Brian Kurth
Brian Kurth: Career Expert

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Brian Kurth is a former “Dilbert” who worked for the phone company in Chicago. After realizing there was more to life than telecom calling plans, he founded VocationVacations. He is the author of Test-Drive Your Dream Job – A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love (Hachette, 2008) and is a sought-after speaker on how to pursue and attain one’s dream job and lifestyle. Brian was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and graduated with degrees in political science, history and international relations from the University of Wisconsin before moving to Chicago to earn his masters degree in political science from Loyola University.

Before launching VocationVacations, Brian spent more than a decade in the corporate world which included living and working in St. Louis, Chicago, Tallinn, Estonia and Budapest, Hungary; working his way up in product marketing within the telecommunications industry with AT&T and Ameritech; and finally becoming the director of business development for a dot.com startup.

The concept for VocationVacations was born on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway in 1999 during one of Brian’s long, daily commutes. Numb from his lack of passion for what he did for a living and staring at brake lights, he wondered what it would be like to be a wine maker, a tour guide or a dog trainer. Brian wanted to explore his dream jobs through a company offering working adults short-term “internships” while on vacation. But with research, Brian realized such a company did not exist. A business idea was born.

In late 2001, Brian was laid off from the dot.com company. After the lay-off, he took a six-month road trip across the United States and parts of Canada. During his travels, he realized the time was right to dust off his unique business idea. At the end of his trip, Brian moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon. VocationVacations was launched in January 2004. Brian found his ultimate dream job by starting a company that helps others find theirs.

Brian has become a dream-job lifestyle expert through his own experiences combined with creating the revolutionary VocationVacations. He has appeared on NBC’s TODAY Show, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and FOX News, and has been featured in articles in O, The Oprah Magazine, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune magazine and People, just to name a few.
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  • Best Career Change Books
    There I was, stuck in traffic as usual on the Chicago Kennedy Expressway. I had escaped another day from my “Dilbert” like existence in my product management job with the phone company, numb from the lack of passion for what I was doing.

    But what was it I REALLY wanted to do? I daydreamed about becoming a wine marketer, a dog trainer, or even a tour guide. I wanted to do something that would make me feel alive and excited; something that would not just put bread on the table, but a smile on my face. I desperately needed a change, a new mind set, a chance to discover and explore what would truly make me happy. Can you relate?

    Opportunity comes in all forms. Mine came when I got laid off in late 2001. It was time to get serious about figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. But first, there was a life-long dream to be fulfilled – a six-month road-trip across America!

    As I drove across country trying to decide what to do with my life, I kept thinking about how I might pursue some of my career aspirations. Each time I thought about it, however, I was reminded that there was not a company out there that could help me test-drive my dream jobs. By the time I decided to move from Chicago to Oregon, I realized my dream job was to ultimately start a company that would help others find their dream jobs through the guidance of expert mentors. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a couple of years! But in 2004, my dream job became a reality with the founding of VocationVacations.

    Starting a new company and reinventing yourself is exciting but scary as hell. Getting from the “Yes, this is a great idea,” revelation to actually making it happen is a challenging and often perilous journey. I found my career and lifestyle journey progressed more easily and strategically with logical and realistic advice from experts in the fields of life change, self-discovery and exploration. I got excellent insights from a number of books that were significantly helpful to me in the early stages of my quest for a new direction in my life, and others that have expanded my horizons and kept me energized and grounded as my business has grown and my life changed.

    Below are the career and lifestyle change books that have influenced my decisions and ability to seize opportunities and face challenges. These books also got me thinking about sharing my own insights on career and lifestyle changes. In January 2008, my book “Test-Drive Your Drive Job – A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love” (Hachette, 2008) was released! (But for the sake of being unbiased I am not including it in this list).

    I hope you will find a book here that will help you discover what makes you happy and motivates you to go for it!


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