Updated: Oct 28, 2021
I get it, career change is overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to start and you’ve got no idea what you want to do. It also takes time and if you are a burnt teacher, it’s unlikely you’ve got much or any of that to spare….
Leaving teaching is more complicated than many people realize. And I acknowledge that teachers have a lot going on.
As well as the practical stuff like ‘What else can I do?’ or ‘How am I going to pay the bills?’, there is often a lot of emotional turmoil as we consider leaving the classroom.
I’ve been working with teachers for many decades both as a teacher myself and more recently as a career coach. Here are 4 of the most common mistakes I’ve seen teachers make as they contemplate leaving teaching for good.
1. Asking in Facebook groups
I see many posts on Facebook where teachers are asking for career suggestions, and they get as many different suggestions as the number of people who respond.
But none of the suggestions have taken into account who you are, what your specific skills and strengths are, what your personal circumstances are or even what country you are in. So as well meaning as the comments are, they are from the perspective of the commenter and it’s unlikely that you are a carbon copy of that person.
Wouldn’t it much better to consider your unique skills, experiences, values, passions etc. and use that as a starting point? Find out how here.
2. Not spending enough time to REALLY drill down into what YOU really want.
Working this out first will save time in the long run and help you to focus your career search effectively.
If you are desperate to ‘escape’ from teaching, it’s tempting to settle for the first job that comes along. After all anything will be better than teaching that’s causing you so much stress and anxiety, won’t it? You just want your life back and to be able to sleep at night. Can you relate to that?
If you want some space and time to ‘recover’ and restore your mental health, but also need an income, doing something where you don’t need to think too much, is a great option – but only temporarily while you have a break.
Once you are ready to move on, it’s time to think about your purpose, what drives you, what gives you job satisfaction? As a teacher it’s likely that you entered the teaching profession because you wanted to make a difference. What sort of difference would you like to make now?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had meaningful work that made you feel competent, motivated, and valued, which left you with lots of time for yourself, your family, hobbies and even travel? Find out how here
3. Underestimating what you have to offer.
These are some of the things teachers have said to me.
“What can I do besides teach? I feel like that’s ALL I am trained to do. “I am just a teacher I have no other skills or experience”
You may be like many teachers and think that the only thing you can do is teach. How wrong you are. The truth is teachers have a large number of transferable skills. Even the skill of teaching can be broken down into many separate skills.
But we all know that teachers do far more than teaching (or imparting knowledge) both inside and outside the classroom.
Understanding your transferable skills and then working out how to translate them into the non-education world is key to getting a job outside of the classroom.
Identifying your transferable skills
One way to identify your specific skills, is to do an audit of what you do as a teacher every day. Divide your working day into 15-minute intervals (include all after hours work here too) and record exactly what you did during those 15 minutes. At the end of the day ‘translate’ those activities into a non-teaching skill.
You will probably be surprised at the number and range of different skills you use.
Converting or translating your teaching related skills into general work-related skills.
Some examples of soft skills that teachers use regularly are:
critical thinking, negotiation skills, judgement and decision making; project management, leadership skills., planning organizing and managing events; motivating others to achieve their goals; communicating effectively with a range of different stakeholders and many more.
Here is a small section of a resource I’ve created for my new online career course for teachers. I have left the 3rd and 4th column blank for you to drill down to specific skills and examples that are relevant to you and your situation.
4. Starting from a place of lack/ disempowerment not strength
It is a sad fact that a lot of teachers have lost confidence in their ability to teach. Problems with management, constant scrutiny together with unsustainable workloads have left them feeling they are not good enough. When someone tells you or implies that your work is not good enough you will begin to believe them and develop negative beliefs about yourself and your teaching abilities and your self-worth plummets.
All of this, of course, also causes stress, anxiety and exhaustion, which is not the best place to start a career change from.
Having confidence in your skills and abilities and the value you can offer to a new employer in a different sector is crucial for a successful career change.
A very common belief is ‘I am not ____________ enough’ If you can fill the blank with a word such as good, clever, pretty, strong, rich, popular (and lots more) then this is a limiting belief. Other common teacher beliefs include ‘I’m too old to change career’,’ I’m not qualified to do anything else’, ‘I don’t deserve to be successful’
Do you recognise any of these? If you do you will probably find it difficult to move forward with your career change until you deal with these beliefs.
You may have heard this quote from Henry Ford which illustrates just how powerful beliefs can be ‘Whether you believe you can do something or not, you are right’
So, my challenge to you today, is to stop and notice when you are thinking one of these beliefs about yourself and turn it around into something positive. Once you are aware of the thoughts and the beliefs that cause them, it is usually easy enough to change them. If you don’t though, it is likely the beliefs will continue to hold you back and prevent you from achieving what you’d like to.
So, to summarise the 4 mistakes teachers make when contemplating career change are:
1. Asking for others advice rather than considering your own unique contributions and needs.
2. Jumping into the first job that comes along without considering what would be meaningful to you.
3. Not understanding your transferable skills.
4.Not having confidence in the value you can offer to a new employer.
Would you like to find a way to avoid these mistakes?
If you want to replace your teaching career with a meaningful career that you will enjoy turning up for every day, you have to start with some self-discovery.
ONLY then will you be in a place to look at alternative careers and how they will fit.
This is exactly the approach I have used in my online mini course Getting Started with Career Change for Teachers. And don’t worry it doesn’t need to take too long. I have used the most efficient and effective strategies that I use with my coaching clients to work this out quickly.
So don’t be tempted to jump into the first job that comes to mind. Do some work first and find the RIGHT career for you.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had meaningful work that made you feel competent, motivated, and valued, which left you with lots of time for yourself, your family, hobbies and even travel?
Find out more about Getting Started with Career Change for Teachers here and get started in an effective way.