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Karen Haberland: “Pursue what you enjoy and the work will follow.”

May 10, 2013

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When Karen graduated from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, she assumed she would attend the University of Michigan because her mother worked there. But, upon the advice of her counselors who said she would never get into the U of M, she submitted her college applications elsewhere. She applied to Central, Alma, Michigan State, and then, at the last minute, defiantly applied to the U of M Art School, just to see what would happen. She was accepted into their art program. With interests in both Art History and Photography, Karen took an extra year and earned two Bachelor’s degrees. She planned to continue her education by pursuing a PhD so she could teach Art History at the university level, but was advised that her specialty was too common and she would never find a job.

Karen opted to enter the world of work by securing an entry-level position at the University until she could figure out what to do. Seeing that she wasn’t able to get the management experience she needed to advance at the University, she joined the Ann Arbor Jaycees. Being a Jaycee allowed her to give back to her beloved Ann Arbor community while developing her professional skills. Karen soon met Anne Preston when she applied for a position in Anne’s department at the U of M Business School.  Anne appreciated her volunteering spirit and hired her. When Karen learned she was pregnant with her first child, she left her job to stay home with her son full-time, but eventually missed working.   “It was brutal,” admits Karen. “When you’re used to going to work every day, and suddenly you’re not, it’s tough.” In 2005, Karen’s mother gave her something to do. Her mother was getting married and asked Karen to make the wedding cake. At first, Karen wrinkled her nose, but decided to go for it and signed up for a series of cake decorating classes at Michael’s. Karen loved it, and soon after, was teaching the classes herself. Her decorated, demonstration cakes found their way to the daycare at the fitness center she belonged to since Karen needed someone to eat them. The moms there took notice and began asking her to bake cakes for them. A business was born.

Soon after her teaching and baking business took off, Karen saw a friend of hers quit his job to make a living doing what he loved most. He inspired Karen to consider her own passions and make a career out of them. He asked her what she loved most, and her response was, “Jewelry and fast cars.” She decided that perhaps she could make a living out of one to pay for the other. Karen enrolled in classes at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and learned everything she could about jewelry. She discovered she absolutely loved diamonds, and upon the advice of a jeweler friend, began working for a “big-box” jewelry store in order to acquire sales experience. Although the culture and philosophy of the big box store was not a fit—she was more interested in meeting the customer’s needs rather than scoring a big sale—Karen continued to love the jewelry industry. She left the store and started a consulting business assisting others in selecting diamonds and gemstones to fit their needs and desires. Karen says every day is a joy for her because she spends her time doing the things she loves. When she reflects on those who have assisted her along the way, she credits friends and family who helped her discover her interests, and the Jaycees. Over the past 14 years the Jaycees have given her the opportunity to develop leadership skills and public speaking experiences—things that used to terrify her!

Karen truly feels that life is too short to do work you don’t enjoy. “As long as you are spending your time pursuing the things you love, the work will find you and it won’t feel like work at all,” she explains. She recognizes the path to those things might be circuitous, but if you keep feeding your soul by doing what you enjoy, you will find success.


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One Comment
  1. Considering that many wrinkle their nose at those pursuing something untraditional, it is always nice to read a success story. I have been feeding my soul for a long time. I hope that will equal success, too. Way to go, Karen!

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