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Accounting Monotony to Interior Design Creativity: Encore Career!

Joann-Interior Designer

The birth of my friend Joann’s encore career all started with a simple request from her trusted advisor:  “DO JUST ONE THING”.  The “one thing” related to Joann’s desire to step away from her 30 years of various roles in the accounting field.  Joann embraced that request and it became her empowering mantra to move forward in laying out a plan to take a bold step in entering a completely different career field.  Would you believe Interior Design?  Here’s the history of Joann’s journey.

Accounting was Joann’s college major and her tenure of 17 years working in the oil and gas industry at ARCO was her longest at any one company.  She worked for ARCO in four different locations until the point where she just wanted a change.  Her “change” was to go back to college and sign up for courses in Interior Design, with some art and pottery classes added into the mix. Today Joann says that “I loved these courses and would find myself lost in the work for hours.”  This is a clue for anyone who is looking back at their history for what could be a true calling. 

But Joann needed to get some income rolling in again so she abandoned her courses to head back into full employment.  After a couple of jobs at an oil and gas company software firm Joann was hired at KPMG in 1999 as a consultant and spent 6.5 years with the firm.  She discovered the aspects she liked were the variety of assignments, clients, and learning opportunities.  She initially consulted on optimizing clients’ accounting processes and later developed a specialty focus in helping clients implement Sarbanes-Oxley processes as required by law.  Joann discovered that she enjoyed “fixing things that were broken,” and then moving on and letting others deal with the details of the ongoing operations.

In order to reduce the time and stress of travel this consulting work demanded, Joann took a new position as Director of Financial Services at a large corporation. She had a very visible and important role in managing the major accounting functions for this company’s subsidiaries.  In late 2006 the company reorganized and Joann’s job evaporated.

From 2006 to 2010 Joann did consulting and contract work as an employee of various consulting firms. The Sarbanes-Oxley gigs were temporarily good for Joann’s bank account, but ultimately the wanderlust for more “creative work” again tugged strongly as a “calling”.

Not long after this tug, Joann knew that she had to make a change because the accounting roles had become drudgery  and were sapping her normally exuberant approach to life.  Then her trusted adviser made the request to “Do just one thing” that would get her un-stuck, excited and jazzed!  Joann signed up for one class at Portland Community College, then decided to jump in with both feet and attend full time there at the end of 2010. She is working toward a degree in…..can you guess?….INTERIOR DESIGN!  She also took Gerontology courses relating to “aging in place” and “green” courses in sustainable materials and building.  Joann now has a focus on a defined career that will combine all of these areas of study.  Joann’s goal in her Encore Career is to (1) earn a paycheck, and (2) to have a niche career in a beneficial and satisfying field.

Thanks to a state government program called TUI (Training Unemployment Insurance), Joann can go to school full time and continue to collect unemployment without the requirement of job searching in her prior accounting field!  Also, many community colleges are really making a strong effort to ease the path for the 50+ job seekers in finding new careers.  You will find more options for tuition assistance, recognition of prior course credits earned, and new practical certificate level courses, for example.

To quote Joann, “I don’t know precisely where the journey is taking me, but I DO KNOW, and have FAITH that it’s all going to work out…..I like the feeling of opportunity and unlimited possibilities in the future”.  Joann’s current goal is to initially have her encore career in interior design be full time, but at some point she can see the vision of it becoming part of a “portfolio life” including other things that are just for fun.

[TO MY READERS:  I TRUST THAT JOANN’S STORY WILL BE AN INSPIRATION TO YOU IN EXAMINING YOUR PAST FOR CLUES TO WHAT WORK YOU MIGHT ENJOY GOING FORWARD.  I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS.  LET US KNOW WHAT YOU ARE WORKING TOWARD!]

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