Trading One Career for Four

A Pacific Beach woman finds new energy by starting over.

By Marianne Kushi
|  Sunday, Aug 9, 2009  |  Updated 12:18 PM PDT
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Lost Your Job? Don't Panic!

Jill Curtiss

Jill Curtiss puts on her dancing shoes and top hat as she launches one of four new careers.

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In these tough economic times, many are looking for a silver lining. NBCSanDiego will be profiling San Diegans who have changed their professions and are starting over. In some cases, their journeys may provide a road map for others to follow. Our series "New Beginnings" will be featured throughout the month of August. -- Ed.

Jill Curtiss was seven years old when she realized, she loved to move to music. Other kids usually give up their hobbies or extracurricular activities by the time they're teenagers but that wasn't the case for Curtiss.    Whether it's  ballet,  tap,  international folk dance or jazz,  it's a passion she carries with her.  As a grown-up though she  made her living as a senior sales executive at NBC 7/39 where she worked for 23 years. 

She loved the daily contact with clients and the mental challenge of selling ad time to San Diego businesses. "I always had to keep thinking, what would attract customers and what  does it take to keep people in business, " she said.  

She was at the top of her game in sales, but after a fabulous career doing what she loved, she retired, out of necessity. "The priorities of my family are more important than continuing a successful career, I needed to find a new one with flexible hours."

Scary right? 

 "My father is in the middle stage of Alzheimer's and my mother is the primary caregiver 24/7. I'm the only sibling who could help them out.  I was caring for them and then working till 9 or 10 at night. My life became miserable. I watched them go downhill," said Curtiss.

For a couple of months, Curtiss received some payment from a respite care organization, that helps caregivers like her mother get some additional assistance.

She still needed to support herself so she looked for what she enjoyed doing and devoted her energy to developing those skills.  Remember her passion for dance? You guessed it. She's now a certified dance instructor at Starlight Dance Studio two days a week teaching couples and singles at the West Coast Swing and the Night Club Two-Step!

Curtiss also honed in on her "inner child" and runs a fellowship program for fifth and sixth graders at Pt. Loma Community Church on Sunday. She also works one day a week at the North Park YMCA youth center.

And don't think her skills as an account exec are dormant. Get this.  Have you ever heard of  "lipia"? No, it's not the latest natural food drink. It's a plant. Curtiss grows it in her front and backyards and she barters it for things like a discount on her new roof ,  computer services, rides to the airport. "Lipia is a great dense low water use ground cover that looks like carpet, you can walk on it and it has small lavender flowers. It's great for the drought, " she pitches.  "I'm available for hire to plant."  But largely, she says she just trades it for services along with instructions on how to plant it. "It helps with the overhead."

Her parents though are her priority.  The dance, youth instruction and lipia project are all part-time jobs but it allows her to control the hours so she can be available when her parents need her. "I am in the process of developing these careers to support myself. In other words, I'm not in the black . It takes time to re-train yourself. People don't just walk into a new career. I am in the learning stage to support myself for the next decade. "

So what's the takeaway so far for others in a  similar situation?  "Pick a new career you enjoy and don't be afraid to try something completely new and be willing to invest time to retrain yourself. "

And now that she's immersed herself in these new changes, what surprised her about the transition? "The biggest joy has been in the balance. It was bigger than I had hoped for, between family, friends, children, exercise, personal health, advanced education, spiritual growth. " 

Bottom line? "Don't be motivated by fear. I had a fear of not knowing what my next career would be and I ended up with four."

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