Before graduating, Karen set up her own company with the intention of doing a few small jobs here and there to build her portfolio and experience. She took a simple approach to marketing, which paid off in spades.
“I was hesitant to go out on my own immediately, but with confidence in the skills I’d learned through my diploma and my family’s encouragement, I decided to just go for it,” Karen recalls.
“I set up an Instagram page with examples of renovations my husband and I had previously done on our own homes, as well as style ideas I admire, and sent the link around to building companies and architects I regard highly," she continued.
“I was staggered by the response and before I knew it, I was meeting with Rob from Graya Constructions and contracted to work with his team on the interior of a beautiful high-end home in Auchenflower."
“Almost immediately after that I was working on a four-level terrace home development in West End and it hasn’t stopped.”
After working in sales account manager roles and merchandising for many years, Karen was feeling stale and bored professionally and decided the time was right for her to take a leap of faith and explore a new career in interior design.
“My father was a bricklayer and my husband is in construction management and together we have renovated and built six homes, so I have been surrounded by this industry all my life,” Karen said.
“I love houses and I love the process of renovating or building them, and we’ve always had comments on how lovely our homes are."
“In hindsight, I think Interior Design is something I should have done a long time ago, but it just didn’t dawn on me until later in life."
“To now be able to do this as a career, at this stage in my life is thrilling and I am very grateful to TAFE Queensland for both the training and support that I received.”
Whilst considering the diploma studies, Karen felt she had two potential stumbling blocks: her years away from formal studies and a lack of computer design skills.
“I’d left school early, so the idea of being back in the classroom was daunting,” Karen laughs.
“What really worried me though was the fact that I had no experience at all with any sort of computer design program. I needed these skills to be able to convey my ideas to future clients."
“My fears were quickly allayed with regards to both concerns—I loved being back in the classroom and thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning and studying again."
“I put my hand up straight away to say I needed some assistance with the computer design side of the course and that was forthcoming immediately. I engaged a tutor through TAFE Queensland which enabled me to complete the subject successfully."
“The support I received from my teachers, other TAFE Queensland staff, as well as my fellow students was incredible."
“I worked very hard and put in a lot of effort in my own time to bring my skills up to speed, but there was help available whenever I needed it to get me going.”
Only two years after graduating KJK Interiors is booming—so much so that Karen has already had to appoint an intern and is looking to add to her team to keep up with demand.
Karen’s advice to anyone considering a career change is very simple: go for it.
“If you have a passion or area of interest and you have an opportunity to pursue it, then jump at the chance and give it your all,” Karen said.
“it’s never too late to try something new and every time I look up at my Diploma on the wall, I just marvel at how wonderful it is."
“The education, training and support I received through TAFE Queensland gave me the skills and confidence I needed to push myself into launching this career that I wish I’d had the courage to pursue years ago.”