Haseley, now 39, is finishing her geography degree at Cal State Northridge and hoping to land a job locally in city or county planning. She hopes in another year to have a job that pays better than clerical work but knows finding that job will not be easy.
In information interviews with prospective employers, she is often reminded that the employment picture is dim. But she has confidence that she made the right move.
"I needed a chance to make a bigger difference," she said. "I'm glad I took the chance."
Moorpark resident Robert Vickers didn't exactly choose to take a leap--he was more or less booted into taking one. As he packed to leave on a Friday for a weekend employees convention in Milwaukee, Vickers said, he got a phone call from his employer at Effective Management Systems West.
"He told me, 'We're going to have to let you go,' " he said. Vickers, who said he had never been fired before, said: "Let me go--what exactly does that mean?"
He found out that it meant returning his airline tickets for the convention, accepting two weeks' severance pay, and saying goodby to his 70-hour-a-week, $57,000-a-year technical specialist engineering job. That was 15 months ago; Vickers, now 37, has yet to find full-time work in engineering.
"When I got laid off I was shattered," Vickers said. "This has been one of the most difficult times in my life. But it's also been a good time, because I've had time to think, time to spend with the kids.
"I realized that I had been dissatisfied with the corporation. . . . But I was busy before, I didn't have time to think much about it."
As his wife, Linda, scrambled to keep bread on the table by working several part-time jobs as a dietitian, Vickers became the homemaker. The slower pace and the involvement with his children--10-year-old Ryan and 5-year-old twins Kaitlen and Kristen--led him to think about a career in a new field. He began work on a two-year associate degree in environmental science at Moorpark College.
When he finishes in a year, he hopes to find a job as an air quality inspector or technician, collecting data and working with scientists. He will also start a four-year degree in the same field.
"I don't know if I'd go back to a high-paced job now, unless it were in the environment," Vickers said.
"This interests me, and recycling, and gardens. I can do my part for the Earth while I'm still alive. This helps make it a better place for my children and their children."
Over the years, Arco senior executive Paul R. Williams earned graduate degrees in business and finance, and expects to finish a doctorate in strategic management this spring. He felt at home in academic life and hoped one day to be able to teach at night.
But opportunity knocked before he was altogether ready to open the door. In 1985, according to Arco spokesman Scott Loll, the company cut half its employees and divested itself of its entire East Coast operation.
As a result of the continued worldwide economic slowdown, in 1991 the company cut another 2,200 jobs nationwide, Loll said. Williams foresaw that restructurings and diminished opportunities "would be a larger force in everyone's lives in the future."
He chose to follow his dream immediately and accepted an offer from Cal Lutheran University to teach finance and strategic management. He planned to stay connected with the business world by offering consulting services to businesses in the Conejo Valley.
Following his dream meant accepting a lot less money, at least at first.
"For 20 years, there's been a trend to equate value and self-esteem with salary," said Williams, 42. "The paycheck, bonus and stock proves I'm a worthy individual. This is difficult to deal with. How do you rationalize your own self-worth when you know you're going to see a lower paycheck?"
Ultimately, Williams has come to terms with the reduced income. His consulting business offers possibilities for expanded income, he said, and in the meantime, the new job offers him a way to make a significant contribution. Now, Williams said, he is in "a situation where the work environment would be exciting with continued opportunities to learn. It turns out I enjoy the academic environment."
HELP FOR A CHANGE OF CAREER
Ventura County residents planning career changes can contact these resources:
* Moorpark College offers personal assessment and career counseling courses. To order a catalogue, which costs $2.65, or for a free schedule of classes call 378-1410.
* The state Employment Development Department maintains a "job club" for unemployed or underemployed professionals, with networking, resume writing, faxing and telephone answering services available for free. Contact coordinator Madeleine Brockwell at 522-6760, Ext. 313, or write to her at EDD, 980 Enchanted Way, Suite 105, Simi Valley 93065.
* Learning Tree University in Thousand Oaks offers a variety of classes on starting a business and programs in computers and management training. Call 497-2292.
* The Adult Education Program at Cal Lutheran University offers bachelor's degrees in business, accounting and computer-related fields. The program also offers a handbook, "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get a Degree," for any adult planning to return to school. The handbook costs $3. For a copy of the catalogue or the handbook, call 493-3325.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE '90s
Experts urge workers to investigate the following fields, all of which promise to offer opportunities at a good rate throughout the 1990s:
* Biomedical--Products or services geared toward the medical profession.
* Telecommunications--Manufacture of cellular telephones, services and hardware, satellite transmission lines.
* Agricultural and environmental services--Governmental regulation is forcing growth in these areas. Demand for technicians, scientists, enforcers will continue to rise.
* Computer software products.