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How do I leave teaching for a new career?

Posted in Careers, Mentor Minute

How do I leave teaching for a new career?

The Globe and Mail, Nov. 08 2011

The question

I am a teacher with a BA in English and a bachelor of education. I am not satisfied with my career and am looking to leave it for something else. I have no idea where to begin because I don’t know how to assess my marketable skills and abilities. I have never even had to make a résumé that wasn’t teaching-specific. One of my concerns is my educational level, as it seems that jobs I have looked at that seemed interesting have had a threshold requirement of a masters degree.

The answer:

There are two key questions to consider when approaching a career change:

1) What do I really want to do next?

2) What skills do I have that are transferable?

I encourage my clients to look at both questions equally. If we just focus on our transferable skills, we may miss a great new career that we are passionate about, if we think we don’t have the skills or education required. Having said that, building off your existing experience will streamline the move into a new arena.

So first, focus on the question of what you really want to do next. Ask yourself:

· What am I passionate about?

· What do I value?

· What makes me want to jump out of the bed in the morning vs. pull the covers back over my head?

· What industries do I follow purely for my own interest?

· What topics do I follow (think of the books you read, magazines you buy, conversations that inspire you)?

· What people do I enjoy being with?

· If I could do anything, what would I do?

· What are my strengths? What am I just naturally good at?

Next, look at which of your skills are most transferable to this new area of interest. Bottom line is, pretty much every piece of experience we acquire is transferable into other arenas. The trick is to step back and look at what you do from a new perspective.

Using the field of teaching as the example, here are some skills you will have learned and how they can transfer:

· Working with different interest groups and building relationships (e.g. students, school staff and parents). The ability to work with different groups of people, often with different agendas, would transfer to any job where you have multiple stakeholders, such as internal staff in various different functional areas, clients, boards.

· Facilitation – the ability to “be at the front of the room,” and deliver information with confidence is required in virtually all careers.

· Teaching – the ability to transfer knowledge is required everywhere, and is particularly important for managers, who are responsible for leading others.

Other teaching skills that jump to mind and are also needed elsewhere are: managing details, time-management skills, having difficult conversations, providing feedback, inspiring others, organization and creating a great environment.

Once you know what you want to do, and which skills you already have, you will also determine which you are missing. At that point, you can assess if further education is required.

Personally, I had an 11-year career in advertising and a business degree before I decided to move into coaching in my early 30s. To make the change, I enrolled in courses to become a certified coach, and committed time and money to this new area of schooling. But once I had that under my belt, all my years in advertising made it easy for me to bring my coaching skills into a corporate environment, and speak the language of “business.” So although the careers are very different, most of the skills I gained in my advertising days moved with me.

Katie Bennett is head of  Double Black Diamond Coaching.

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