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Career Coach, Bethany Wallace

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November 2016

4 ways teachers can transition to new careers

I’ll be honest–I fell into teaching after graduating from college. I didn’t major in education; I’d only taken two education courses. I’d never dreamed of becoming a teacher. I simply didn’t have a solid career plan, and having majored in English, everyone asked me the same question: “So are you going to teach or what?”

So I did. It seemed like a logical career path. Although I loved most of my students, for a variety of reasons I detested the job itself and vowed never to return to teaching after spending one long year teaching high school.

I spent about 15 years exploring various career pursuits—most of them related to writing and student services in higher education—until I returned to teaching after earning my Master’s degree in English language and literature. I love students and teaching. I’m still teaching as an adjunct faculty member while managing my career coaching business.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

What’s your story? How did you become involved in education? Which chapter are you writing right now?

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you relate to my experience; you desire change. You may feel frustrated with your teaching position itself, or maybe you’ve been teaching for years and are simply exhausted and have determined it’s time to pursue a different career path altogether.

Whatever your circumstances, you’re in a good place to make a change.

Why? Educators understand better than most professionals how to take the following four steps.

  1. Transform frustration into constructive, future-focused action.

As a teacher, you’re accustomed to problem-solving on the spot and to making the best of bad situations. You have probably transformed a shabby, cinder-blocked classroom into a Pinterestesqe wonderland on a budget of $300 or less each fall. You have scoured the internet for quizzes, downloads, and videos and are the queen of all things royalty-free.

Do not allow frustration with your current job situation—or even your overall career field—to weigh you down.

Instead, let that frustration fuel you as you focus on planning your future. Every time you feel downtrodden or frustrated with work, allow yourself five or 10 minutes to make notes about people in your preferred career fields with whom you could reconnect over winter break. Take five minutes during your planning period to write a thank you note to someone you currently work with—fellow teachers, counselors, or partners in other districts. Maintaining current connections is just as vital as networking with people outside your current circle of influence, too. And when you find yourself sick of grading at night, take a 15-minute break and sign up with two job search agents (online job boards).

  1. Create a plan, set specific goals, and meet deadlines.

You create curriculum and lesson plans, for Pete’s sake. You do this every day! You’ve got this.

What’s your overall objective? To land your dream job.

How will you get there? Outline a plan, step by step, to help you reach your goals. Use your school’s academic terms to shape your plan. Count out the number of weeks left in the academic year and set small, attainable goals (with weekly deadlines).

Are you hoping to transition from teaching to a career in educational sales? You’ll need to revamp your resume to highlight skills and accomplishments valued in the world of business, sales, and marketing. Do you have many professional contacts at educational/academic companies? Allot time to network online and to reconnect with old acquaintances by phone.

  1. Identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. Showcase your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

As a teacher, you’re constantly asked to assess yourself and your students. This is nothing new to you. Now it’s time to assess yourself as a job seeker.

If your resume is already strong, and you are a fantastic writer, bypass seeking help with your resume and cover letter. Perhaps you need assistance in answering on-the-spot interview questions instead, or maybe you feel nervous about networking with employers at events and dinners. Whatever your weaknesses, don’t pull the ostrich-in-the-sand move and ignore them. Work to improve yourself this fall, and in early spring, you’ll be ready to apply for jobs.

  1. Ask for help. Don’t make the job search process harder than necessary.

If you find it difficult to create an action plan, set small, achievable goals to transition out of teaching and talk to others who are doing the same. If you discover your resume needs a major overhaul, and you lack social media skills, and you haven’t interviewed for a job in five years, perhaps you should contact me and let me coach you through the process.

It’s okay to admit you need guidance. As we advise our students, the sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can move toward the solution—the transition to a brand new career.

 Ready for a change? Contact me to schedule a free career coaching consultation. 

 

Branding yourself with gratitude

When your coworkers mention you—when you’ve stepped out of the room, or when you didn’t join them for lunch—what do they say? Are you mindfully branding yourself in the workplace in hopes they’ll be lifting you up, not tearing you down? When former supervisors and colleagues respond for requests for references during a job search, what characteristics and values will they attribute to you?

Consider working to develop an attitude of gratitude; it can benefit your relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and clients. It can also improve your outlook on your current position within your organization, even if you’re not working in your dream job.

Let’s talk about how the practice of gratitude improves your behavior, transforms your attitude and outlook, and sharpens your branding and networking skills in the workplace (and even your job search).

If the video is not playing/displaying properly: click here.

How did I become an expert on gratitude? I learned this lesson the way I learn many lessons—the hard way. I had an incredibly cynical, negative attitude at one point in my life. I allowed my circumstances to drag me down, particularly related to my job at the time, which I still contend was “the worst job of all time.” My mentor instructed me to begin sending her a daily gratitude list via email. I had to document three unique, specific items each day, and I couldn’t repeat items on the list. I included things like, “I’m thankful today that when I merged onto the interstate, I remembered to put my coffee in the cup holder first because I was cut off, and otherwise it would have spilled onto my white pants. So I didn’t have to worry about removing stains, stopping to buy new pants before my meeting, or anything like that. Yay!” Over time, my mind began identifying positive moments more easily; I completed this assignment for over 1000 consecutive days.

It changed me. This habit has become second nature to me. In the workplace, it’s a game changer. I’m now less likely to identify problems and pick them apart. I want to help identify solutions instead. And trust me, this isn’t my personality type. I’m less disgruntled and discontent. Don’t you think this makes me more pleasant to work with? Don’t you want to be more pleasant to work with? I promise you every employer wants to hire pleasant, kind employees.

It’s important to remember this: gratitude is more than simply saying thank you. It’s a way of life. It’s a result of taking actions regardless of circumstances. We choose to behave as if we were thankful even when we don’t feel like it. In the workplace, this isn’t always easy, but if we choose gratitude over grumbling, we feel better about ourselves at the end of the day, and we build better relationships. This means we brand ourselves as people who are kind, generous, thoughtful, considerate, humble, joyful, and inclusive.

How can you practically practice gratitude in the workplace?

  1. When interacting with clients, customers, patients, students, or the public, treat them well. Make them a priority; they do matter, you know. Remember to greet them with a smile and a handshake. Invite them into your place of business (virtually or otherwise). Share a freebie. Create a welcoming atmosphere. Try to cut down on wait time. Improve your response time online. Say goodbye and ask them to return again soon. Remember, your clients may not remember what you say, but they’ll remember how you treat them. Word-of-mouth is your best advertisement. Treating your clients as if you were thankful for them—even if you’re having a bad day or feel rushed—is key to a successful business/organization, and it’s also key to living a life you feel proud of when your head hits the pillow at night.
  2. When serving on teams or committees at work or in the community, attempt to smile and serve with a positive attitude. Many times, we don’t approach these tasks with gratitude. We forget that many people are unemployed and underemployed and would love the opportunity to sit in our chairs, listening to our coworkers discuss upcoming events or debate about seemingly trivial matters. Keeping the big picture in mind can help you find gratitude even in your least favorite tasks at work.
  3. Display willingness to serve. Clean up after meetings without being asked. Tidy up the breakroom if you have a few extra minutes. Bring a dozen doughnuts on Friday. Donate your time to help another team when they put out a call for help via email rather than refusing to respond. Volunteer for events and activities as time permits. Expressing willingness can demonstrate gratitude for your part within the organization. When you’re grateful, you give back.
  4. If you’re a supervisor, regularly thank your employees. Host a recognition day or reception. Keep it simple to conserve costs, but make the effort to ensure people feel appreciated. There are fun and affordable ways to extend kudos for contributions. Consider doing a social media shout out on a regular basis. Who doesn’t love that in this day and age?
  5. Express gratitude to everyone, not just people who can promote you. Does the maintenance crew regularly empty your trash or clean your office? Leave them a gift with a note on your desk at night. Bag the trash for them occasionally to save them a step. When you visit the on-site deli or café, purchase a gift card for the administrative assistant anonymously.

Do things for fun and for free, expecting nothing in return. Taking these actions—and expecting nothing in return—will transform you individually. When you become a better person, you’ll behave differently. When you behave as a more thoughtful, more considerate, more joyful, and more productive employee, you will gain attention from colleagues and supervisors. This is the heart of branding, but all terminology and self-promotion aside, it’s really the heart of being a decent human being.

And that’s what really matters.

Let me help with your branding, networking, and other career coaching and workplace communication needs. For more pointers on your job search and workplace relationships, follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

 

 

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