Focusing on what is within your control - The Teacher Career Coach Podcast

94 – Focusing On What’s Within Your Control

Abbey Vogt

The goal is to find what soothes you in times of great stress, what will motivate you to keep going when you’re faced with rejection, and help you continue to move forward even when you do hit a roadblock. That is why in this episode I am going to share the main areas that you can focus on and control so that you can push through the most challenging times and up successful on the other side.

Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Focusing on what’s within Your Control

Welcome to the Teacher Career Coach Podcast. I’m your host, Daphne Gomez. I have experienced intense anxiety attacks and panic attacks since I was a teenager. Sometimes these come on due to specific circumstances or environments that I know are triggering to me, and then sometimes they happen entirely on their own for absolutely no reason. I cannot control when they happen.

And if it’s new to you and you don’t know anyone who suffers from this, it’s really hard to describe, especially if you’ve never felt it before. But within minutes, I can go from feeling good or okay to feeling like there is a swarm of bees inside of my brain. I can’t protect myself from this happening. It’s really frustrating. I have been working with a therapist who I love. She makes me do mindfulness and breathing techniques, some of which I do not see a lot of value in at the time, and some I actually absolutely hate.

I give her feedback while we’re doing these techniques on which ones I like the most and which ones help soothe me or calm me down when we’re practicing them, and then which ones I just don’t like. Every week for months when we start our session, she asks me if I have had anxiety or if I needed to use my breathing techniques during the week. Usually my response is that nothing has popped up, but thank you so much for asking.

And then one day it happened again. My brain hit overtime with every worst-case scenario. My heart was racing out of control and I just had this huge rush of panic through every part of my body. Because she had continued to prompt me every week for months asking me if I had used the tools that she had given me, there they were front of mine, ready for me to finally utilize them in my time of need.

I started breathing and I started tracing my fingers and scanning the room to remind myself that I was safe and then went for a very quick walk, which helped me deescalate my brain, because we’ve noticed that I am constantly in that flight mode. This panic attack was easier to navigate. Our goal isn’t to get rid of stress or blockers, because that is not possible. Things outside of your control what other people say or think about you, how other people do their job hunt, how people react to your boundaries, tragic life events happening during your career hunt, the economy or a pending recession, the timeline you ultimately get your one yes, what hiring managers think about those who are in a career transition, especially from teaching. These are all stressors that are completely outside of your control.

The goal is to find what soothes you in times of great stress, what will motivate you to keep going when you’re faced with rejection, and help you continue to move forward even when you do hit a roadblock. That is why in this episode I am going to share the main areas that you can focus on and control so that you can push through the most challenging times and up successful on the other side.

The very first thing I want to talk about is your attitude, because your attitude is always within your control. How you respond to situations and how you react to feedback that you receive is within your control and is the building block for success with everything else I am going to cover. But I have to acknowledge this attitude piece has been weaponized against teachers and utilized as a gaslighting strategy for so long that I have to just write off the front talk about this.

I have personally had admin tell me, a child hit you, how can you reflect on this and learn from this moment? What did you learn from that situation? All of that is absolute BS. When I do say focusing on your attitude, I do not mean placing all the blame for negative situations on yourself. But I do want you to catch yourself anytime your attitude may be sabotaging your career growth.

It takes a lot of attitude adjustment and humbleness to be successful on a big project and learn new things. Leaving teaching is going to be one of the biggest projects you may have in your entire lifetime. And because it’s so big, you’ll probably catch yourself multiple times telling yourself that it’s impossible.

You’re exhausted, you’re stressed out, you’re overwhelmed. Your brain is going to continue to try to tell you to give up, to tell you that it’s impossible because that is actually the easier solution.

Staying in a current state, even when we are miserable, is comfortable. Change is uncomfortable and scary. Often these invasive thoughts like saying something is impossible is left unchallenged, and then you condition yourself to believe that you shouldn’t attempt anything that’s hard by telling yourself that you shouldn’t do it because it’s impossible. Before you catch yourself thinking, yeah, right, a transition into this specific job is actually impossible from teaching, this former teacher must have had previous work experience. I want you to look around this community as a reminder of what is truly possible. There are going to be paths that are going to be more challenging to break into that I will always be transparent and vocal about, like landing a rule that pays six figures directly from the classroom. But even that is not entirely impossible.

Another attitude shift within your control is using feedback and rejection always as opportunities to grow. Few people are truly great at accepting criticism. It’s going to sting and especially when your brain is already in a huge stressed out situation, but seeking feedback from others and applying this criticism into learnings will help you grow faster and get you to where you want to be. You’re going to want to think of the entire job search through a multiple perspective point of view. Think of it from the lens of a hiring manager who’s ultimately just looking for the best hire for their company.

This is one of the main reasons why I hired a human resources consultant with 10-plus years of experience to create all the teacher career coach course resources with me, because ultimately, the hiring managers are the ones who are the gatekeepers. They’re the ones who are going to read your resume, not your colleagues at work. They’re the ones who are going to see your LinkedIn activity, not the former teachers that you’re connecting with. And then they’re ultimately going to be the ones who are going to make the decision on whether or not to take a chance on you and to hire you. You want to think of everything that you’re doing through the lens of easing any concerns that they may have about hiring you specifically. If you don’t have X years and Y experience, hiring managers may automatically disqualify you. And yes, this does feel totally unfair when you know you could do the job blindfolded after what you have done in the classroom in your years of experience.

But if you don’t think a corporate trainer without any formal teaching experience would automatically be qualified for a third-grade teaching position, use this same mentality with your own search. What would that person need to do to prove it to you? The attitude of my skills translate 100% in every way, I’m an expert in X because I’m a former teacher, is going to be beaten by those candidates who have the attitude of I know that there’s a lot of overlap in these areas and I can prove that to you through all the research that I’ve done and all the people that I’ve talked to, but I’ve also gone ahead and I started to fill in even more knowledge gaps to help alleviate any concerns and prove my passion for this job. That comes at it with a sense of understanding from the hiring manager’s perspective that they may have concerns.

Focusing on what is within your control - The Teacher Career Coach Podcast

They may hesitate to hire you because of your experience as a former teacher, and instead of taking that defensively, it is more curious what you can do to help alleviate any concerns that they have, and also shows that you have a passion for learning and a passion for growth, and you’re open to receiving feedback and you’re open to growing. That’s something that hiring managers are looking for, especially if they are concerned about you making a career transition.

Remember, I am on your team here. I am shouting society has to recognize teachers as highly-skilled professionals from the mountaintops with you. But the way that you address concerns and knowledge gaps is within your control and it’s going to help you and not hurt you. If you find yourself becoming defensive or angry or very argumentative, it might just be a sign that you need to take a break, rest, recharge.

Those big emotions are very real and they’re very valid because society has completely screwed teachers over. Use that anger in a productive way. Use that anger to take you where you want to go next. But don’t use that anger as a scapegoat to dictate your future and to burn bridges with people who potentially can help you in the future. The amazing author Glennon Doyle writes, “What happened doesn’t matter.” It never does. All that ever matters is what’s next. You are not what happened to you. I really like to use that quote and think about it whenever I find myself making excuses and not wanting to move forward when I know my attitude is holding me back. Hopefully it helped you.

The very next area that is within your control are what you set as your goals. If you find yourself with the only goal that you have written down to land a job without all the specifics in between, you really want to sit down and adjust and reflect on this, because landing a job is not something that’s within your control. Not hearing back from applications is something outside of your control. So if your goal is to get three interviews by this month, that’s not something that you can really promise to achieve because you are not the one responsible for it.

Make the goal something within your control. Maybe it’s you apply to 20 positions, you research a certain number of companies, or you add one new accomplishment or skill to your resume before applying to the next 20 positions. Setting a plan for when you are exhausted is just as important. Having a game plan for chunking out smaller parts of this project when you’re completely overwhelmed, maybe it’s tasks that only take 15 or 30 minutes of your time, can help you still move forward even when you don’t want to at all. If you don’t write these types of tasks down, if you don’t chunk this assignment, you probably will not want to move forward or do any of the things during your busiest seasons of work.

The goals you set, the way that you monitor the goals that you set, and how you reflect on the progress that you make with all of these goals are all within your control. Your actions are also something that is within your control. That can be how you move forward, how you speak about your situation, how you speak to other people, how you spend your free time, who you follow or even listen to is all within your control, and all of these things can help you with success. Think about who you follow or listen to, so whether or not they’re impacting you in a positive or negative way to be following them.

For example, there are always a few very loud and very vocal voices screaming at hiring managers or society in general about the broken education system on LinkedIn. If their attitudes align with what you need in your space at this time, that is great. But even if it feels good to see rants that you believe are right on LinkedIn, is it productive or is it helping you move forward and grow? Is interacting with these helping you in that particular platform? You are in charge of removing them from your space if that is what you need to do to get to your ultimate goal.

There are so many times that I blame outside factors when I’m the one who’s actually in control of my own actions. I always say, “Oh, I can’t. I can’t work out because there’s too much work on my plate.” But I’m the one who keeps putting work on my plate. I’m the one who’s setting the schedule or contending to overextend myself with meetings or volunteer opportunities.

I promised I would do X, Y, Z, and now I’m completely committed to that. But honestly, I really struggle with saying I don’t have to help other people. I hate saying that. As someone who loves helping other people, this is something that I talk to and my therapist about a lot. I do not have an obligation to put other people before myself. You do not have an obligation to help other people if you have no time to spend on yourself as well. Your actions are within your control.

So my actions are my own. I would make working out a priority if I really wanted to, but I know it’s something I’m making an excuse for. I would start my morning routine doing so if I knew that I would follow through with it, and I’m procrastinating for one reason or the other, and I know that I am making excuses here. It doesn’t make this easier, but I know I often say that I am not in control here when truly, if I really sit down and I think about it, I am. If you find yourself saying you absolutely do not have time to do this or that, look and see if that is accurate or if you’re making excuses.

If you have 30 minutes per night that you find yourself scrolling social media every day and ultimately it doesn’t help your mental health and you can find yourself not feeling great every time you pick up your phone to start scrolling social media, can you truly cut that out to have 30 minutes to read a book focused on learning design, or listen to a podcast, or up skill and to take an online course? If you find yourself spending hours per month decorating your classroom, can you cut those hours and do something for you, for yourself, for your future instead?

You can make a plan to move forward. This is something that is inside of your control. If you still have a really hard time grasping, this is a really good activity. List out everything that you are worried about with your job hunt and then look at that list and highlight anything on the list that is in your control and focus on those areas for right now. Tragic life events, the economy, pending recession, how other people react to your boundaries, the timeline, all of those things, those are not things that you can actually focus on.

You cannot control those. But you can focus on learning the most about these specific jobs that you’re interested in, answering interview questions and practicing over and over again, rewriting your resume to make sure that hiring a managers see the value in you, following other people who lift you up and give really solid advice, investing in programs that’ll help you get you to where you want to go.

While you’re doing all these different things, you should also be focusing on your time management and making sure that you realize where you’re getting distracted and control limiting your own distractions.

Potentially have a project checklist in front of you like one that’s in the teacher career coach course. How you handle all of these different roadblocks that may hit you is also within your control. There are inevitably going to be different roadblocks. You may send 50 different resumes and not get a single interview. If you are going to reflect and change directions or pivot and just give up entirely, that is going to be within your control.

There is not a one size fits all answer for anything that comes with a career change with any of you, so there are going to be circumstances where it may make sense to say, “You know what? I’ll stay put in teaching after all. This was too challenging and I actually see things getting better at my school district because there’s a new admin and the culture is really shifting and I love teaching.” And then there are times when you hit a roadblock, but you know deep down in your gut that you should double down, figure out a new game plan, make adjustments, and keep moving forward with your goal. Only you are going to know what is right for you here, for your family, but the decision ultimately to give up altogether or to stick with your game plan is in your control.

Like my story in the beginning it’s going to take practice. It’s going to take constantly reminding yourself what you should be doing, even when you don’t feel like you need it. You’re not going to see the value in it until one day you’re in a position where you need to use these skills. Right now you might not be, but in the future, you probably will.

I can’t control the situations that make me anxious. They are inevitably going to happen. But I can prevent what I can on my end by organizing my thoughts, and taking care of myself, and by practicing the tools that I have and need for when they do happen. You can’t control how long this is going to take, but you can control the plan you make. You can get help. You can tune out the voices that aren’t helping you move forward. You can’t control the number of other people applying to a job, but you can control the resume that you sent out. You can’t control a hiring manager who won’t hire someone without direct experience, but you can control your attitude about receiving their feedback and the experience that you continue to build to bridge the gap and meet them halfway.

Thank you so much for being a listener of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast. If you are finding this resource library helpful for your own career hunt, do me a favor. Tell one or two people, whether it’s on LinkedIn or Instagram, where you see teachers who are looking for this type of support and have no idea where they can start to find out about different careers or overcome some of these challenges. Let them know that the Teacher Career Coach Podcast exists. Every day, we receive so many messages from people who said, “Ugh, I wish I knew about this two months ago or three months ago. It would’ve saved me so much time.” Help pay it forward. Let other teachers know that there is a resource library that they can use and continue to grow together.

Mentioned in the episode:

  • Our career path quiz at www.teachercareercoach.com/quiz
  • Explore the course that has helped thousands of teachers successfully transition out of the classroom and into new careers: The Teacher Career Coach Course (If you are a Teacher Career Coach Course member, you can also sign up for our one-on-one Career Clarity calls.)
Step out of the classroom and into a new career, The Teacher Career Coach Course