staff, staff, June 6, 2015

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Inspired by their experiences in college and elsewhere, these Pathfinders are passing by the typical, well-trod career paths and blazing their own trails. We?ll explore the unconventional approaches these Big Ten alums and faculty are taking to work.

Indiana_NitzkinAt one point or another in their careers, most people can relate to the sentiment captured so memorably by country singer Johnny Paycheck: ?Take this job and shove it.? Very few of them, though, are the bosses of successful companies that they?ve built up themselves.

Yet that?s precisely the situation Indiana University alumnus Stuart Nitzkin found himself in back in 2009. He?d grown the home-construction business he started into a thriving enterprise, but was less excited about it than he should have been.

?I was doing very well ? but I was burnt out and I wasn?t happy,? he said. ?One day, I just said, ?You know what? I?m done.? So I shut down my business and did a complete 180 in my career. I started looking for things where I could help more people.?

What he found was the American Friends of the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled, a not-for-profit charity that provides physical and psychological support for people with disabilities via adaptive athletics. He became executive director of this national organization, and eventually moved over to his current role as head of North American operations for the global Israel Sport Center for the Disabled organization. (He?s the only employee the Center has on this side of the Atlantic.)

After a few years of working for the organization, Nitzkin wanted to expand his efforts to help people. He found an opportunity in a familiar place: Camp Ojibwa, an overnight summer camp for boys in Eagle River, Wis.

As a former Ojibwa camper and counselor, he wanted to share the great memories and lessons he?d gotten with as many other young people as possible. He was hired as one of the camp?s directors in 2013, and he currently runs all recruitment, hiring and offseason projects for Ojibwa.

?The camp has helped thousands of young men become adults,? he said. ?The networking, connections and things that they learned at camp have made many men successful today. I want to keep it going and help more people become successful and grow as individuals.?

Even though he ultimately wasn?t interested in running a for-profit company, Nitzkin said the education he received at Indiana?s Kelley School of Business gave him insights that helped him pursue his personal and professional dreams.

[btn-post-package]?It turns out that even the charity is just another business,? he said. ?What we?re doing and selling is different than manufacturing a product, but [it?s] essentially run the same. I realized if you can take what you learned and apply it to something you love, you?ll succeed.?

Nitzkin took an unconventional route to figuring out what he wanted to do for a living. And while he knows a career in the non-profit sector isn?t for everyone, he does believe that when it comes to people?s professions, they should follow their heart and instead of simply trying to pay the bills.

?I think that one of the most important things in the world is to love what you do,? Nitzkin said. ?It?s not worth years of suffering when you don?t have that many years on this planet, so take a leap and trust you?ll be guided in the right way by what you want to do.?

By Alec Weine