‘It’s never too late to change your life’
THERE is something decidedly fierce about Jackie Cullen.
She might be only five foot tall and will always greet you with the biggest smile and warmest hug, but I've always considered her to be one of the strongest, most determined women I know.
After 20 years in a government job, that lacked purpose, and four children, all at different stages of study, Jackie decided to take a leap of faith in herself and begin studying again.
"I started doing some courses while I was still working full time before I left my government job and worked for myself as an investigator for three years.
"Then I started a psychology degree at university before I decided I was better suited to law.
"Being a mother to my four kids was always my first and most important priority in life, but I'd always had an interest in all things criminal justice and felt like it was a career I could see myself in,
"So I did some research and enrolled myself in a bachelor of law degree at Central Queensland University and studied online while I worked part time here in Kingaroy to support my family.
"The four years and nine months of study nearly killed me sometimes, if I'm honest, but the feeling of achievement you get when you walk out of there with the piece of paper is one of the best things in the world."
Jackie admitted the path of tertiary education was not a smooth one, and she often questioned herself and whether she'd come out the other end with a job.
"After my very first day I felt like quitting. I found myself thinking "what am I doing? I can't do this" but each time I found myself feeling deflated or negative I would tell myself to just keep going.
"Some nights I wouldn't get to bed until three or four in the morning because I'd be up studying or writing my assignments into the night after the kids had gone to bed, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I knew it would all be worth it in the end."
After graduation Jackie found herself looking for a full-time job as a solicitor.
"It was five months before I found a job in my profession.
"That can be a little bit daunting at my age expecially after all the work you've put in to get to where you are, but I just told myself to keep on applying and following up with people.
"Anytime the self doubt would start to creep back in I would just push it to the side because I couldn't afford to let myself believe I wouldn't find a job."
Her persistence and determination paid off when Jackie landed her dream job at J.A. Carroll Solicitors in Kingaroy in January 2019.
"Paul and Prim Laurentiussen have both been so supportive and encouraging over the last year.
"Paul's really taken me under his wing and been an excellent mentor, I'm extremely grateful I didn't have to leave the South Burnett to find work in my profession.
Jackie said she was still growing and learning as a solicitor and was excited for what the future holds.
"Every day is different and I'm constantly learning more about the law and how the Australian legal system works which I love.
"I would encourage other adults out there who are considering taking on some more education to back themselves and give it a shot. You've only got this life. Don't let your age or lack of qualifications or education hold you back.
"It won't be easy and there might be times you want to quit but if you're passionate about what you're doing and remember why you started it all in the first place - you will get there, and you'll be amazed by the doors it can open for you."