Changing career at forty

by Jen Morton

There wasn’t a great calling for Interior Designers in the small Yorkshire market town I grew up in. In fact, when I requested interior design for my school work experience, I got a placement in a carpet factory in Halifax, filing invoices. I lasted two days and then ended up helping at the local nursery school, along with all the other girls.

I continued to love art and design, however, and despite being led into primary school teaching, I always loved doing the display boards around school and would dream of missed opportunities whilst cutting fabric for school projects.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was really not enjoying my teaching job, and wanted a way out after my baby arrived. I imagined I was going to be at a loose end on maternity leave (!), so finally bit the bullet and bought into the Distance Learning Diploma in Interior Design from KLC School of Design. The course was perfectly suited to me with a baby at home. I could study at the pace I wanted and simply send projects into the college to be moderated at time scales that suited me. 

Changing careers wasn’t easy. Completing the course was the first big test. It took me ten years, two international house moves, and two further babies to get to the finishing post. I also continued to juggle part-time teaching work to pay my share of the bills. Add to that the loss of security and salary from a good teaching position when starting anew in an industry I knew little about – and it’s fair to say there were enormous challenges!

If you’re thinking about becoming an interior designer, you should ask yourself some serious questions: Are you really passionate about moving into the industry? Are you self-motivated and driven? Can you take criticism and accept feedback and advice? Can you cope with the unknown – clients coming and going, people changing their minds and opinions?

If you answer yes, and are flexible, authentic (I let my Yorkshire accent shine through), personable and have a good sense of humour, I believe you have some of the key qualities required to be successful. In addition, it’s important to listen and take advice. I would not have progressed in my business had I not invested in industry-relevant advice and guidance. It is not a weakness to ask for help – in any area of life.

I am now a few months in from completely quitting teaching and going it alone. It is daunting and scary, but also exciting and exhilarating. Setting up a business is a relatively easy process, as long as you take all the advice offered to you, listen to the mistakes other’s admit to making, and above all else have faith in yourself. Imposter syndrome sneaks in so easily – but if everyone else is making a go of it, then we can too!

Despite the challenges, I cannot tell you how happy I am that I made the switch. Finally following my passion has given me a spring to my step and a new lease of life. I no longer put myself in the ‘I don’t like my job’ category. I love what I do, even the boring bits. I feel in control of my destiny and getting paid for it at the end is icing on the cake.

As Mark Twain said:

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.