Recession Refuseniks: Getting a Job in a Dying Profession

Mike Henderson of Denver became a real estate agent and mortgage broker last year, even though he knows both professions "have been killed lately."

A New York social media strategist I'll call "Justine" plans to ditch her stable, well-paid social media career this fall in pursuit of a far shakier, much less lucrative one -- as a tenure-track English professor. (Justine didn't want her real name used because she hasn't shared her plans with her employer yet.)

VIDEO: Rebounding Amidst Recession
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And despite the fact that charitable donations have suffered greatly thanks to the recession, Eric Galvez from San Diego launched mAsskickers.com, a non-profit foundation and Web community for newly diagnosed cancer patients.

Meet the Recession Refuseniks -- those stalwart souls hell-bent on pursing a profession that's been pounded by the miserable economy.

None of these people are independently wealthy or living off someone else's dime. They're just incredibly enthusiastic about their career choice -- rotten odds and stiff competition be damned.

Henderson, a former professional poker player who's no stranger to risk taking, said he saw opportunity where most didn't, from helping real estate investors find deals to helping people save their homes.

"I describe it like the buildings were on fire and everyone was running away," he said. "I started running right into the fire."

For Justine, a 2009 college grad, literature is her passion, no matter how few university jobs there are teaching it.

And Galvez, a 34-year-old brain cancer survivor, hopes to fill what he sees as a gaping hole in online information for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their loved ones.

I know what some of you are thinking: Are these people crazy, entering a profession that's been trounced by the recession? Yes, passion for one's work is a beautiful thing, but it won't pay the bills.

Do these career idealists need to take off their rose-colored glasses, or do they know something the rest of us don't?

Temper Your Passion With Pragmatism

"It's OK to pursue something in an industry that's been crushed as long as you're realistic about it," said Julie Jansen, author of "I Don't Know What I Want, But I know It's Not This."

It's one thing to suss out the competition, earning potential and education costs of a shiney new career. But don't just crunch the numbers and call it good.

Educate Yourself

Your next stop on the reality train should be educating yourself on exactly what a week in the life of your hopeful profession entails, Jansen said. (This is where informational interviews, volunteer positions and internships come in handy.)

"If you're going to pursue something in a gutted industry, you'd better have a real good idea of what the job is like," Jansen advised.

Set a Deadline -- And Have a Plan B

Giving yourself a deadline by which you must start earning a living wage in your chosen field is a must, both for your bank account and your morale, Jansen said. Depending on your finances, emotional resilience and endurance for couch surfing, this deadline might be nine, 12, even 18-plus months.

After that point, you should start seriously considering Plan B. Plan B need not be anything more concrete at the moment than "If this journalism thing doesn't work out, I'll look into corporate communications or tech writing," Jansen said. But, she explained, if Plan A blows up in your face, having a backup can be a great comfort.

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