How to escape from your Vail Valley day job |

How to escape from your Vail Valley day job

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyStudent Brenda Torres, center, asks career counselor Larry Dutmer, right, the best time to ask a potential employer about pay as fellow student Rubin Ceja Castillo, left, listens in during a job interviewing seminar at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards.

EDWARDS, Colorado ” The childhood question “What should I be when I grow up?” forever haunts the workers of Eagle County.

A resort community is a place where day-jobs seem to outnumber careers, where 20-somethings like Chris Benson, an Edwards resident, float from restaurant to restaurant and from hotel to hotel to pay the bills while they ski on their days off.

“I’ve had three jobs in four years,” said Benson, who, for the time being, does satellite installations, which is “OK,” for now, and “better than waiting tables.”

“It’s just work, but I don’t know how long I’ll keep going like this,” Benson said.

With many of these job-jumpers comes a breaking point ” when they say defiantly, out-loud to themselves, “What now?”

“It’s a common thing in this valley ” people start to feel a certain amount of guilt, like they haven’t achieved much, and it comes to a point where they want to make a contribution,” said Larry Dutmer, a guidance counselor at Colorado Mountain College.

This past week, Dutmer and Shannon Stevens, another counselor at Colorado Mountain College, have been holding seminars to help people find their calling beyond the day job.

They’ve been going over how to impress employers with the perfect resume, how to have a successful interview and how to get your foot in the door on seemingly impenetrable dream jobs.

Those are all skills that can be learned, Dutmer said, but the toughest part for many people is figuring out what it is they want to do in life.

It’s common for people here to end up in careers that don’t really suit them, mostly because they moved here for the lifestyle, need the money and service jobs are everywhere, Dutmer said.

“A lot of people just fall into jobs that turn into careers ” they get into an entry level job and they work all the way through,” Dutmer said.

This works for some people, and they end up happy. For others, though, they’re stuck.

“That’s when people come to me ” when they become dissatisfied with their current occupation, when it’s not a match with their personality, not a match with their interests and it causes stress in their lives,” Dutmer said.

Not to sound corny, but the trick is to dig deep.

“I find that, many times, people don’t take the time to look inside and ask what makes them happy, why they enjoy doing certain things in their lives,” Dutmer said.

That perfect career is quite often that thing they enjoy doing for fun ” turning a hobby into a job, realizing the volunteer work they do on weekend would be a good way to spend their life, if they could find a way to get paid.

Dutmer recommends a lot of research, taking personality tests and job-matching tests. It’s important to realize the simple things: Do you like working with people or working alone? Do you like working with your hands or using words? Do you like being outside or working indoors? Do you enjoy creativity and problem solving, or do you like routine?

And when you figure out your priorities, and then find careers that match those things, the best thing you can try is talking to people in the business.

If you want to be an architect, call up some architects and pick their brains. If you want to start your own business, do what Dora Tackel has been doing ” talking to local business owners.

Tackel knows what she likes to do. She is a florist and enjoys being a florist, but doesn’t see how it could sustain her as a long-term career, especially with a son to provide for. Should she start her own business? Is that realistic? Or should she find something different that uses similar skills to floral designers?

“I’ll keep looking into starting my own business, but I’m open to other things,” Tackel said.

For instance, she used to want to be an art therapist ” Dutmer encouraged her to start researching and find out what sort of education and training is needed.

Brenda Torres is starting from scratch. She’s been a full-time mother to three children and now wants to find a career. Real estate sounds fun to her, but so does teaching Spanish. She’ll be starting the research process, like Dutmer recommends.

The tricky thing about the valley though is how limited it is. Often, he’ll see people who figure out what they want to do, only to find out that job doesn’t exist here.

“They have to make the choice if the opportunity isn’t here,” Dutmer said.

Here are some Web sites counselors at Colorado Mountain College recommend to help you find the perfect career: (U.S. Department of Labor)

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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