Among the thousands of teachers in the Teacher Career Coach audience, there are quite a few experienced teachers with over 15 years’ experience in education asking for advice on making a career pivot late in the game. We have seen multiple success stories from teachers with over 20+ years of experience who have successfully transitioned from classroom teaching to a new career. However, we always want to be transparent here at Teacher Career Coach about the roadblocks you may face. The truth is, a career pivot could be more difficult for an experienced teacher later in the game. But difficult does not mean impossible if you know a change is what you truly want.
Experienced Teachers: Deciding What is Right For You?
The first step in any life-altering decision is to determine what you want at this point in your life. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much longer do you want to be working?
- What are your top priorities and your non-negotiables?
- Are you looking for a part-time, fun, stress-free role to fill your time? Or do you want a full-time position where you are constantly challenged and intellectually stimulated?
- Are you willing to transition into a stepping stone job that may open other doors to your future path?
Sometimes those questions are not as simple as “What do you want?”But rather, “What do you need?” If you are an experienced teacher that needs a certain type of schedule, pay, etc. in order to provide for your family or accommodate your personal needs, then you need to determine that first and foremost.
Then there is also the topic of salary. Are you willing to take a pay cut from your current salary, or do you need to match or increase pay?
Just because you are an experienced teacher with several years in the classroom does not mean you will automatically match or increase your salary in a different field. Some experienced teachers decide to take a pay cut in order to learn new skills and get a foot in the door for future opportunities outside the classroom. While other experienced teachers, even those with over 15 years in education, still see a pay increase in their first role outside of the classroom. This is the trickiest topic that everyone always wants advice on, but it really is going to depend on so many different factors. If you haven’t listened to the Teacher Career Coach Podcast Episode 68 – All About Salary yet—definitely start there. Daphne explains some of the factors to consider and how to find roles with higher paying salaries outside of teaching.
Retirement and Pension
Retirement and pension are also hot topics when it comes to more experienced teachers contemplating a career pivot. This heavily depends on what state you are in, so you should contact your specific retirement or financial advisor to ask about the possible effects.
If you are an experienced teacher considering a career outside the classroom, it is far more important to investigate how close you are to retirement and how your pension will be affected if you leave at this stage. If you are further away from retirement, this decision may impact you less. We have a Teacher Career Coach Podcast episode Should You Stay For Your Teaching Pension along with a Pension Video that explains how pensions work in order to help you understand the pros and cons of a career switch at this stage in your career.
Should You Stick It Out?
Experienced teachers can often be very close to retirement. No matter how close you are to retirement, we don’t want to tell you to just “stick it out.” Depending on the severity of your current work situation, being miserable, even for a few years, can create serious mental and physical health issues. But, we know that staying may be the best choice for some experienced teachers depending upon personal circumstances. If you decide the best move for you is to stay in the classroom, we have resources to help you live a more balanced life. Everyone’s journey is going to be different, and that is okay. Do what is best for YOU.
Experienced Teachers and Age Discrimination
Unfortunately, even though it is illegal and unethical, there may be someone who will discriminate against certain age groups and reject candidates for other reasons. But would you really want to work for someone who discriminates against great candidates? No! Thank them for the opportunity and move on.
The best way to combat age discrimination is to prepare for interviews and the job itself. Experienced teachers should go into a job search and interview with confidence in your skills. Companies are looking for reliable, experienced candidates who will add value to their team. Prove to them that you are the best person for that specific role and show that you have a positive attitude and willingness to learn new skills.
Some experienced teachers navigating a career transition may worry that companies won’t want to hire someone who can only work for a few years before retiring. However, the retiring age for many positions outside of teaching is higher than you may think. According to statista.com, in 2020 Americans ages 55+ made up 36.4% of the workforce in the US. That means people are working well past the age when many school teachers will retire. Let’s face it…the retirement benefits are a great perk of teaching. But if you are mentally struggling far more than you are happy each day in the classroom, is that perk worth it? That is for you to decide!
If you are worried about hiring managers seeing your age as a hindrance to the progression and development of their company, then be sure to focus on the future in your interview. When you come across as a forward-looking candidate, you will be more appealing than others who appear to have already achieved their professional goals. Give specific examples of your enthusiasm for future growth and development in your career, and share what you hope to accomplish during this new chapter of your life.
How Experienced Teachers Can Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market
The truth of any career search is that it’s hard work. This is not going to be an easy process for anyone, and if you see your age as a barrier it is going to be even more difficult. Be prepared and willing to do everything you can to stand out.
You may have many years of experience and many valuable skills, but ultimately you must convince a hiring manager that you are the best person for one unique job. Since you have decades of work experience that younger applicants do not have–use that to your advantage. Make a list of all the skills you have as a result of your many years of experience. Focus on transferable skills (communication, teamwork, etc.) as well as specific skills that would be valuable for the job you are applying for.
Just because you have 25 years of teaching experience does not mean you can automatically slide into a senior-level role in a new field. Depending on the career path you choose, you might make a lateral salary move, or you might take a pay cut. Is that a deal breaker for you? That is something you will need to decide, and you can reference the resources mentioned previously in this article for guidance.
A second question to ask yourself is whether or not you are willing to learn new skills. Companies love to hire someone who is always learning, growing, and is open to constructive feedback. If you are set in your ways and not open to a different approach, then you may not be the team player they are looking for. If you are an experienced teacher open to upskilling for a new role, check out our Teacher Career Coach blog post with recommendations and advice on how to upskill and reskill.
Another important tool in any job search is networking. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your wider network and let them know you are transitioning. Many experienced teachers have established relationships with textbook sales reps, museum docents, suppliers, etc. – as well as former colleagues who have transitioned. Use every resource you have at your disposal.
While LinkedIn is definitely a great way to network online, we understand that many teachers are not familiar with LinkedIn. It is not something that teachers really need to utilize in their field, so learning a new tech platform can surely be intimidating. We have resources to help you navigate LinkedIn, but there are so many other ways to network as well. Start with friends and family, and then move to any other adults you are in contact with outside of the school building. Anyone you know can be a potential resource for a job lead or employment reference.
A career search is tough for anyone, regardless of age. If you are an experienced teacher not seeing success right away, keep at it. It is going to take time! Revamp your resume, network, upskill, and do everything you can to stand out.
Feedback From Experienced Teachers Who Have Made the Pivot
Team Teacher Career Coach hears from experienced teachers daily who are worried it may be too late for them to leave the classroom. While we believe in the resources and advice we provide, I also recognize that I am not an expert on this particular topic. I left teaching after 4 years in the classroom, so I know that I cannot speak authentically about a life-altering decision for teachers with 20+ years of experience.
That is why we gathered feedback from former experienced teachers in our audience who have walked in your shoes. The following comments come from teachers with 20+ years of experience who have made a career transition. I hope their words bring you hope and help you realize that a career pivot is still possible!
New Job Titles
- Project Manager
- Professional Learning Specialist
- Market Development Representative
- Part-Time Educational Consultant
- Instructional Designer
- Business Development Representative
- Brand Services Contractor
- Managing Editor
- Partnership Associate
Words Of Wisdom
“Anyone is able to change careers. You just need to put in the work and believe that it’s possible!”
– Amanda, Instructional Designer
“Lean into solutions you can bring due to experience.”
– Deborah, Partnership Associate
“Showcase your tech skills to fight the stereotype that anyone over 40 isn’t tech savvy. Also emphasize your openness to learning and desire to collaborate–that shows that you are open to being mentored.”
– Janelle, Curriculum Designer & Team Lead
“My first several interviews did not go as well, as the corporate world is very different from education. But I grew and learned each time. My new role was only posted on LinkedIn and I sent the hiring manager a direct message.”
– Rachel, Project Manager
Next Steps to a New Career
If you are an experienced teacher struggling to determine what new career path is right for you, take our free career quiz to help you get started.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see teachers make is that they try to navigate this process alone. Often, they put off researching until the very last minute. Which sets them up for a very stressful application season. Teacher Career Coach wants to help you get some clarity in the options available to you. To know EXACTLY what you need to do (and not do) in order to get your foot in the door.
You don’t have to do this on your own.
With the help of an HR expert with over 10 years of experience and a team of former teachers, Daphne has created a guide to support you in the early stages of your transition out of the classroom. Tap the button below to learn more.