People often find their joy in unexpected places, and those leaving the corporate world need to keep their eyes and minds open. Luann Riley landed a job as a programmer at a public library as soon as she graduated with a computer science degree. After 17 years, she quit to open a natural foods restaurant in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

"I'd been on a discernment path, reading, thinking, and meditating, and came to realize that this wasn't for me anymore," Riley, 38, says. Her transformation from computer guru to earth mother was entirely serendipitous. One lunchtime, she and her husband went to try out the Benevolence Cafe, a popular downtown lunch spot. Along with the menu on the chalkboard was a note that the business was for sale. The fresh, homemade food and environmentally conscious operation immediately felt right. Instead of being stuck behind a desk, she'd be out buying food, working with people, creating new dishes. Hands-on, high touch, down to earth.

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From Burning Out
To Helping Out

Many former technorati have substantial savings and assets they can draw on during their career transformations. In fact, management consultant and industrial psychology professor Ben Dattner says the trend - people bailing out of their offices and into hands-on fields - is fueled in part by all the money that sloshed around in the dot-com era. "People who have been quite accomplished at problem-solving in the world, who may have accumulated fortunes, are going into social entrepreneurship and devoting those resources to the betterment of mankind," says Dattner.
Such is the case with Darian Heyman, 30. He saw Beyond Interactive, the Internet advertising agency he helped found in 1995, grow from 3 people to more than 400. The founders sold the company to a global ad agency and stayed on board. But when the economy went south and layoffs began, Heyman's attitude soured. "When we had to start laying off my roommates and best friends, I felt like a hypocrite and lost my professional passion," he says.