Swapping spreadsheets for jewellery a gem of a career change

The good, bad and ugly truth about your career after 50
ABC Radio Sydney


Luke Wong


December 05, 2017 10:00:00

Rowena Charlton studies at the TAFE NSW jewellery workshop at Enmore. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
(ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
Work-life balancePrior to making the leap into jewellery design, Ms Charlton extensively researched the commercial viability of her new venture.”Because I’ve got the business background I always look at it from the point of view of is this for me or is this something that somebody is actually going to buy?”Importantly, she said time management skills honed as a businesswoman allowed her to now successfully juggle the many facets of her family, study and part-time work life.”You have to be very organised, you have to make sure that people are aware of what you’re trying to achieve, you call in favours every now and then,” she said. “They’re very specific skills that are quite rare these days,” she said. Changing careers midlife: People share their success stories Many people have left the corporate world – or entered it to follow their passion. A mature-aged student, Ms Charlton has had to learn hands-on skills much different from the computer and paper-based roles she once performed.”It is technically difficult to get very small things to work properly,” she said.”If you’re doing tiny hinges or setting tiny sort of millimetre stones, it’s just hard to see.”

Ms Charlton is two years into a three-year jewellery manufacturing course. Two years into a three-year TAFE course, Ms Charlton said she felt no regrets about leaving her job in marketing and advertising to try something new.”As soon as I got my hands on the tools and equipment and I made something, I went: ‘Right, this is where I should be.'”You can actually take a piece of metal and make it into something that is beautiful and wearable [compared with] my previous career [where] a lot of the things you do are quite intangible.”However, learning in a classroom surrounded by moving machinery, sharp tools and metallic filings meant Ms Charlton had to adjust her work attire to suit the more hazardous environment.”I definitely can’t wear high heels in here.”

The manufacturing skills are very different from those used in Ms Charlton’s previous career. Admit it. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
Overcoming new obstaclesMs Charlton is undertaking a jewellery manufacturing course at the TAFE NSW Design Centre’s Enmore campus.Although her study schedule demands only one day of classes per week, she has a one-hour commute from her home at Blaxland in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. “I would like to focus on those as specialties and work with other jewellers who actually need those skills incorporated into their pieces.”She encouraged other people who are considering a midlife career change to follow their passions while fulfilling their other commitments.”I would say to anybody who’s thinking those things are restrictions — no, you can do it, it’s possible.” You’ve caught yourself on more than one occasion sitting at your desk, daydreaming about a midlife career change.Rowena Charlton spent decades working in stable office jobs before she decided to cut a new career path in jewellery design and manufacturing. (ABC Radio Sydney: Luke Wong)
Polishing her craftMs Charlton has a clear mindset of where she would like to take her new career and is concentrating her efforts on perfecting her engraving and enamelling skills. “If you’ve got a customer who’s about to get married, you’ve got to finish that ring on time.”You can’t turn up a week later and go, ‘Well here it is’, because it’s all done and dusted.”

Handcrafted jewellery pieces can take hundreds of working hours to complete.
Over 50 and searching for work? Good luck
Sydney 2000

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