From Business to Beauty: Changing Careers After 35
Most total career changes are challenging—but when it involves balancing school, a day job, parenthood, relationships and other commitments, it can seem too overwhelming to even try. We talked to new esthetician Jamaica Williams about her decision to enroll at the Aveda Institute at age 35 to pursue a new career in skin care, while transitioning out of her role as the sales manager of Ellie K Salon in Frisco, TX.
Though it was anything but easy, she’s now looking at an exciting new world of possibilities that have made it worth the grind.
Jamaica Williams, Aveda Institute Graduate in Esthetics
What did your career look like before deciding to attend esthiology school?
I had served in sales and management leadership with Aveda salons and Institutes for 12 years. While I’d spent most of my time with hair stylists, I’d always known esthetics would be my route if the opportunity came up.
How did you realize your passion for the beauty industry?
I was only vaguely aware of the industry as a whole until I happened to land my first job in a salon—which was supposed to just pay the bills until I found something else. I looked for other jobs that I thought suited me better, only to turn them down because I realized I already loved what I was doing. Our industry is covert: at first glance, one would assume it’s all about hair and makeup, when in reality it’s overwhelming how deep and vast the industry expands.
How did you make the decision to invest in a major career change?
Eight years ago I began working in the Aveda Institutes, and that was my first experience with estheticians. I always loved Aveda’s approach to hair care, but seeing our take on skin and body—along with the experience provided—really hit hard for me.
I’m an introvert by nature, and esthetics seemed to speak to that part of me so easily. Introverts really require connection in order to thrive. In a secluded treatment room, it’s that connection that creates the experience.
Fast forward to 2020, the world shut down and I was forced to stop and consider the existential: if I’m going to live this one life, what am I going to require of it? A lot got unpacked with that, but my career path was at the top of that list.
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How did going back to school at this stage in your life compare to prior experiences?
I’m 35, so shaking things up at this point always seems harder because I already had my daily rhythm, I had my commitments, I thought I’d already had a pretty good map for the future. Luckily, I come from a long line of people who thrive in the unknown, so I’d seen it done and knew I could do it, too.
How did you juggle other responsibilities like family and work with the challenges of esthiology school?
Preparation and commitment. When someone decides to throw a whole new puzzle piece into the mix, there’s never much room for error. I had to make sure my salon team never felt my absence, so that meant asking other leadership to step up, and getting them prepared to do so in a short amount of time.
Beyond that, I had to mentally prepare for sacrificing my home life. Working full time and learning full time means you’re scheduled to be somewhere 7 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day. Resentment toward both starts to creep in, but I had to keep reminding myself it was temporary and there was light at the end of the tunnel, even when I couldn’t see it.
What was your biggest challenge in esthiology school?
My biggest challenge was being a completely different generation than most of my class. We think differently, we have different experiences, different expectations, different desires. I decided I could either put my head down and stay out of the way, or I could take on the “big sister” role and use my own experiences to try and help shed some light and illuminate the bigger picture.
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What did you love the most?
I loved diving in as a student the most. I’d spent most of my career being the teacher in some capacity, so to be able to shed that for a moment and just be the learner was a breath of fresh air.
What path has your career taken after graduation?
I’m in the process of moving closer to home. Beyond that, there are big plans and small plans and tons of “what if” scenarios I’m toying with right now, but the one thing I do know is I feel 18 years old all over again. The sky truly is the limit. It’s overwhelming in the best way!
I’m only in the beginning process, sitting on a launchpad, waiting patiently while I figure out my next steps, but I’m prepared for failures and successes; I’ll know they’re mine and they’re part of whatever I feel is for me to build.
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Aveda Institute grad Natasha celebrates her new esthetician license! (@shashooskin on Instagram)
What skills have carried with you from your previous career?
Patience, tenacity, flexibility and diligence. It was these skills that even allowed me to pursue this new journey at all.
Do you have any advice for those thinking about making a major career change to beauty?
If it piqued your interest, that’s probably your answer. An industry like ours doesn’t come with a ton of step-by-step manuals, it’s always been all or nothing. That’s what makes it so fascinating: it lets everyone do exactly what they decide to do without limits. Here, you’re the only person that decides what’s impossible.
If you are ready to make a complete career change, start by finding the Aveda Institute that’s best for you. Click here for locations.