By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Robin Rountree, 45, was not alone when she earned a graduate degree in May at Regent University, launched a new business, and became a licensed pastor this month.
Career reinventions are common for those who are ages 18 to 40. Specifically this age group has already held 10.5 jobs in their lifetime, according to the Labor Department. “The average worker today stays at each job about 4.4 years. So this means Rountree is one of 54 million Americans, or 40 percent of the work force, who left a job and started a new career.
“It feels great,” said Rountree, who recently launched Faithfully Yours Couture Fashion, a growing handbag business located in a beauty shop in College Park Square.
“It is a journey,” said Rountree who will be licensed on Aug. 16 at The Way, The Truth, and the Life, a Portsmouth church pastored by the Rev. John Blackwell. “If I had it to do over again, I would. But every decision has been trial-and-error. I was just trusting God to show me the way. He showed me.”
While experts say rising career reinventions stem from corporate layoffs, a sluggish economy, and a rise in American entrepreneurship, Rountree has a habit of reinventing herself.
For example, she was a single mother and high school dropout at age 17. Soon, she moved from the home she shared with her mother and six siblings in Boston to her grandmother’s home in Providence, Ky. There she and her two twins shared an apartment in the hometown of her father, a coal miner who passed when she was five.
“My mom said it was the chance of a lifetime,” Rountree said. “My grandmother said she would help me find an apartment and babysit while I finished high school. I stayed in Kentucky for three years and finished high school. I was in my junior year in high school, in my own apartment, with twins.”
She still visits Providence where her grandmother, Margrette Johnson, 86 lives. And she is a caretaker for her own mother, Gwendolyn Bennett, 75, who lives in Virginia Beach.
But she neither revisits nor tends the sense of anxiety and quiet uncertainty that she left behind at age 17.
The point is her future looks blurry now, like it did then. But Rountree is an old pro at landing on her feet in a crisis. In fact, the decision to enroll in college surfaced after doctors operated on the wrong foot during surgery.
“When they performed the surgery they said they were going to operate on one foot,” said Rountree who had spent many hours on her feet working in retail and banking before surgery.
“But the doctor operated on the wrong foot first,” she said. “When he realized the mistake, he operated on both. I was on crutches and in a wheelchair. I had to learn to walk all over again. But I was determined.”
This means although her future looked hazy after the doctor operated on the wrong foot. Sheer determination pushed her toward a new career. In fact, she was on crutches when she enrolled in Tidewater Community College in Chesapeake in August 2002.
“I wore those boots they give you after foot surgery,” she said. “Then I began to wear tennis shoes. I did it diligently and went to class every day.”
Obviously, she is at another hazy juncture. Once again she is juggling vague uncertainty but this time she has clear successes. For example, she earned her undergraduate degree in 2011 at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va. There she wrote a 47-page manuscript, a graduation requirement that is stored in the college’s library.
She has been married for 21 years to Mitchell Rountree, age 52. They have seven children ranging from 33 to 13.
And those twins she had at age 17? “They are doing fine,” she said. “They are 27. Both of them served in the Army for four years. One lives in North Carolina and owns a natural hair-care-products business. The other twin lives in Missouri, is a clerical worker, and is thinking of opening a nutrition business.”
“I have a lot of things going on,” she said, pointing to her handbag business, her budding ministry, and the non-profit consulting business she launched two years ago, Healing from the Hurt Ministry.
“I am waiting on God to complete them,” she said. “The fact of the matter is I know they are coming and it gives me the faith to keep going.”
“What I plan to do is help people heal from whatever challenge they are facing,” she said. “I want people to see the hands and feet of Jesus in action. I want to help people come out of the slump they are in.”
“I want to teach them that nothing is going to fall out of the sky when you are facing a challenge,” she said. “God wants us to use our brain, to network with others and to literally solve our own problem by doing something about it.”
“At the end of each rainbow, there was always something good for me,” she said. “But I stayed up long hours.”