Testing out your dream job while on vacation

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Monday, October 01, 2007

PearlBakery1007.jpg Baker Tim Healea  (left) and vocationer Matt Jaffe.

TIM HEALEA LOVES HIS JOB but is often amazed that someone would pay money to test it out for two days.

“People are actually willing to start baking at 5:30 a.m.,” says Healea, a longtime Vocation Vacations mentor at Portland’s Pearl Bakery. “They are that passionate about baking. And many leave feeling energized to start their own bakeries.”

It is difficult to find a flaw in the formula created by Vocation Vacations president Brian Kurth, whose ingenious business plan — let people experience their dream job for two days and charge them heftily for it — has worked like gangbusters.

In its three-year history, the Portland-based company has grown its mentor base from 10 in Oregon to more than 250 nationwide. Among the most requested of its 110 different mentorships are brewmaster, dog trainer, TV producer, sports announcer and baker. Most experiences are for two days and cost between $949 and $1,199.

“It’s a three-fold benefit for the mentors,” says Kurth. “You are sharing your passion, getting tons of free exposure on our website and getting paid for your time. It’s the ultimate win-win.”

Kurth says a nonprofit mentor in Texas saw a 50% bump in donations after getting a mention on the Vocation Vacations website. “Some folks are now questioning whether to keep their PR people on retainer,” he says.

Vocation Vacations mentors say the pay and exposure are great but admit they didn’t expect the feel-good factor to be, well, so good.

Healea says he knows of one “vocationer” from North Dakota, who, following his mentorship, opened his own bakery. A couple from rural Georgia, a schoolteacher and a bus driver, are planning to do the same.

“Our bakery also benefits from the vocationers,” he says. “We’ve had marketing people, lawyers and financial people come here for mentorships and end up giving us free business advice. It’s great.”                                                                        

STACEY WILSON

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