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They say it's the hardest job in the world but for stay-at-home mum Ally Watkins, returning to the workforce was the hardest challenge of all. After battling years of self-doubt and anxiety, she's now helping people look and feel beautiful inside and out as a qualified beauty therapist.

Ally started off her career in accounts and general admin. But when she and her husband decided to start a family she chose to leave the workforce to care for her children full time. After her children stared to become more self-sufficient, Ally started to wonder what the next chapter of her life might entail. But after 10 years out of the workforce, the decision to go back to work wasn't that easy.

"I didn't realise how long I'd been debating starting my training until I cleaned up my emails and I found an email inquiry from four years ago. I realised I'd procrastinated for four years and I had two choices: I could wait another four years — or the rest of my life — or I could take that chance and go and do something that I really enjoyed," Ally said. 

Once Ally decided to take first step, her confidence immediately started to grow. 

"Initially, I only enrolled in the Certificate III in Beauty Services (SHB30115) from essentially a lack of confidence. I hadn't studied for a long time — I just had to begin to study and show myself I could do this," she said. 

But completing her certificate qualification was just the start of Ally's study journey. 

"Once I completed the certificate I was really excited to move into the diploma, but I was still apprehensive. But I had the support from the teachers at TAFE Queensland. They gave me a little bit of a push to go ahead with it and that was one of the best decisions I've ever made," Ally said.

It was that encouragement and support from her teachers that stood out as a highlight for Ally throughout her studies. 

"If at any time you were unsure or you needed clarification on something, they're always more than happy to assist you with any inquiries you had," she said. 

Ally also loved the practical approach to learning at TAFE Queensland and liked being able to put her skills into practice before she entered the industry. 

"The practical and hands-on skills were the most enjoyable part for me. We had hands-on training with teachers, we practiced on each other as students, then we completed services on the general public. I really enjoyed having my fingers in the pie, so to speak," she said. 

With her confidence growing, Ally decided to again add to her skillset, going on to complete a Diploma in Remedial Massage (HLT52015). 

With all these skills under her belt it's no surprise that Ally quickly gained a position as a beauty therapist at Petrichor Day Spa in Hawthorne. 

But for Ally, caring for mind, body and soul is much more than just a catchphrase. After suffering from anxiety herself, she's passionate about promoting well-being, body positivity, and mental health.  

"Beauty therapy for me is more of a holistic package. I would like to incorporate body and mind in the treatments, not just a physical treatment. For me, having had anxiety, it was a natural way for me to offer a caring treatment for people that are currently going through anxiety," Ally said. 

In the future, Ally plans on opening her own at-home salon so she can pursue her passion while spending more time with her children.

"I intend to do a lot of workshops to bring information to women on how they can love themselves, love the skin they're in, and just really appreciate who they are," she said.

Seeing the confident, driven woman Ally is today it's easy to forget how difficult it was for her to take that first step. Her advice to others looking to re-enter the workforce is to be brave and take the leap as the rewards are more than worth it. 

"Half the things that have happened to me at TAFE Queensland I would never have expected, I never would have even dreamed of. I think the personal growth that you receive as well as your qualification is something that's unmatched."


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