In this episode, Daphne discusses her tips on how to weigh the state of the economy when thinking about leaving your teaching position.
Should I Leave Teaching in This Economy?
If you have been on LinkedIn recently or watched any major news network, you have probably heard that there are tech layoffs going on pretty much nonstop right now. Every time I open LinkedIn I see them. These are people who have dedicated decades to companies that they loved, companies that they thought were going to be their forever career. They were laid off via email, discarded to start a completely new life. These stories are scary and they are sad to see. They’ve impacted a lot of people that I care about. My former colleagues at both of the companies that I worked at, some of them were laid off. Their roles no longer exist. If you were thinking of leaving teaching right now and all you were seeing is instability on the other side, it’s easy to use this as the sign that you should put your plans on hold indefinitely.
Now, I’ve shared my insight about this inside of the Teacher Career Coach Course Community, but I know many people are looking from the outside and may have not seen an Instagram post that I’ve done about it or heard me really talk about it before so I figured it was worth doing an emergency podcast episode so that you can make a well-informed decision. That’s why in this episode of The Teacher Career Coach Podcast I’m going to be talking about the factors that you need to consider when leaving your job, including the current state of the economy, psychology and how that may be playing a big part of what is going on and giving my top recommendations to help you make a decision.
Leaving a job, especially a job like teaching which you thought was going to be your forever career, is always a difficult decision no matter the circumstances. It’s going to be especially challenging right now when the economy is uncertain and job security is a really valid concern. The decision that you are leaving is not one to be taken lightly. It can have significant implications for your personal and your professional life, so when considering leaving there are three factors that I want you to take into account. We’re going to start with the first factor, the current state of economy, and then I’ll move into personal financial stability, and then lastly the passion that you have for your current employment.
Daphne talks weighing the current state of the economy when considering leaving the classroom
In my opinion, what the heck is happening with the economy and job stability and security right now? I personally think that you should be cautious with your approach, that something different is happening that we have not seen for years, but I do not think that the sky is falling in the way that it seems. This is not to downplay the pain that these layoffs have had on so many people’s lives. I’ve taken calls with former colleagues of mine to help them update their resume on a moment’s notice when they had no idea that they were going to lose their job. I know how stressful instability is and it’s not a feeling that I would wish on anyone, but I would not recommend anyone in the audience giving up their career search based alone on just these tech layoffs.
I’m also going to give a disclaimer here. I have insight into behind the scenes closed door conversations with companies. I’ve worked with transitioning teachers for years and continue to get success stories day after day after day and I’ve done a lot of research on this subject, but I am not an economic analyst or a fortune teller. I’m just going to share my perspective and some of the insight that I have that have led me to this conclusion and to give this advice, but you can always take it with a grain of salt because I don’t work for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
First, why are we seeing tech companies specifically having all of these layoffs? This can be a variety of reasons. There’s bad performance, there’s financial difficulties, maybe they scaled too quickly and then were hit with uncertain economic conditions, especially regarding inflation and how much people were willing to spend on those products. Some EdTech companies got a lot of funding during COVID, and during that time they’ve started to realize that not that many schools are using that particular platform anymore and that should make them actually have to do a reduction in workforce because they don’t have the need for as many employees anymore.
With this, there’s a layoff tracker. As I wrote this episode in early February of 2023, there are actually 313 companies that are listed and 98,000 employees that have been laid off. These are the numbers that are so scary to see because that is a lot of people who are leaving and potentially going to be fighting you for the exact same types of positions, and those 98,000 employees are also probably the reason why all you are hearing on the news or LinkedIn is that there are these tech layoffs going on. For example, there is probably a post as I get on LinkedIn that will have hundreds of comments about someone who was laid off from one of these big tech companies or their colleagues posting about their friends who have been laid off and trying to help get them new roles.
These posts go viral and that’s what you’re going to be seeing if you’re connected or friends of a friend of someone who’s posted about it, but what’s really happening on the other end is nobody is posting the same types of content that they’re happy at work or that everything’s fine at their company. Most people who are happy in their position don’t go on LinkedIn and post whatsoever, so there is going to be a skewed amount of these types of things feeding the algorithm right now because it’s the first time that someone has gone on for a while and because all of their friends and their colleagues are helping boost it on the platform by commenting and sharing it to help them find a new job.
It’s also a lot easier for the news to actually talk about tech layoffs, whether it’s 2000 people who are cut or 10,000 people who are cut, than just talk about companies that are hiring as usual. This isn’t just coming from my own personal opinion, CNN actually reported about this in January. Here’s a quote from CNN from a corporate economist that they interviewed for this particular story. His name is Robert Frick and Robert said, “While layoffs from high profile firms make the headlines, plenty of firms are desperate for more workers, especially tech workers. Those workers are in high demand from the auto industry to the Department of Veterans Affairs and any nonprofit. The labor market is still so tight that many tech workers and workers with other skills are snapped up well before they need to collect the unemployment checks, and they are more likely to be snapped up by smaller firms which have a much greater demand for workers than major corporations.”
Going back to my former colleagues who were laid off in November, well, by January, even with taking Thanksgiving off and Christmas off of their job search because no one’s going to be hiring during that time, they had jobs by January. And remember that number that I said, 313 companies who were laying off in the tech sector? I was able to find another statistic online that showed that there are over 2000 companies that are still hiring so that is a much higher rate than that 313 companies that are laying off. When my former colleagues went on to LinkedIn to celebrate their new roles, those posts didn’t go as viral. They probably never get fed into your algorithm because people aren’t going on to try and help promote it to help other people find those platforms.
As you are listening to this right now, there are a lot of jobs. That doesn’t mean that your career change is going to be easy, it does not mean that these jobs are not going to be competitive, but the jobs are out there. They are currently posted on the Bureau of Labor Statistics 11 million jobs. All of the people who are laid off from tech companies are open to going to those types of positions and they may not be fighting for the exact same positions that you are trying to get into. It’s important to realize that the opportunity is out there but not every opportunity is going to be the right fit for you. You are not going to fit every corporate trainer position. Even if you are excited about becoming a corporate trainer, some of them may want you to be bilingual or some of them may want you to have a career in health tech where other corporate trainer positions are going to be more open to someone coming in with your qualifications and they may already even love your background with social emotional learning and how you can bring that into a corporate environment.
I go into more detail about how to stand out as a candidate in a competitive job market back in episode 65 of this podcast so I recommend you go back and give that a listen because yes, the market is always going to be competitive, especially more competitive than teaching which is having openings at many schools. So if you sent your resume to different schools or different districts, you’re more than likely to get an interview a little bit easier than if you send your resume to a company as a transitioner because you’re going to be up against different candidates, they may not be open to career transitioners or your resume may not be strongly articulating how you’re going to be qualified for this position. Those are going to limit your opportunities, but the opportunities are there.
Daphne discusses how personal financial stability can play a role in your decision to leave the classroom
You’re always going to want to assess your personal financial stability and what your exit plan actually is. I don’t want anyone to jump into this without having really evaluated how much they have in savings, whether or not they are only leaving if they have a job lined up or if they plan to not sign their teaching contract and hope that something pops up within a certain timeframe. Those are all things that you really need to sit down and consider, especially with potentially a competitive job market. Last, let’s talk about your passion for your job because if you are looking at all of this risk and you are saying to yourself, “Teaching isn’t that bad. I actually enjoy staying in the classroom and this risk is scaring me. It is not worth all of this work. I actually can just find happiness in my career inside the classroom,” then lean into that.
Try and change schools, districts, try and change grades if you are struggling with the classroom management of a certain grade level and you think that that may help you find happiness because yes, this is going to be a lot of work and it’s scary and there’s risk involved in it, but if I just said all of that and you know in your heart you do not want to retire from teaching then often the risk is worth it. It is worth it for you to overcome these obstacles in order for you to find happiness in your career, especially if you have 10 years left, 15 years left, 20 years left in this profession. That is too long to stay in a job where you are unhappy just due to something being a roadblock that gets in your way.
I’ve talked about a lot of the things that can come into play with leaving your position, the fear, the feelings of grief, the feelings of teacher guilt. I’ve had full podcast episodes where I’ve covered that, but when it comes to the economic uncertainty right now it’s important to continue to go back and understand the psychology that comes into play when you are leaving a job. Negative bias is when our brain naturally looks for the negative things to protect us from harm. I have seen teachers who have walked away from offers based on looking for red flags that after they started to calm down and they started to heal from the trauma and the stress of what they went through, they realized that they had made a mistake and that they had overthought it and they were really looking for red flags when red flags weren’t there.
This negative bias may be what you are looking for. If you are on LinkedIn and you’re supposed to be working on upskilling and you see one single post that says there was a layoff at a new company and that alone makes it where you want to just curl up in a ball and hide and not move forward with this goal, you may be looking for things that are confirming that you can stay in this area of discomfort because change is going to be hard. Your brain’s working in a way that it’s trying to protect you from outside factors, from harm, but this can also lead us to staying in really uncomfortable and unhealthy situations because our brain is pre-conditioned to protect us from making these types of changes and to overcoming these types of obstacles and roadblocks.
I remember when I first got into teaching, there were so many teachers who had left the profession because of so many pink slips. Pink slips can come back. There could be instability in teaching in 10 years. We don’t know that. We can’t foresee the future. So if you need to counteract the feeling of instability and the feeling of risk with another career by reminding yourself teaching does not actually come with that much security and that little risk, and while right now teachers feel like they have job security, they don’t have physical security. They feel physically unsafe on a day-to-day basis. They also have the risk of having mental health issues on a day-to-day basis just based on the amount of stress. Negativity bias is going to look for things to tell you that, “Here’s some negative information.” It’s going to confirm that a change is not necessary, it’s going to tell you you should stay put, you should not change, but you need to look around your situation, around your environment and figure out is a change necessary in your situation and start to kind of identify if you think negativity bias is showing up and impacting your decision-making and leaving you paralyzed in fear.
But I don’t want you to go through this just blindly with optimism. You want to make a risk assessment, if the risk is worth it in your particular position, but the risk assessment often leads to becoming completely paralyzed and frozen in fear if all we are doing is becoming focused on the potential downsides and not remembering the potential upsides. I started Teacher Career Coach in 2019 and back then teachers messaged me all the time that they thought that it was impossible and that no one would give transitioning teachers a chance, and then I helped them through the Teacher Career Coach Course by rewriting their resumes and walking them through the steps of what they needed to do to feel more confident in their interviews and help really show why they were qualified for the positions. In 2020, the pandemic hit and teachers again told me that it was impossible in that economy. I also heard it again in 2021 and in 2022.
Daphne talks about how uncertainty is always a part of transitioning from teaching
Here’s what I am seeing. Throughout all of those years, there was never a time period where all of the teachers in the audience were not able to transition. There were constantly day after day after day success stories of what we were doing is working. But here’s what I’m also seeing. Those who put in the work are going to get the results eventually, but sometimes it is not going to be on the timeline that you want. There are so many factors outside of your control and some people may take two hiring seasons until they finally get their one yes, staying in the classroom a extra year for that financial stability. But what I am also seeing is that it sure as heck is not going to be on the timeline that you want if you are not trying, if you are frozen and using this as an excuse not to move forward. So if you know that getting out of teaching is important to you, take the steps to start getting out of teaching now, knowing that even if it doesn’t work out on your timeline the first round, you have made that much progress towards your future for the next round.
If you actually do get interview, and you land a position, sometimes the fear comes in that, “Is this going to be a stable job? What if I lose it in three months’ time or six months’ time due to a layoff?” The best thing that you can do is just not let fear overtake you and start to play out all of the worst case scenarios and see if you can figure out a solution to that. Did you have openings at your school mid-year last year? Are you leaving potentially on good terms if you wanted to go back to the classroom? Would this experience, if you don’t plan on going back into the classroom, be something that you can easily put on your resume to find a different position, which is going to be easier once you have your foot in the door with corporate experience? If you did take a job and potentially lost it in a few months, could you substitute teach while you look for another role with your new network and experience?
These are not ideal situations, but is the risk worth the reward? Are you moving in the right direction? Do you ultimately want this to be your future? Have you started working on it or are you stuck in this fear spiral where you are not moving forward, procrastinating because you’re so scared of all of the uncertainty? If you are only looking for reasons to tell yourself that it is impossible even when you see day after day after day other teachers in transition are getting their one yes, it’s time to really do some self-reflection and try to think of the positives. What if it does work out? What would your life look like then? How long are you willing to work on this goal realistically in order for it to be the rest of your life? Is three months too much for you to work on it for you to be in that new career for the rest of your life? Is 12 months too long for you to work on it?
These are only questions that you’re able to actually answer yourself, and unfortunately no one on my team and I can’t make the answer for you because, going back to it, you want to talk about whether or not the risk is worth the reward. There is risk. I never want to downplay the risk. We are all susceptible of risk. Job stability and security are important and there are times when switching careers or taking a risk is scary, but it can also lead to greater success and greater fulfillment in our lives. If at this moment you’re like, “I don’t want to trust her. I’m still too scared,” start to look for outside advice from trusted individuals. There have been many people posting about the layoffs and warning other transitioning teachers, whether or not they should take a new job based on it.
From my perspective, many of them were not in hiring. They are not behind the closed doors of what’s going to go on at some of these companies, whether or not those companies plan on hiring 40 people in May, whether or not those companies are actually scaling in the next three months. They are looking at it from the lens of seeing these LinkedIn posts and making their conclusion. They are not looking at the different articles that are coming out about how low unemployment is or what is actually happening to the tech workers after they’re laid off and how long it takes them to find a job. There’s always going to be an exception to the story, there’s always going to be someone who may take six months or 12 months to actually find a role, but we’re looking for the data that is consistent, we’re looking for the larger picture here and not using our negative bias to confirm that it’s too scary for us to move forward.
Daphne shares the importance of considering the perspective of the sources to which you are looking
When you’re evaluating where you’re getting your advice from, it’s just really important to continue to really see why is someone writing what they’re writing about it. I actually saw a post, it was a really doom and gloom, layoffs are coming post with the scariest statistics that didn’t really match what I was seeing anywhere else. I did a deeper dive and I realized it was a paid advertisement for someone who was selling resume writing services for employees at tech companies telling them that they needed to pay for a resume before they got laid off and it was just a marketing attempt. But from my perspective, I was even a little concerned like, “Oh, I should use this information in the podcast.” And I wasn’t able to really figure out where they got the statistics from, so it’s important to see who you’re talking to.
I’ve talked to hiring managers and worked with them for the Teacher Career Jobs Board or just to help fact check or run information that they wanted to relay to this audience in a discreet way, and many of them have reiterated that if a company truly believes that their company is at risk to lay off a large amount of their employees, they are on a hiring freeze for those positions. That means that they wouldn’t have open positions that they would be advertising if they plan to freeze it. The negative PR that comes with a massive layoff like this hurts candidates that are going to apply in the future. They’re going to hear about these layoffs as something and they’re not going to think it’s a stable company, and so these are really unfortunate situations with some of the biggest tech companies.
They just know that people are going to continue to work there but they also scaled too quickly or they had too much growth too quickly during a specific timeframe. I wouldn’t anticipate it happening in another six months’ time for the positions that they’re hiring for right now but, once again, I am not a fortune teller. I cannot tell if something huge is going to happen in the market so what you need to do is think, “Would this six month timeframe be enough for me to have it on my resume that I can start to look for other positions if a worst case scenario happens? Is this working me closer towards my goal than staying in the classroom?” Those are the types of conversations you need to be having with your loved ones and those who know your specific situation.
I like to stay cautiously optimistic. I take extreme caution and I plan very strategically for any risks, but I do not let obstacles or roadblocks stop me. I read The Psychology of Money recently by Morgan Housel and there’s a really great quote that just reminded me of this podcast and I wanted to make sure that I put it in here. They said, “Optimism is not being oblivious to risk. It’s the belief that the odds of a good outcome will be in your favor over time.” I think that that is a perfect way for me to sum up this episode. Will every single teacher who tries to leave teaching during a tiny application window get a job? Unfortunately, every year the answer to this will always be no. Will the trend and the economy make this year harder or easier? I cannot tell you that either, but I do know that if you start working towards your goals right now you will be closer to achieving that goal. If this is a long-term goal of yours, there is absolutely no reason for you to give up on that.
You have to hold hope that if you are meant to leave teaching, it’s going to work out for you. It’s going to take a lot of elbow grease, a lot of grit and a lot of determination. You need to make informed decisions, track the true data and make sure you are only looking for the real information and not just seeking out the ones that are feeding your negativity bias, but trust that you will be able to get through whatever the outcome is because you are amazing, you are qualified, you are strong and you are capable. There are ways to help you get from point A to point B in a shorter amount of time.
The Teacher Career Coach Course is one of the best resources to help you figure out what career you want, rewrite your resume and understand what you may be doing that’s making your process take a little bit longer.But I hope that this podcast helped alleviate some of your concerns and lay some new light and inspired you to continue to move forward in your journey if that is what you truly want. There is no shame in changing direction and staying in the classroom if you’ve realized that that is ultimately what your heart is leading you to do, but I do not want you to stay if you are only staying due to fear. Make an action plan, take a risk assessment and keep moving forward. Ultimately, you will get your one yes.
Thank you so much for being a listener of The Teacher Career Coach Podcast. Don’t forget to tell other teachers who are thinking of leaving the classroom that this resource library exists so they can find resources just like this episode.