Use Talent for a Midlife Career Change
Q: I am 50 and was the founder and sole worker of my own local business. When I decided to move out of state, I could have sold my client list to a competitor, but I had so much to do for the move across country that I just turned it over to someone I knew in the field. I am now settled into my new location where I am starting anew in everything -- friends and a job -- but I would like to try something new.
I am not a licensed interior designer, but I have worked at high-end decor stores and have been told by many I have a talent in that field. I liked working on my own, and I got all my business through referrals. I'm friendly, but it's an energy-drainer to start another new venture that requires heavy networking in order to build a business. At this point in life, I don't want to go into a field where I have to get another degree and license to practice, and I don't want to force myself to be social for the sake of being successful. I figure I have about 20 years of energy in me to work. I know I would have been a good interior designer, but I think it's too late for that. I could do something in art, like painting again, but that is certainly not going to be a money-maker for me. How does someone decide what to do in midlife?
A: A midlife career change starts with analyzing what one enjoys and what one can do well. Many people return to some sort of formal education if needed, but that certainly isn't required for a creative individual. When clients hire an interior designer, they are not hiring the person's degree. They are viewing a portfolio of design work to decide if those examples appeal to their sense of taste and comfort. Drop your notion that a person has to have a degree. If a designer favors wild wall paint colors and cold, modern furniture when you prefer neutrals and comfort, you will not hire that designer. Designers span the range of taste -- both good and bad.
You are now living in a new area of the country and you will want to meet new people regardless of the career you choose. The closest profession to an interior designer that doesn't require a degree is a staging professional. A stager does not need to be licensed or formally trained. You can take a home-study course taught by a staging pro, but with your natural talent (based on the compliments you have received), it sounds like you would breeze through it.
Perhaps you have photos of rooms you decorated in your previous location. If not, you can draw freehand or use a software program to illustrate furniture layouts for major rooms in a home. The investment should be minimal. Don't fuss over the portfolio. The purpose is to show you understand the elements of floor plans and furniture layouts. A stager helps to create a certain ambiance and make the rooms look spacious. After viewing a few HGTV shows featuring makeovers, you will see how badly some people need your skills.
Once you have your online portfolio, the next step is to connect with real estate professionals in your area. Write a brief introductory letter with a link to your portfolio (look for companies providing online space for portfolios; you do not need your own website). You may also want to connect with an experienced stager and shadow the person as a student intern would. Working part-time for a busy professional would be a great way to meet people in real estate. Remember, agents want to sell their listings, and a staged house could bring in higher commissions for a sales agent. You are in an artistic and helping position, so a smart salesperson will see your value. For a midlife career change, nothing could be better than a win-win situation.
Email career and life coach: Lindsey@LindseyNovak.com with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see https://www.creators.com/features/at-work-lindsey-novak.