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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Editor's Letter: Power Play

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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