Three women reinvented their lives by changing careers



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At least once a year, employment services come out with figures about unhappy workers who just hate their jobs.

The question remains if you don’t like what you do, what then?

Examples abound in this area of women who have said “Enough is enough” and moved to something different. Three are captured here, and each has a different reason for taking the step.

With second-guesses in the back of their brains, their guts told them it was the right move.

After years of doing marketing for the business-centric Chico Chamber, Alice Patterson moved to marketing for the drug-rehab center Skyway House.

Debbie LaPlant Moseley left the downtown Chico retail arena after years with a successful apparel shop and became a consultant and launched a scholarship-raising nonprofit chocolate event. At one time she owned the apparel business Beach It, served as president of the Chico Chamber, and as interim head of the Downtown Chico Business Association. Now she has Beach Fit, a fitness camp on the beach at a Maui hotel.


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In 2004, Haley Cope Clark won an Olympic silver medal in swimming, as well as setting world records. She could have continued as a professional swimmer, could have followed her college degree in communications, but chose to settle down to have a family. With the love of children, she then started Water Sprites, a swimming school for youngsters.

Common with each woman was either finding less joy in what had been an ultimate passion or having a deeper feeling for another path. Those decisions meant painstaking steps, tough choices, and the will not to look back. In each case, the major change they took resulted in a happier place.

Q: What started making you think about changing jobs?

Alice Patterson: “I really had lost a passion for what I was doing. I felt burned out. I was looking for a challenge.”

Patterson said she loved her chamber job, which had brought her much joy, but the repetitive nature of the job was wearing.

“As women, we get stuck in ruts, taking care of family, juggling jobs, trying to insert some fun, but we can really get stuck in routines.”

Because it’s easy for some to put others as a priority, pushing out of the rut can be daunting.


Debbie LaPlant Moseley: “There were indications a change was needed. I had been very involved in the community and loved being involved with people, but things weren’t right.”

Changing demographics of downtown businesses, more competition, and the gut feeling a dramatic change was necessary made her close Beach It.

While nothing concrete lay before her, Moseley found her positive interchanges with people opened new doors. She got involved in the Boys and Girls Club and then developed the Paradise Chocolate Festival as a fundraiser for the club. Over the last seven years, the program raised more than $150,000 for ridge youth.

Moseley’s love of the beach couldn’t be diminished, so with her husband’s help she started Beach Fit, a fitness camp at a hotel on a Maui beach. She organizes the events and her fitness coach husband conducts the workouts.

Haley Cope Clark found swimming was easy, and conquering titles and championships leading to the 2004 Olympics empowered her. She had chosen the University of California at Berkeley for the swimming, but she toyed with the idea of writing and editing. She had been the editor of the newspaper at Chico High School and loved the process. She said she had great grades at Berkeley, but really zoned in on swimming over school.


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After marrying her coach, Clark swam for awhile longer, but found she wanted to settle down and raise a family. While she enjoyed contracts with companies like Nike, she wanted the happiness of raising children. Ultimately she had four children, who are ages 11 to 3 now.

“I had an exit strategy. Two weeks after the final championship I was pregnant. It was hard to give up swimming and I was sad, but I was looking forward to what I had wanted for a long time, to have children.”

While there weren’t a ton of jobs in Chico, where the couple settled, the idea of a swim school specializing in lessons for 5-and under kept creeping into her brain. Open seven days a week year-round, the school has around a dozen employees.

Q: How did you make the decision to change your life?

Patterson: It was a heart thing. “I knew at gut level it was time to make a change. As scary as it was, I couldn’t ignore the feeling. I didn’t talk to a lot of people. I have a belief when you have a gut feeling to listen to those and put the fear aside.”

After leaving she looked at options including continuing in marketing and communications, and even being a private investigator or working in retail.

Patterson says, “There’s a place for being strategic, not tossing caution to the wind, but if there’s a plan in place, that can open the door.”

Moseley: “I didn’t talk it over with people. I knew that if I found something that I could be passionate about and take time to form a plan, then I would go for it. It would work.”

She found the financial numbers worked for the business, but also let her heart wander into the picture.

“My brother died last year. It was a tough loss. I was turning 60. I was trying to figure out how to honor him. People my age are trying to retire, and I’m thinking how to make the next 30 years as full as possible, said Moseley, who insists that any major action in life needs the supporting homework.

Clark: “I analyzed the heck out of the idea. I went down to the Bay Area where some friends had swim schools. I got together a business plan. I crunched every number.”

She started offering swim lessons in friends’ pools and went to swim school conferences throughout the country, talking to business owners and taking workshops.

When she was single-handedly teaching 100 students a week by the third year, she knew she could support a pool. She signed a lease in 2007 and opened Watersprites in 2009. She and her husband did nearly all the work at the Ivy Street location, other than the pool construction.

Q: When did you know it was the right decision?

Patterson: “As much as I loved working at the chamber,with the people and members, I knew the Skyway House was the right choice. After I made the move and had settled in I knew I had found the joy again.

“Getting feedback from people you know and trust is a good thing, but the decision ultimately is a personal one. Have fun with it. We only get one go-around. Do it with a happy heart.”

Moseley: “I get excited about being creative. I enjoy the people end of the business, and this is very much about people.”

Clark: “We have about 900 kids a week at peak season. I am still turning students away. We grow a little more each year.”

Clark has been thinking about a second school outside of Chico, and nurtures the idea of a pool just for seniors. Already she has swimmers with disabilities that come when the school is closed for lunch, and she’d love to see water polo opportunities in Chico.

“It’s amazing when they’re in the water,” talking about seniors or people with disabilities. “There are no wheelchairs, no walkers. To see the joy on their faces is fabulous.”

Her daughter, Liberty, now 9, is learning the ropes of the business, and is able to check in swimmers, runs the cash register and even scrubs toilets among other less complicated processes of the business.

“She wants to start teaching. She’s been teaching her little brother. She said she wants to run the school.”

Q: Do you have any recommendations for women unhappy in their job?

Patterson: “I would encourage women to not forget what they love to do. If that means changing jobs or tapping into hobbies, then do it.

“If you’re considering making a move, start exploring in your spare time. Don’t do job searches at your desk at work. Think what would make you happy, investigate it, and take that leap.

“Don’t quit your job without a fall back plan.”

Moseley: If you search for feedback, you can learn a lot from other people. Look for mentors. “Have those people around you. Surround yourself with bright, positive people who are smarter than you are.”

Clark: “Attend industry events, like conferences and workshops, that gave me a chance to talk with existing businesses and bounce questions off them.” Visit other facilities or businesses, and know there will be sacrifice.

“For about four years, I couldn’t afford garbage service. So I put the garbage bags in the back of my car and took them home.”

When her daughter broke her arm, she couldn’t stay home and nurse her, but had to head to the school.

Before she had employees, she was in the pool from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. “It had to be done, and I had to do it.”

Realize that even when the decision is right, the new path can still be insanely stressful.

“Expectations and reality can be different. I didn’t sleep soundly for three years. I had dreams of something going wrong, someone drowning”

Each of these women survived the anxiety and tumbles of venturing out to change careers, saying it can be done with passion and care and homework.



Go with your gut. If your gut — or heart — says you could be happier, maybe it’s time to look for something else.

Do your homework. Make sure you have investigated your new occupation or business opportunity as thoroughly as possible. Attend industry conferences, read literature and talk to those in the business.

Check out local resources like free business counseling at the Small Business Development Center at Butte College to see if your knowledge matches theirs. 895-9017 or

When you make the decision, embrace it totally. Don’t second guess yourself after you’ve made the leap. If you’re feeling insecure about the move, chat it over with someone you respect.

Find mentors who are willing to guide you and be sounding boards.


Courtesy Chicoer