Like his father before him, Mike Coble has spent his adult life on the road, trucking up and down Interstate 5.
The youthful-looking 51-year-old didn't think much about following his father's tracks. After all, it provided a regular paycheck in an era when such things can no longer be taken for granted.
Lately, however, the long out-of-state treks have become less desirable, even if he gets to sleep in his own bed on weekends.
"I'm tired of driving to California and Washington," Coble admitted.
Coble was among the more than 100 people bringing their hopes and fears to a Career Transformations conference Saturday at the RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford, seeking to fan entrepreneurial flames and rekindle careers lost to recession, health or corporate downsizing.
"I'm thinking about going into sales," Coble said. "I'm here to find out about the opportunities."
Sessions ranging from soul-searching to building personal brands and emerging careers to self-employment filled the day.
"I have a lot of work opportunities in the trucking industry," Coble said. "I have people calling me to come to work for them. It's a good field in that I always have a job. Still, I've got to find out what my opportunities are."
Like Coble, Cinda Harmes is looking for the next thing. The Hidden Valley High School science teacher is ready to turn her attention to something different from biology and chemistry. She just isn't sure what shape and form the change will take.
"I would like to try something different," Harmes said. "I'd like to branch out, but I always have teaching to fall back on. Right now, I'm just shopping. I don't have any time frame and I'm not going to push it."
One pointer the Central Point resident said she picked up at the conference was that multiple short-term efforts can lead to more fulfilling long-term decisions.
"Moving around a lot doesn't have to look like failure," she said. "Because you're building on those opportunities and experiences, rather than staying in one place and stagnating."
Roger Holleman's experiences took him from teaching English as a second language in Japan to the cusp of joining the Los Angeles Police Department before family circumstances led him to Rogue River.
After five years working in the insurance field, Holleman is ready to recalibrate.
"My skill sets don't match what's available in the Rogue Valley," he said.
His real dream is to build on his ESL work in Japan, maybe developing an ESL program for Japanese students. It's a crowded field and the start-up costs are a barrier, but he firmly believes he could make a go of it. To this point, simply navigating the ins and outs of starting a business have deterred him. He explored the state's Self-Employment Assistance program, but figured it didn't match his need.
"It's the sort of thing that both attracts someone who has been working on something for years and someone with an idea in their head," Holleman said. "I'm kind of in between. Right now, I need two things: A swift kick in the butt and professional and legal advice. I know the market and I won't let the idea go. I could make it work with 40 regular students."
When the construction boom went bust, Francis Cerdan's 10-year career in construction was derailed. Now he's hoping to put his computer-aided design skills to work for an architecture or engineering firm.
"I keep sending out resumes to companies, but they don't respond," he said. "I got websites and LinkedIn and as long as I can find a job, I'm willing to move."
For others in attendance Saturday, the way forward isn't so clear.
Dawn Hamilton, who recently moved to the Rogue Valley from Bonney Lake, Wash., has worked in the hospitality business since she was a teenager.
She lost her job in December and has discovered restaurant jobs aren't easy to come by in Southern Oregon.
"They're only hiring what they need, and that means part-time people who are going to school," Hamilton said. "They're offering the jobs to people under 25 and the managers are under 30, so they aren't interested in someone who has been doing this 35 years."