Upsizing a dream: Lawrence residents take risks to find their second career

Former web designer Michelle Kogl, Lawrence, is a surgical nurse with Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute.

Michele Kaminski switched careers from corporate marketing to owning The Pink Box Bake Shop, 727 Mass., which opened in October 2009.

Raymond Muñoz used to own a record label but now works for Douglas County Dental Clinic, 316 Maine.

Drew Garner, right, is a graduate student who decided to change his career after the market downturn. He now is pursuing a master’s degree in physical education and works at the Energy Balance Lab at KU.

When thinking of a career change, switching employers or jobs within an industry might come to mind.

But these Lawrence residents have completely reinvented their careers — some have switched in and out of the health industry, one is a baker, and one is back in graduate school.

They all have one thing in common, though. They’ve all switched to a career they absolutely love.

Michelle Kogl

Michelle Kogl’s father was a cop. When Kogl, a Lawrence resident, was young, her father brought home photos of crime scenes and autopsies. Most kids would cringe and look away, but Michelle was excited.

“I thought they were really cool,” she said.

She always had a self-described love of blood and gore, but when it came time to go to college, she decided to go into art. She transitioned into Web and graphic design and worked for three different small companies. Then she saw her workload dwindling, and other designers started leaving the business.

“I was just bored and needed more social interaction,” she said.

So she looked into nursing. She did some research online and discovered that the application for nursing school at Johnson County Community College was due in two weeks, so she applied.

Now Kogl works as a surgical nurse at the Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute. She admits her change was quick, and she didn’t really talk to people about it before going back to school.

“One day I was doing this and the next day I was doing something else,” she said.

But she says she loves her job, even after three years. And she gets her fill of blood and gore when she watches knee surgery.

Raymond Muñoz

The highlight of Raymond Muñoz’s music career culminated in an MTV show. Two of his songs were featured in a 2004 episode of “Made” where a girl was transformed into a beauty queen.

Muñoz originally worked as a computer technician in Texas, but transitioned into owning his own record label after creating a Web site for a local band and seeing how poorly their record label worked with them. His goal was to get his music on MTV, and when that happened, he lost interest in the industry.

“There’s a lot of backstabbing and stuff and you just kind of get tired of it,” he said.

So he moved to Kansas to be closer to his son and start a new career. As a Spanish speaker, he saw many job openings that needed his skill and also saw the opportunity to do things for other people.

“I’m really big on helping people out and wanted to help people out,” he said.

On a whim, Muñoz applied at the Douglas County Dental Clinic and got a job doing casework, something his business management degree hadn’t quite covered. So he had to learn about what he was doing. He took an online dental assistant course so he could pick up the terminology. He also went to the library and checked out as many dental books as he could.

Today, he’s comfortable in his job, even though sometimes he still Googles terms he doesn’t know. And he’s working harder to help more people — he’s become certified to be a personal trainer.

He says he’s satisfied where he is. “I used to say I was meant to move around, but now I’m really happy,” he said.

Michele Kaminski

Michele Kaminski’s days used to be filled with Speed Stick, Science Diet, Nair and Teen Spirit. In fact, she came up with the slogan “Smells like Teen Spirit.”

She worked for almost 30 years in the marketing business before deciding to do something she’d always loved — baking. Kaminski now owns The Pink Box Bake Shop, 727 Mass.

Kaminski had been baking all her life and had reached a point where she no longer was passionate about her marketing career.

“If I don’t have passion for it, I don’t do it,” she said.

She started out taking goods to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, and then decided to open her bake shop. Her marketing experience helped her formulate a business plan.

But she said people shouldn’t change careers on a whim.

“I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it lightly,” she said.

Kaminski said going from a big corporate job to owning her own small business was a lifestyle change, especially financially. But to her, the people she sees every day are the best part of the job.

“I love it, even on the tough days,” she said.

Drew Garner

Drew Garner’s career reinvention took him from owning his own home in the Kansas City area to living in a small apartment in Lawrence with a roommate. It’s a big change, he said, but one he’s happy with.

Garner, a Kansas University graduate student, played college baseball at Southern Arkansas and had coached youth baseball. He graduated with a degree in marketing and found a job in that field.

He said he was happy in his old job in cable marketing sales, and that business was good for two or three years. Then, customers started saying they would buy cable services and back out on their agreement.

“I decided it wasn’t what I should have been doing,” Garner said.

He decided to go back to Kansas University and get a graduate degree in physical education.

Garner now works in the KU energy balance lab doing weight-loss research. He hopes someday to become an athletic director at a high school. He said he didn’t get much college or life advice while he was in high school, and he wanted to offer that to future students.

“You not only develop them as an athlete but as a person,” he said.

Hugh Janney

Hugh Janney worked as a nurse for 22 years before changing jobs. Then, five years after quitting nursing, he returned, and says he’s enjoyed it since.

Janney, a Lawrence resident, went into nursing because he got to help people and it was also a fairly flexible job. He rose through ranks to hospital management, but wanted more education, so he went back to school to get an MBA. But he didn’t stay in hospitals. He was recruited by Payless Shoes and left the health care business.

“I call it my sabbatical now,” he said.

He said the job was a complete change from his hospital work and it gave him a break. Ultimately, though, he decided to go back to working in the ICU as a nurse. He made the switch in 2006.

Janney said that his career changes shocked his friends, but he doesn’t regret his decisions.

“I think it’s something people are afraid to do,” he said. “Anybody that has a desire to change careers should be encouraged to do it.”