ABC7 on Your Side: Career Detours

February 23, 2010 4:44:27 AM PST
The recession has squeezed salaries and left some out of a job altogether. The downturn has also spurred new job exploration. Some Chicagoans have survived this economy by pursuing their passions.

The only audience that matters right now to Adam Grey at Rush University Medical Center's neonatal intensive care unit is three-week-old Finn.

Grey's career began in New York City dancing and singing in musicals that took him around the world. But the spotlights dim with downturns in the economy.

"When the economy turns south the jobs are few and far between. Jobs that weren't exactly plentiful to begin with become even more scarce," said Grey.

Grey wanted to do something academically challenging and something that made others feel better. This spring he'll graduate with a master's in nursing and hopes to specialize in pediatrics.

"There's such a vibrant energy to children that we all see and when they're sick it's taken away from them and so the idea that you can do something to give that back that energy and vitalness. I just found it very exciting," said Grey.

Economics expedited the growth of Knotty Loop Creations which makes hand crocheted items including dresses.

"It's like the universe lined up for this to happen when it happened," said Mona Muhammad, Knotty Loop Creations.

Crocheting was a hobby for Mona Muhammad. She works full time in customer service. But last year she had to take a 10 percent pay cut. At the same time, people started noticing her crocheted designs so she stepped up production.

"Knotty Loop has really saved my home because the 10 percent pay cut really made a difference," said Muhammad. "Everybody has been impaced in the family by this recession so the timing has been perfect."

John Golden was once an insurance executive living with a debilitating college football injury, so bad he was told he wouldn't walk again. But after 23 knee surgeries, he's walking and even climbing.

Golden climbed Mount Everest to raise money for orthopedic research. He had regained strength and confidence losing 70 pounds. He shed something else - his insurance career.

"I had a lot of opportunity but it wasn't my passion," said Golden.

When massive layoffs seemed inevitable last year, he decided to help others reach their fitness goals full-time. Now he helps corporations bring fitness to their employees at Athletes Performance.

"Making their impossible possible, whatever that is. If that's getting up in the morning and not feeling any pain, if that's climbing the Hancock building, if that's running a marathon or just being able to play with their kids," said Golden.

The recession may create instability and fear but some have found economic challenge as a motivator to take a leap, pursue their passions and find a career that's more fulfilling.

"For me it was just one step at a time you don't take it in one giant leap and so when you go to change your career or change your direction just take a step," said Golden. "Step out on faith do some homework. Don't just step out there bare footed because if you want to turn it into a business or learn how you can really profit from it," said Muhammad.

"Starting over with a clean slate is a not a scary thing necessarily, it's a gift and it's a gift we can immediately give yourself you can give it to yourself tomorrow," said Grey.

With all of these examples of career detours, those people took the leap only after doing extensive research. So don't quit your job just yet. They started by talking with people in fields where they had interest and had a plan before taking action.

Women's Business Development Center (Chicago)

Career Transitions Center

U.S. Small Business Administration - Starting a business

US Dept of Education/Federal Financial Aid