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Résumé-building vacations for the out-of-work

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Andy Nelson/ The Christian Science Monitor/ File

(Read caption) Some mid-career professionals are taking gap years to spend time abroad, including learning Spanish or working on a Costa Rican farm, like the one shown here.

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Changing careers?

Take a ‘vacation.’

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Some mid-career professionals seeking a new career are taking “gap years” – time off to volunteer or intern abroad. Gap-year participants have worked on an organic farm in Costa Rica and taken Spanish classes; others have studied archaeology in Romania, notes Joanna Lazarek, vice president of the Center for Interim Programs in Cambridge, Mass.

Most participants are recent graduates, but the center notes that the percentage of mid-career, nontraditional applicants has risen from 2 percent in the period from February to November 2008 to 6 percent since then.

If you can’t afford to take a year off to find a new career, consider a one- to three-day “test drive” from VocationVacations.

Participants are paired with a mentor who gives them the opportunity to experience their dream job. The most popular vocations? Bed and breakfast owner, innkeeper, hotel manager, travel writer, and tour guide, says Brian Kurth, founder of VocationVacations.

The job shadowing doesn’t come cheap: around $549 per day or $950 to $1,000 for a two-day stint.

Mr. Kurth says he has seen an influx of laid-off baby boomers and Gen-Xers signing up. He estimates that 85 percent of participants are looking to make a career change.