Interview – Alisha

Why did you choose this career pathway?

I began painting houses for a living when I was 18 years old. It was a surprising choice, not just for my family and friends but for me as well. During High School I had two career pathways in mind. I remember being 15 years old and seeing some painters working at our school. I recall thinking to myself “I think I could be a Painter”. I had no idea what painting involved or how to do it, so I wasn’t sure how to pursue it.

I am also a high achiever, I really enjoyed school and worked hard. The idea of going to university really did thrill me. I love writing and creating and during high school VCE I began to develop a curiosity in Science so I decided that I wanted to become a Doctor, even though for years I had been having this little thought in the back of my mind –
‘would I be happier with a simpler lifestyle?”

When I was picking my career pathway I had so many questions about painting like “Could I really paint houses for a living?” I loved the idea of taking something like a house and bringing it ‘back to life.’ I just had no idea how to get into it. I decided to aim high in year 12 and got into a Bachelor of Biomedicine soon after at Deakin University.

I began as an eager student and really enjoyed what I was learning, however as time went on I struggled to feel passionate and that perhaps I wasn’t following my heart. By the end of the year I was desperate to get it over with, I felt very lost and had no idea what to do with my life. It rattled my mind every single day. I left university and worked several odd jobs, even delivering newspapers! I felt immense pressure to find a career pathway, and finally I found a Painting Apprenticeship in the local newspaper.

I applied immediately. This choice lead to difficulties with my family, as they thought I was insane for leaving University to do a job that I would surely become bored with. I got a trial, and since my first day, I have never looked back. Finally, I felt in my element, and once my family saw my happiness grow they became so proud and happy for me. It’s now three and a half years later and I am so happy I made this decision.

What advice would I give to someone wanting to follow this career pathway?

I think the main lesson I learned in the beginning was to always follow you heart. This is a lot easier said than done, and it took me a while to realise that I was not trusting my instincts, and that I could create whatever life I wanted.
If you have even pondered the idea of working in a trade, do some research. Read about what jobs are available, watch videos, read articles, explore your local education pathways.

For example, I would have absolutely loved the chance to do VET in school, however I never even thought to do it back then because I didn’t research it and unfortunately it was not highly advocated when I was at school. This is something all us tradeswomen want to try and change.

Once you do your research and you feel your curiosity developing toward a specific trade, go speak to as many people as you can. Talk to teachers, career advisors, parents and friends. Some might try to change your mind, but you need to ignore that and only focus on the information that makes sense to you and the life you want.

You can do TAFE programs that will introduce you to the trade of interest, where you will learn basic skills to prepare you for your apprenticeship. Then once you’re ready, there will be so many people wanting to help you get an apprenticeship and join the industry of your choice. Follow your heart.

Have you made friends in the industry?

When you choose to do something slightly out of the norm, or when you take a plunge and do what you want to do, it can begin as a lonely road. This is only temporary, and it is what happens when you follow your life purpose. I didn’t have any friends that worked in trades, not even guy friends. Everyone I hung out with went to university. When I decided to do Painting, I felt so liberated for choosing my own direction rather than following the crowd.

However, I didn’t meet a lot of friends through work, that is, until I discovered one of Tradeswomen Australia’s community groups! Now I have an amazing group of friends who share the same interests. It feels amazing to be a part of this group and I am so thankful that these networks are beginning to form in the industry, it is becoming easier than ever to connect with other likeminded girls following a similar career.