and was then laid off along with the rest of her department. The loss of income forced her to fire her nanny, but the time at home allowed her to work on an idea she had. While she was pregnant, Rubin learned about nursing shirts with panels that pull down or lift up so that mothers can breastfeed without undressing.

She decided to make nursing shirts which she thought were more fashionable than those on the market. She started her company, "Milkstars," with an initial order for 300 shirts. The order sold out in three weeks. Now, with a sewing machine, fabric and mannequins in the dining room of her house in the Hollywood Hills above Los Angeles, she's working on an order for 900 more shirts.

Rubin says the skills she had at her previous job — especially the ability to research contacts in different areas — helped her start Milkstars.

"I need to talk to an attorney. I need to talk to an accountant. I need to talk to someone in insurance," says Rubin. "If I was going to do a story on something, I would have called a friend of a friend who worked in that industry."

From Salesman To Manager

Brian Zeno is using the skills he learned as a salesman and combining them with his love for music.

Zeno was laid this year off from his job selling a line of men's hair-care products. He had a background in the music industry and still loved it. So when he discovered the alternative-pop-rock band "Satellite Thieves" playing at a department store, he offered to become their manager and they accepted.

Now Zeno is booking Satellite Thieves and other bands at venues around Los Angeles. He helps them promote their music online and connects them with the local and national music scene. He also uses the same skills he used as a salesman and in his earlier stint in the music industry.

"I thought there was going to be a big learning curve," says Zeno. "But I was really surprised that everything I kind of did at record labels [taught] me everything I needed to know to be a manager.

Los Angeles career counselor Susan Miller says the excitement of a new career may eventually wear off. "But I think at the beginning, it's exciting and fun to be doing something different and challenging," she says.

Miller says the recession may not be the best time for everyone to take a risk, but trying something new can be a good way to recharge.

At least for now, both Rubin and Zeno have much smaller paychecks than they had with steady jobs. But both say what they've lost in security, they've made up for in flexibility and independence.

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