EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final installment of a six-day series on ways local residents are reinventing themselves in hard times.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final installment of a six-day series on ways local residents are reinventing themselves in hard times.

Aneclectic employment background, wide-ranging interests anda desire to explore new possibilities led former Britt Festivals Executive Director Rick Hood to seek outside insights while searching for his perfect career fit.

Hired in January 2007, Hood, 57, an ex-ballet dancer with a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School and a dozen years working as a financial wizard for Charles Schwab, said he and the Britt Festivals board came to a mutual agreement in April that he would move on.

Eight months later, after considerable debate and reflection, he's returned to the financial services field.

While he considered his career path, Hood and his wife, Leigh, were determined to stay in the Rogue Valley — an area they'd visited on a whim four years ago and had quickly fallen in love with, he said.

"We really like the seasons, the outdoors and the sense of wildness. Spring is just gorgeous," said Hood. "The people are great here. We have great friends in San Francisco, but we don't have nearly the sense of community down there."

The troubled economy and specific geographic restrictions would create unique challenges, Hood suspected.

After years of one job simply leading to the next, the pause in the momentum of Hood's career path "gave me the opportunity to think about 'What is it I want to do?' " he said.

Seeking some experienced but dispassionate input, Hood called on a friend, Stuart Meyer, to help him figure it all out.

A business coach and career consultant, Meyer, 50, works with individuals to align their passions with their strengths. The former corporate executive splits his time between Ashland and Silicon Valley, Calif. He has clients that include Google, Symantec, Harry & David and Lithia Motors, Meyer said.

"Stuart provides objective reflections," said Hood. "He helps you look back, look inside and look at what you've done with your life. He helps you re-evaluate all the things you thought you knew. And he presented me with an opportunity to learn about where I can and need to grow."

Meyer and Hood began meeting in June. At first, the work was all about assessment, said Meyer. He wanted to know Hood's passions, interests and strengths, and then see where they intersected. One of Hood's passions is landscape design, which reflects his artistic side. But as they walked through the steps necessary to make his dream a successful career, Hood realized this particular passion was best kept as "an avocation, and not a vocation," said Meyer.

"The state of Oregon requires you to pass five exams to accept a dollar to put a plant in the ground," said Hood.

New opportunities in the financial services arena led Hood back to his strengths in financial advising, Meyer said.

"Rick is very good at building relationships and trust," he said.

Meyer said a key to finding a fulfilling career is to target the companies you would like to work for, then be proactive. Approach them with a great plan and pitch for employment.

"Be prepared for a strong interview," said Meyer. "Be proactive where you think your talents are most valued and approach those organizations even if they don't have a posted job."

The Savant Group out of San Francisco had several clients in the Rogue Valley, said Hood. Lunch with one of them led to a contact with the group's founder, Tom Burkhart.

The late-September meeting was serendipitous, said Hood.

"I realized the opportunity I had encountered with the Savant Group was absolutely superb," said Hood. "It coincided with the fact that (Burkhart) was excited about his clients in the Rogue Valley and the opportunity for growth."

The group has clients across the United States, and now Hood is their Medford/Ashland representative. Hood was setting up his home office this week in Ashland and expects to be on the job beginning Monday.

The Savant Group is best suited for the long-term investor. A minimum investment of $500,000 is required, but family members or small groups can combine their funds to create the amount necessary, said Hood.

"(The Savant Group representatives) take a great deal of time with their clients," he said.

Every class of investor took a hit in 2008, from the "hot dot" chaser to those with a "401(k) that's now a 201(k)." But investors with diverse portfolios like those offered at Savant "suffered a lot less than those who wanted to get rich quick," Hood said.

"The proof is in the pudding," he said.

For Meyer, the proof of his success is seeing his clients transition into a new and satisfying career — even when their path leads them back to the future. Hood is again working in the financial services field. But he's doing so with a renewed interest, and in a location that suits his passions.

"Some people choose to do similar things like what they've been doing. Other people make significant changes," said Meyers.

Hood can be reached at rhood@thesavantgroup.com. Meyer can be reached at stuart@alignedbusiness.com.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.