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Guides small steps lead way out of a dead-end job

Book maps path past fear, other barriers to a dream career
by: , ‘Test-Drive Your Dream Job’
by Brian Kurth 
Grand Central Publishing

Portland author Brian Kurth is not afraid to use the 'F' word.

In 'Test-Drive Your Dream Job,' Kurth and co-author Robin Simons pinpoint the numerous methods people can employ to find the job that best suits them. But perhaps the best tips center on the word that typifies why so many of us never seek out fulfilling employment - fear.

Kurth is the founder and president of VocationVacations, an organization that lets people 'test-drive' a job they're curious about. For a fee, the client is placed with a mentor in a particular workplace and given the opportunity to experience what it would be like to labor in that field.

For those who either can't afford a VocationVacation or who merely want to try out the idea of switching careers, Kurth's book provides a workable blueprint. In the introduction, the author soothes his nervous audience by assuring them, 'It will map out the small steps you can take to move from where you are now to where you really want to be.'

True to his word, Kurth painstakingly breaks down the process of achieving employment nirvana by dividing the book into clear steps. Along the way, there are lively examples not only of individuals who risked all and wound up with the job of their dreams but of others who came away from their road tests horrified by the results.

The best of these chapters is aptly titled 'Fear.' Here Kurth provides concrete questions to ask yourself about what's holding you back from even looking into a different career. He breaks fear down into manageable, bite-size portions and presents ways to swallow them and move forward.

The book deals with more than overcoming negative feelings. Subsequent chapters deal with finding a mentor; going for the actual test-drive; and working out potential deal-killers such as finances, terrified spouses and transitioning from your old job to the new one.

Kurth himself is a wonderful mentor, often providing hilarious examples of overcoming his own phobias about starting his dream business. His story of summoning up the courage to approach a bed-and-breakfast proprietor about becoming a VocationVacations mentor is funny and familiar.

Ultimately, what sets this book apart is a winning combination of practical advice and sincere cheerleading by someone who has been there and lived to tell about it. Kurth flushes fear from under the bed and provides readers with a guide to finding the job of their dreams.

Also reading this week

Kentucky poets Lynnell Edwards (author of 'The Farmer's Daughter' and a former Portlander) and Nickole Brown ('Sister') will read from their new Red Hen Press collections at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Mago Hunt Center Recital Hall on the University of Portland campus (5000 N. Williamette Blvd.). The event is free. For information, call Brian Doyle at 503-943-8225.

When I look back on my all-time favorite books, 'Crossing to Safety' by Wallace Stegner tops the list.

Now there's a new biography of the beloved writer and teacher, 'Wallace Stegner and the American West.' The author, Philip L. Fradkin, will appear at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651).

After the success of her last standalone mystery, 'What the Dead Know,' Laura Lippman has returned to her popular Tess Monaghan series.

In 'Another Thing to Fall,' Hollywood has come to Tess' hometown of Baltimore in the form of a new TV series. When eerie problems arise around the set, Tess is hired to protect a young starlet, and that's when things really start to heat up. Lippman will read at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Powell's City of Books.

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Brian Kurth

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 11

Where: Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651