Let's Talk about Failure - The Teacher Career Coach Podcast

79 – Let’s Talk About Failure


In this episode, we’re addressing the elephant in the room—failure. Job hunting can be incredibly difficult, especially when it comes to facing rejection. Let’s talk about dealing with these big emotions and reframing your goals so you can keep moving forward.

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

Let’s Talk About Failure

Welcome to the Teacher Career Coach Podcast. I’m your host, Daphne Gomez. All it takes is a few minutes and you can start Googling failure quotes, and you can find thousands of really great inspiring quotes about failure. They’re often spoken by really important thought leaders or super successful CEOs. You’ve probably seen them. They’re probably up in your classroom. People like Thomas Edison, Oprah, Johnny Cash, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan. We always reshare these as inspirational memes on social media or talk about them when we’re talking about growth mindset. But if you are listening to this podcast right now, I am going to assume that you feel like a failure in this present moment and you have put a lot of work in to achieve a very specific, huge goal and you are still not where you want to be and you don’t feel like time is on your side at all.

Maybe you can’t get an interview or maybe you’ve had these few really amazing interviews with companies that ultimately broke your heart. Maybe you actually already committed to signing a teaching contract for next year because you just didn’t know if your heart could take the hurt of any more job searching and rejection. And right now, as you’re listening to this, most likely your emotions are taking over because it feels like you failed and a few inspirational quotes or that poster on your wall is not going to be enough to soften the blow.

It is really hard right now to not be bitter, to not start panicking and to not start telling yourself that getting what you want and deserve out of life is impossible. It’s also really easy to feel completely isolated like you are the only one who feels this way, especially if you are surrounded by a sea of successes. That is why in this episode, I want to give you three very real steps to help you stop feeling like a failure and move past this roadblock. I’m going to share my tips for getting prepared for it mentally, deciding how you are going to actually move forward from this moment, and setting some very clear goals for redirection.

My first piece of advice is to give yourself some real time and some real permission to feel these very big feelings that you’re feeling. Your emotions, no matter how big they are right now, are completely valid. The education system has failed so many of you, especially these last few years. You are most likely coming from a place of trauma, depending on what you saw in the classroom, and going back into the same or a similar situation but now with a bruised ego or a broken heart is a lot for anybody to process. Give yourself some grace and some patience and healing from this moment.

When I’m personally feeling these really big feelings, my instinct has always been to bury myself in busy work and pretend that they do not exist, and that is never the healthy option for me. So first, please consider going to a therapist. When I personally ignore my feelings and I repress them, my entire body and my brain get out of control, and you may find yourself in a similar boat as well. Maybe you find yourself getting really short and snappy with people that you truly love just based out of not wanting to talk about what is going on with you and how bad this hurts or what you really want to do moving forward.

Maybe you find yourself making fear-based decisions without putting a lot of thought into the consequences or reality of them. So maybe that means you never really gave a dream career path a real chance. You gave up on it really quickly because you heard from one person that it was too hard for them, so you didn’t want to give it a chance at all. Or maybe you just didn’t apply to any companies that weren’t your “dream companies” because fear was telling you that all companies besides these very elite few were going to have a toxic culture.

Whatever went on during the last few months, fear, resentfulness, sadness, grief, all of that may be hitting you right now and these are all totally normal, especially with how much you’ve just gone through in the last few years. You really have to give yourself time to sit in these feelings. So that might mean speaking with a professional, journaling. Just truly give yourself permission to feel them. If you have not yet sat down and named them, write down a few names of them. For example, do you feel yourself feeling resentful? Does not getting a new impressive job title make you feel small or unworthy or unlovable?

I have personally felt like a failure very many times in my life. And one of the parts of the job searching I just wish I was more prepared for was how the ups and downs of the job search itself and facing rejection over and over and over again was going to impact me mentally. Like I’ve said on past podcast episodes, I just came from a place where I was really insecure after being beaten down for an entire school year at a really toxic school environment. I just, I’m already an insecure person who suffers from anxiety, but that year I had such a low self worth. And so facing the rejection over and over and over again was really difficult for me.

I completely remember how this part feels. Rejection is going to be one of the hardest parts of the job search, but rejection is often not as personal as it feels. I’ve had to personally make really hard decisions outside of the classroom as a CEO of a company. I had to hire one person out of four amazing candidates, all of who I would’ve loved to hire. No matter how much I struggled with the decision of who I was going to choose due to how impressive all of them were and how much I would’ve loved to work with all of them, that email that I sent that we went with another candidate email is going to sting all three of the ones who did not ultimately get it. They’re going to blame themselves and their qualifications, even though they all crushed it.

Not only have I been on the hiring side many times in the last five years, but I’ve also talked to countless hiring managers for companies that hire teachers. This type of rejection happens so much more than job hunters probably realize. Either there are too many great candidates to decide from, or it went to someone who already worked at the company, or potentially someone else had a reference and you were still an amazing candidate. Maybe one person potentially took a program that helped them prepare a little bit more for their interview questions so they may have stood out slightly above the rest for one reason or another with their follow up letters or just the way that they articulated their strengths. But any of the other candidates could have easily been the very next hire and you wouldn’t really know it if you got that you did great but we’re going with another candidate email.

The hiring team’s not going to tell you much about their decision. It’s an uncomfortable situation to be in on their end and it just opens up a back and forth and a lot of can of worms that they really don’t need to. So often they just leave it as is and sometimes they will give constructive criticism depending on if that’s something that they do at their company and if the candidate actually asks for any sort of feedback to help them stand out in the future.

But we don’t know that. And sometimes rejection makes us guarded from even trying even though we were so close to getting that job. If you see a job in the future that’s similar to a job you’ve already interviewed for and didn’t get, you might find yourself saying, “What’s the point in me even applying?” And then you may find yourself walking away. You may have already stopped working on your goals due to just the pain of being rejected in a job interview. Even if you know you crushed it, it just it hurts so bad to feel rejected. And then it’s easy for us to start to self sabotage when we get to this point even though if you are getting your foot in the door for interviews, you are just around the corner to getting your one yes.

So once you sit down and think about all of the things that have happened and think about them objectively from different points of view, start to identify those big feelings, start to ask yourself questions about how these feelings are feeding your behaviors and see if there’s any sort of patterns that you can find. Not everybody can say that they react the same to the way that rejection and hurt makes them feel. With me, it makes me feel insecure and very small, but sometimes rejection makes us feel bitter, angry, entitled to better.

I’ve seen a lot of this behavior on LinkedIn recently and it could potentially also be red flagging you if you are coming off as someone who is entitled to get a job outside of the classroom. I’ve seen a lot of quotes like, “I got rejected again after a great interview. It’s time for companies to wake up and realize that teachers are capable of doing even their jobs better than they can.” Posts that are negative in general about hiring managers or recruiters due to one bad experience are potentially going to leave bad tastes in future hiring managers or recruiters’ mouths as they’re looking at your LinkedIn profile.

And this is just a really concerning trend for me that I’m seeing posts and comments like this on a platform that is supposed to be used professionally. If you find yourself surrounded by others who are obviously having some very big feelings but are encouraging unprofessional behaviors on LinkedIn, it might be time for a quick unfollow so that you don’t get sucked into the drama. Remember, it’s okay to feel these big feelings and you can vent about them as much as you want, but you have to monitor your behaviors to see if you are acting based on these big feelings if you can’t control it, and whether that’s actually digging you into a hole even further where you are further away from your goals.

There are so many great emotional regulation strategies that we teach our students, but we often forget that there are these big, huge changes going on in our life and we may need to practice them ourselves as—but we often forget that there are these like huge, big changes going on in our lives when we actually probably need to practice them ourselves as adults.

Let's Talk about Failure - The Teacher Career Coach Podcast

The next step for you to do is to decide if right now you truly want to move forward with this goal. It’s so easy to get up in the excitement of a career change. You can have shiny object syndrome and start to chase all these other different career paths as well, or you might just be excited in following what worked amazing for someone else. It’s now time to decide if you are going in the right direction. And if so, how long do you plan to keep going in that same direction?

You set this goal for yourself, you’re allowed to change your goal post. If you said that you were going to get a job within three months and now you’ve decided with the new information that you know it’s going to be six months or 12 months time, move the goal post. You also don’t control other people and other factors, but you are the one person who’s going to be able to control if you want to keep pursuing this for even longer, and you’re allowed to control your response to it.

So write down first if you are just going to change the timeline, but if you’re not even sure if you’re on the right path right now, you can start talking about what are the pros and cons of continuing the path that you are on. Would you be happier if you stopped and changed direction altogether at this point? That’s one thing that I think so many people really struggle with accepting. If you don’t want to move forward, it’s okay to change paths altogether. This is not just, I mean, change directions and the job path that you’re pursuing, but you can ultimately change what the priority is for the next year.

If you are listening to this and you are heartbroken that getting a new career is not happening for you, that is most likely an indicator that it means enough to you to keep fighting for it. But if you’re listening to this and you’re more heartbroken because you just absolutely hate the person that you work for or the school environment you’re in, maybe switch schools this year and make that your goal for right now.

So stop and think about what your goal is, whether it’s leaving teaching in general, the career that you’re pinpointing or whatever it is that you feel like you failed on, is that still aligned with what you want in your life right now, because where you started months ago or years ago and who you are right now today could be two totally different people with a lot of new knowledge. And once again, if you’re unsure, I always recommend sitting down and doing a pros and cons list just to see which one has more weight in it to you.

If you’re thinking about staying in the classroom, you may have done enough research and you decided to come to the decision that you’re not planning on leaving anymore. And if you are on the fence, even for a split second, please make sure to go back and listen to my interview with Angela Watson on Episode 74 because she is truly an expert on helping teachers make it a more sustainable career. And if that is you, if you are staying in the classroom, use this new information that you found out about yourself to move on to a new goal, a new direction in life, and a new sense of growth and passion.

My hope for all of you that decide to stay in the classroom is that you realized that the opportunity to leave is there for everyone, including yourself, but you’ve realized that staying is the right choice for you and your family and your personal situation. And that brings you the clarity to focus your energy to pursue ways to find happiness inside of the classroom as well.

But I know for the vast majority of you listening, staying is absolutely not the answer. So if you do decide to change direction from one career path maybe to a different one for the short term, maybe you’re going to start pursuing stepping stone careers. That would be making a purposeful shift or a change and I wouldn’t really. . . That would be making a purposeful shift or change in direction and I wouldn’t really call that a failure.

I remember almost taking a role that would have been nowhere and near enough money for me to pay my bills when I was completely burned out. So I do want to remind you that when your emotions are high, it is easy to make quick and impulsive decisions. But in order to ensure that you’re making sound choices, make sure you’ve identified what is the bare minimum that you would take or what you would do to supplement your income if you are not planning to go back to the classroom and you don’t have anything lined up currently. I have an entire podcast episode about how to strategically pick stepping stone careers. So I encourage you to go back to this episode and listen to it as well.

I know that you probably expected to be in a different spot now than you are, and it feels like you probably have lost some time and that hurts. But have you grown from point A to where you are today and will that growth impact a success in the future? That is what you are going to decide right now. Like I’ve said before and all of those successful CEOs in their Instagram worthy quotes have said, it takes a lot of failure to make big impactful changes or do impressive things in our life.

I actually changed directions recently, and it was still really hard. I closed Qualified Team Solutions, our recruiting agency, after about a year or a little under a year of dedicating all of our time, money and energy to it. QTS had a lot of potential to be successful, but for me, I had to make really important, challenging decision on whether that was truly what I wanted to continue to pursue. I had to evaluate just how much time and energy I was spending on this path and how much time and energy team members were spending on this path and what that would take away from other things that were more important to me at that time for Teacher Career Coach.

People are so afraid to change direction, especially if they’ve put a lot of time and potentially money into a certain idea, but it’s okay to learn and grow from these experiences. I had to ask myself, what were the pros and cons of shutting down QTS? Would I be happier if I stopped and changed direction? The answer was not an easy one for me, but the easiest middle ground was for me to create the Teacher Career Coach Jobs Board so that companies could still post their open positions and I could still continue my really important work communicating with hiring managers and recruiters from these companies and relaying best practices to you.

Now, I wish that there was a very easy answer to your situation, but I’ve said this before, neither decision is going to be easy for you. You’re going to have to decide what is the right type of hard. Take some time to heal, reflect, and then when you are ready and you’ve determined your next moves, pick yourself up off the ground. You’re going to be ahead of where you were when you first started and you are using this part in the past to leave behind what is not working and make moves to improve yourself to set yourself up for the future. This is not failing, you are failing up.

Now that you have prepared yourself mentally and you’ve decided how you’re planning to move forward, it’s time to really set some very specific goals for a new plan of attack. You’re going to ask yourself what didn’t work? What did work? What am I going to do differently in the future? First, starting with what didn’t work, this could be how you spent the majority of your time job hunting. For example, one thing that I see a lot is people who do things that feel productive and keep you busy but don’t really move the needle forward. And one example of that is I see a lot of teachers encouraged to post daily on LinkedIn or to go and scroll LinkedIn posts daily.

If you only have one hour in the day, I always recommend that you use that time strategically to aggressively search for open jobs on companies, see if you know anyone who works at that company who would authentically vouch for you, and then rewrite your resume to fit the specific job description. If you only really have a certain amount of time to spend each day or week on your goal, and I assume many of you are very busy right now, looking back, do you feel like you were using it the most efficiently?

This can also be with the jobs that you’re applying for. Did you find yourself only really applying for one very specific type of job? Were there other similar paths that you may want to be open to in the future? Talking about that job, did you ever sit down and really truly upskill for this job? Did you make sure that all of your upskilling was reflected well on your resume when you applied for those types of jobs? Would you be more open to stepping stone careers in the specific path that you want to go to help you get your foot in the door? Did you find yourself applying for jobs months before you were really truly ready to make a choice and take a position? Much of that time that you spent looking for jobs in January or February if you weren’t open until June could have been more efficiently used by working on other parts of your job hunt.

And your strategy altogether may just be completely different this next time around. Are you now more open to leaving teaching midyear if the right opportunity arises due to the very limited time window that you have as a teacher transitioning? If you haven’t yet listened to episode 52 of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I do a really deep dive into everything you should know about breaking your teaching contract midyear, and this is a very personal issue that only you can make for yourself.

Another thing that I know a lot of teachers struggle with and start to reflect on at the very end of their job hunt journey is whether or not they try to do everything entirely on their own, write their resume. Next time around, do you feel like you would invest in support to ensure that you’re not missing any steps or that you’re getting the most accurate advice? Did you take the time to network with other people who had three to five years experience so that you would learn the most and get the most reach outside of the teaching transition community, or did you find yourself really staying in that comfortable bubble where it’s hard to get advice from people who have been in a role for years of time or to find someone who’s authentically going to vouch for you if you need a referral at a company because there are so many in that space?

Maybe you found yourself following every former teacher on LinkedIn, but then feeling paralyzed in a sea of well-intended, however, very conflicting advice from those who don’t really have any experience in career coaching, human resources or recruiting but are openly offering their opinions on all things that you should be doing during your career change.

I am aware that I just ran through this like very long list of things that you may be struggling with or beating yourself up about. That is not my intention. You could have been doing all of the things correctly. You could have done every single thing correctly and time still could have just ran out for you. The timeline of when you get this one yes is the one thing that stinks the most because it is outside of anyone’s control. But often, there are at least one or two large areas where teachers tell me that they know that they can improve the next time around.

This is just the time for you to sit down and write down everything that you learned that you would potentially do different the next time around. It’s also time for you to sit down and reflect on what you did really well during your job hunt. So like if you found yourself really focused on Saturdays at a certain time and you made a lot of progress upskilling towards one specific goal, maybe you found a volunteer organization where you were able to do an instructional design project for a nonprofit that you’re really passionate about, use these examples of where you know that you shined in the last few months and the areas that you know that you can improve and then start to plan your focus on what you’re going to do next, because you can do anything and everything that you want to but unfortunately it is not realistic to think you are going to do it all at one time.

That is one of the most important things that I learned, especially when it came to making the decision to shut down Qualified Team Solutions. So use this time to be very strategic on what is a reasonable thing for you to accomplish in the next three months. So in the next three months, write down what are the most important things for you to address and work on. You may need to make some smart goals that you’re very much in control of to help you get closer to achieving your goal because there are so many people who talk to me whose entire goal is just to “land a new job.”

I’ve heard the phrase a goal without a clear plan is just a wish before, and I try to think of it all the time and remind me of this. I’ve heard the phrase a goal without a clear plan is just a wish, and I always try and think of this to remind myself to stay focused and write out a very clear plan. This is your opportunity to look at what you had created before and redesign it with all of your new knowledge. Maybe last time you didn’t have a specific goal to apply to a certain amount of positions per week, or dedicate a specific amount of hours to upskilling.

So in addition to all of the resume writing templates and time saving materials that I have in the Teacher Career Coach course, one of the things that I hear from Teacher Career Coach Course graduates that they said that they got from the course that they enjoyed a lot is the fact that I break down a checklist of everything I recommend, timeframes for each task and what you should be focusing on first so that you’re working on this really big goal as efficiently as possible. So if your goal is to get a role outside of teaching and you want someone to help guide walk you through the process and a private community to network it with, I recommend that you do check out the Teacher Career Coach course because we’ve actually laid it all out in that resource.

But I want to get back to talking about some of the mindset challenges that you may be facing. You are not a fortune teller. Just because something didn’t happen during your specific timeline before doesn’t mean that it’s never going to happen. I’ve seen people send out 10 resumes, not hear back and then say it’s not possible, and it’s the same for 100 resumes, though I know it’s so much harder to keep going if you’ve already put so much time into this. If you are feeling big feelings, just remember, like I said before, it means that this is a big, important goal for you, one that’s probably worth fighting for and pushing past this roadblock.

I want to end this episode with something that I saw on Instagram from one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle, who posted this photo of her niece’s eraser and it was called a Yippee eraser. The eraser said on it written in like pen, “Yippee, you made a mistake, keep trying.” And Glennon wrote, “Mistakes should never be shamed but celebrated. Mistakes are for the brave. The decision to try is the success, Yippee. Time is just one eternal Yippee eraser. Mistake? Yippee, good job for making a mark on your life and the world. Try, erase, begin again.”

Failure is really just an opportunity to decide to either keep pushing in the same direction or make the changes that you know you need to make to redirect. You haven’t failed and you won’t fail unless you have given up on something that you know you truly want. It’s okay to change paths, it’s okay to learn something new about yourself in the process, and it’s okay to keep pushing yourself once you have healed from this season. I can’t wait to hear all about the big successes that you will have in your future.

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