One of a Kind – a career change story

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change

Mar 30
Julie D'Arcy at work

Have you ever thought about changing career completely? Julie D’Arcy changed her career dramatically, and not once, but twice within a few years.

After an early career in the armed services, Julie decided to follow a long held ambition to become a teacher. And this meant getting qualified from scratch.

The path to teaching

Julie’s first step was to take an NVQ in childcare. She then took a foundation degree, whilst working as a teaching assistant, having her first child and getting married.

Julie then went on to a full BA Honours Degree. During this period, she had her second child and faced the challenge of becoming a single mum after her marriage broke up.

Julie describes herself as stubborn: “if I’m told I can’t do something, I do it!” I think most people would use words such as determined, tenacious and incredibly hardworking to describe Julie’s academic journey.  She gives a lot of credit to her grandparents, who died whilst she was studying, and talks about how she was inspired by her grandad’s attitude: “He always said life doesn’t come to you if you sit and wait for it.”

But after working so hard to achieve a 2.1 degree and qualifying as a teacher, Julie realised she didn’t want to work in a school. She loved teaching and working with the children, but not the excessive paperwork. “The pressure on teachers is ridiculous. I have two young children, why would I be a teacher and not see my own children. Teachers are so stressed. They have no work-life balance. We’re not allowed to just teach”

The creative spark

So Julie left her hard-won second career, and not without some sadness: “I do miss the teaching – I’d wanted to do it for SO long. And when I got it, it wasn’t what I’d expected.”

Painted SideboardJulie is now on her third career, and has started her own business, restoring old furniture with beautiful and unique paint finishes.

“I painted a wardrobe. Then I starting picked up bits and bobs of furniture that were being thrown out. Julie cites her stubbornness again: “A friend said “you’re not going to ask for that! so I did! I’m now a skipologist. I took a mouldy old chair and transformed it.”

Like many mid-life career changes, this one has its roots in a childhood love.

“I’ve always been arty and creative… I remember painting my bedroom at the age of twelve. My mother said it would be lot of work and told me not to, so I did it! I used a sponge, and loved it so much.”

Julie ended up displaying some of her work at a school fair and met the local mayor. “He said ‘you should think about starting your own business – it’s beautiful’. He sent me through some websites and I applied for funding.” Julie has now set up her furniture studio in Gosport, called One of a Kind.

Her work primarily comes through word of mouth and commissions, and she is working on raising awareness of her business and getting her furniture out there where people can see it.


A family venture

Running her own creative business has transformed the balance of Julie’s life and her children love being at her studio. “They like the fact they can come with me. The children have their own projects. I’m role modeling for them – it’s their business as well.”

And Julie’s teaching and learning experience is not wasted. She runs creative workshops for adults and has started to help local students with work experience. Decorative finishes are part of the syllabus on painting and decorating courses and students like the fact that they are working on real projects. “They come in knowing that they’re going to be useful.” Julie said she cried recently after receiving some “wonderful” feedback from a mother: “She said that ‘in a week with you my daughter has grown and changed so much'”

Seize the moment

It must have taken courage to make a second change. Julie explained that if she was going to do it, she had to do it before she had become accustomed to a teacher’s salary: “I made a decision, a lifestyle choice.”  And her words of wisdom for others wondering about taking the plunge: “You only get one chance at life!”

You can find out more about Julie’s furniture and workshops at the One of a Kind website.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

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About the Author

Felicity is a career coach. She help people who want to change career, start a freelance business, or build their confidence. Felicity writes about career and business development, leadership and personal effectiveness.

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