Shifting Gears

New Loring Park organization helps people find satisfying careers

Mike Mann worked as human resources manager at Wuollet Bakery for 24 years before he decided to become a professional storyteller. He now works full-time telling stories to 15,000 children each year.

Mann will explain how he made the career change through a new organization called SHiFT, a group based in Loring Park designed to inspire people to reach meaningful career goals that seem difficult to attain.

David Buck, the founder of the group, is taking a large shift himself from a career in real estate to launch this organization. He said the first SHiFT meeting will kick off Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Loring Park Dunn Bros, 329 W. 15th St., to link residents with existing career resources that might open doors for them.

&#8220Most people are not so thrilled with what they do, and they are looking for more meaning in their lives,” Buck said.

According to a May 2005 Harris Poll conducted by Harris Interactive, an independent opinion poller and market research firm based in Rochester, N.Y., two out of five workers (41 percent) are not satisfied with their jobs. One-third of more than 7,000 workers surveyed said they are at a dead-end at their current jobs, and 42 percent said they are &#8220trying to cope with feelings of burnout.”

Phyllis Moen, a University of Minnesota sociology professor who published &#8220The Career Mystique: Cracks in the American Dream,” said her research indicates that employees are looking for jobs with more meaning.

&#8220People believed in the career mystique - that if you worked hard you would have job security,” Moen said. She said longtime, skilled employees increasingly become victim to downsizing, mergers and outsourcing, and job security is no longer guaranteed. In addition, Moen said, people are living longer, are more educated than ever before and are searching for rewarding careers.

Young people also face a great deal of ambiguity about their career paths, she said.

&#8220They can be stuck in situations where they want to be more effective but they're not because of rent, or a mortgage, or a kid, or school loans,” she said. &#8220This is a major social upheaval, and it is not clear what will emerge from this. The old myths are no longer appropriate.”

The SHiFT organization plans to step into the fray by connecting residents to existing resource networks, offering speakers who will talk about their own major career changes, hosting discussions with career counselors, and coordinating small group workshops tailored to particular perspectives.

SHiFT Board Member Jan Hively, a former deputy mayor of Minneapolis who earned her Ph.D. at age 69, is an example of someone who has repeatedly made major shifts in her career path. She worked as a homemaker through the 1960s. Following work for the city of Minneapolis that included a position as deputy planning director in the 1970s, Hively became involved in youth job coaching. In recent years, she founded the Vital Aging Network, a group that works to reshape expectations about aging.

&#8220We need to plan for transitions that provide meaning and balance in our lives,” Hively said.

Councilmember Don Samuels (5th Ward) will speak at the first SHiFT meeting on Nov. 6. Samuels said he never considered becoming a politician for the first 13 years of his career. Samuels started work as a toy designer straight out of college, working for Hasbro and independent companies where he sold toy concepts across the country.

&#8220It was very interesting work, it was exciting, and it was something new every day,” Samuels said. &#8220But there was always a philosophical or even theological pull on me to address issues of inequity in society.”

Samuels volunteered in that capacity for many years, and he enrolled in seminary and became involved in neighborhood activism and when he moved to North Minneapolis in the mid-1990s. Samuels said residents encouraged him to run for a seat on the City Council after he served as neighborhood spokesman during a volatile period in North Minneapolis five years ago.

&#8220I was not prepared in any way for politics,” Samuels said. &#8220Everybody has something percolating in your consciousness around who you are and what is your passion. … Stay involved with your passion or your hobby. Stay in touch with your heart so if the opportunity does come you have some kind of preparedness.”

Even Rodger Kelly, the owner of the Loring Park Dunn Bros hosting the weekly meetings, has a story of vocational shift. He originally worked for the Hennepin County Library system before investigating franchise ownership. He said he wants to host this event to better serve the Loring Park community.

Board members of SHiFT include nonprofit founders, academicians and an &#8220out-of-the-closet rock opera writer.”

&#8220People grow up, their values start changing, and they experience an inner shift and say the vocation I chose doesn't represent who I have now become,” Buck said. &#8220We just want to be the front door that people come in.”

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Michelle Bruch can be reached at 436-4372 or [email protected].