Unemployed to Self-Employed

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Like many adult learners, Georgia Zumwalt started college immediately after high school in 1987.

But, soon after, she got married and started a family. She left school short of completing her degree.

Georgia always planned on going back, but life seemed to get in the way. She never had the time, and she certainly didn’t have the money.

25 years later, her two youngest daughters were in high school, her son was a U.S. Marine and her oldest daughter was already in college. At that time, a spiraling economy and a long unemployment line led Georgia back to school.

“In January 2012, the company I worked for sold my account to a corporation in Texas,” Georgia said. “I spent the majority of that year desperately searching for work, to no avail.”

She applied for more than 100 job openings. No one offered her a job.

Wanting to establish an increased sense of financial and job security along with a clear career path, Georgia decided it was time to return to college.

She had always been interested in photography and managing her own business, so she enrolled at North Georgia Tech.

“Their photography department is top-notch and offered the most up-to-date professional equipment as well as dedicated instructors,” Georgia said.

When asked about her journey the second time around, she said it was much more fun (yes, even Algebra) and easier than she ever imagined.

“I believe it had a lot to do with the fact that I was older, more mature and returning to college for myself — not for my parents or because it’s what I was ‘supposed to do’ — but because it opened doors and created opportunities for me.

Georgia is now a self-employed photographer, with a booked calendar and clients across the state. She’s also back at North Georgia Tech — now as a photography teacher.

She credits her success to her degree.

“If I had not returned to college and dedicated my time and effort toward a career in photography, I would not be where I am,” she said. “The quality of my work and level of expertise is a direct reflection of what the Technical College System has done for me.”

When life got blurry, Georgia adjusted her focus and snapped a clear picture of her future.

She went back. So can you.