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From Pink Slip to Passion

Meet Four Women Who Pursued New Careers

These women went from laid-off to loving life, and are an inspiration to anyone feeling stuck in a rut. There's no time like the present to follow your passion, whether or not you have a day job. —Glo

By Carrie Sloan for ELLE

I'm sure you've heard it before: “You haven't lived until you've been fired.”

Those words, uttered once by a former boss I really liked, rang in my ears on the Tuesday last spring when I was issued my recession-related pink slip. Of course, so did a lot of other things — fear, shame, the vertigo that comes with knowing your last paycheck is en route — and your future suddenly on a trajectory far less certain.

Like the women below, I bounced back with a vengeance, but the experience still shook me to the bottom of my soul. As did front-page photos, which appeared around the same time, of young bankers in suits and heels carting cardboard boxes from now-empty offices. The fact is, it's still a wild, wild economy out there. And it's easy to let your mind wander and wonder if you might be unceremoniously escorted from your workplace. The good news is that even if the worst comes to pass (or already has), there's hope.

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The women here are proof positive that getting fired wasn't the most awful thing that could have happened. In fact, it was for the best. Being down and out led them to get in touch with what really mattered to them — and turn it into the sort of career that makes a person happy to get out of bed.

The Mother of Invention

Jamie Rubin, 30, returned to her job as a TV producer last December when her daughter was three months old. After three weeks back, her entire department was let go.

“I was caught by surprise. I had no idea what to do,” she says. She realized searching for a new job with an infant at home would be tough, but she also had a mortgage to pay. In her case, solving an even more immediate problem — what to wear while breast-feeding — led her to her next step.

Rubin was given outplacement counseling by her company and landed in the hands of a good career counselor. At her counselor's behest, she enrolled in a class on becoming an entrepreneur. During her maternity leave, Rubin had had an inkling of an idea: fashionable T-shirts for mothers who were breast-feeding.

“A lot of the apparel out there was really functional,” she says. “The shirts had a line that cut right across the chest that would flip up, but when you're done, you're walking around with a line across your chest. It's like, what's up with that girl's shirt?”

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Other than a life-long interest in shopping, she had no background in fashion, but she knew what she liked — a cute shirt that didn't scream “Hi, I'm nursing!” even to casual passersby.

She found a pattern maker on Craigslist and a website designer through LinkedIn. Then she took her samples to the Pump Station, a boutique in L.A. that also teaches about breast-feeding, which had been her go-to spot while pregnant. When the store offered to private-label the collection, it gave Rubin the validation she needed, and she decided to strike out on her own. Seemingly overnight, Milkstars was born.

But the path wasn't always smooth.

“There was a steep learning curve,” she admits. “There were many times where I was like, ‘This is too hard — I'm going to quit.'” When her husband was laid off from his job in July, the pressure increased. “Outside of severance pay, this was our livelihood,” she says.

But Rubin persisted, bolstered by feedback from women who said there's nothing else like this out there. A year later, she had launched a line sold nationwide.

“There are a lot of people like me who had an idea and just hired people to help them,” she says. “I've never felt so on my game.”

To continue reading, visit ELLE

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  • A layoff doesn't necessarily have to get you down.

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From Pink Slip to Passion
Meet Four Women Who Pursued New Careers
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