In this episode, Daphne shares the most common mistakes former teachers make in their new roles outside of the classroom and why you should avoid these pitfalls, too.
Five mistakes to avoid in your new role
There can be some unexpected challenges and learning curves when you are transitioning from teaching into your new corporate environment. Like the time that I went to my first conference and I didn’t understand what my coworkers objectives were, so I stood in the way of them doing their job in order for me to do my job. Or the time I told my newish coworker that I thought someone at the office had drama with me and that person happened to be their best friend. I personally made quite a few cringe inducing mistakes my first few months after leaving my teaching position, and it’s totally normal to assume that you’re going to have it all figured out by the first few weeks. But in reality, setting into a new job and a new environment and completely understanding your surroundings often takes months.
Even the most intelligent people are bound to make mistakes when they’re new at something, oversharing, overworking, accidentally getting caught up in office gossip and everything in between. In this episode, we’re going to share about the most common mistakes former teachers are making in their new roles to help prevent the next wave from accidentally making the exact same mistakes. I’ll share from my own experiences what managers and leaders at different companies want you to know and personal stories from real former teachers who shared with us. Whether you just landed your new role or you’d like to learn before you make the transition, this episode should help you navigate the uncharted waters of a new corporate environment.
Daphne shares that the first mistake to avoid in a new role is oversharing
And the first mistake that people make in their new roles is oversharing, and I have to call myself out. I’m really bad at this. If I get anxious or I’m really nervous, I tend to overshare and I can’t stop talking. And often I say things that I regret. And if you live with trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma dumping or oversharing can be a natural trauma response and a coping mechanism. This is something that I’ve struggled with since I was a lot younger and it’s something that I work with my therapist on, so no one’s going to be perfect at this part. But my best advice is when you’re first starting in your new role, just maintain a professional demeanor and keep it short while you figure out who’s who and the company culture.
In a corporate setting, you’re really going to have to work, work alongside your coworkers, and if you built really strong relationships where you could share almost everything with your colleagues and your teaching profession, you may be looking for that almost immediately in your new role, especially with friendly faces around. This isn’t to scare you into thinking that you’re going to have to be a corporate robot forever, but it is important to feel out the environment and how everyone behaves for a while before letting your guard down 100%. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be friendly, personal, funny, or always have to feel like you’re on edge.
And if you do work in person, try to sit with others at lunch to get to know them quicker, but just avoid discussing topics like politics, religion, other sensitive issues until you really know who your coworkers are. And this isn’t going to be just limited to an in-person work environment or on Slack or in meetings. This is also very much on your professional profile, your LinkedIn, and I know that I gave the obvious triggers that can be more controversial like politics, religion, but even oversharing in a personal capacity can have negative effects on how people perceive you in a corporate environment. And I’m going to give an example that I see pretty often from former teachers who are updating their LinkedIns on their very first week of their new role.
So the post may start off with something like, I’m so excited, this is my first week outside of the classroom and today I got to set in meetings. The office had food and snacks, and then sometimes they even mention how excited they are about being able to use the bathroom as many times as they wanted. Now I’m going to stop there. I get it. I totally get why people want to share these things because the audience that you are trying to help on your LinkedIn profile or in these types of posts are teachers in transition and you want to stay connected with that specific community. But your LinkedIn is a professional profile and your work very well maybe evaluating your ability to understand corporate norms and environment and to see if they trust giving you the assignments that you’re supposed to be assigned to.
So I urge you to go if you don’t believe me, and look at some of your coworkers, LinkedIns, so not teachers who are in transition or teachers who have transitioned and how they use LinkedIn because so many teachers were new to this platform that they all adapted the exact same style of how they were using LinkedIn, almost like a Facebook or a diary of telling people what they were doing on a daily basis. But look at the project managers, look at the engineers, look at the SDRs and see how often they use LinkedIn as far as connecting with their community. Usually it’s very sparingly. It’s I got this job, I’m really excited about it. Thank you so much for all the people who got here.
And then they may post something that’s happening event at their work from time to time, but they’re definitely not oversharing what their day-to-day looks like or what their fears are about their new role or what they’re excited about, their new role and they’re definitely not bashing the company that they left behind. There are always going to be exceptions to this rule and there are always going to be posts from time to time that you see, but look at the majority of your new coworkers and how they engage to get a feel for what the norms are on LinkedIn.
And let’s talk about why in your first few months at your role, your managers and their managers are probably evaluating whether or not you are prepared to take on the responsibilities that you were hired for, especially if you don’t have any formal experience in those particular areas. So if you were hired for a client facing role or a mid-level role, but then you use LinkedIn in a way that makes you look far less advanced where you’re really excited about a meeting room or you’re really excited about the fact that there’s snacks in the office, they may start to rethink whether or not you are ready for those responsibilities even though you are a highly intelligent person, but because they don’t understand that you are writing to an audience of transitioning teachers.
So you are not focused on where you’re going, you’re focused on where you came from in those types of posts that you may be making. And there may actually be repercussions if you’re expected to use your LinkedIn and a client facing way like connecting with potential clients or messaging and interacting with clients and you’re using it, but posting personal things or commenting about how much you hated teaching and things that might reflect poorly on the company that you work for.
Now, going back a couple of minutes, I do completely remember the bathroom struggle as a teacher. I get it, and this is something that you should definitely talk to other teachers about when you are on your Instagram profile or in your Facebook or somewhere that’s not public facing, but it’s not a normal thing to write about in a LinkedIn post or talk about in meetings with new coworkers. It makes people feel a little bit uncomfortable if the new person keeps talking about how excited they are to use the bathroom. It’s completely normal to do a post celebrating your new position on LinkedIn to thank your new team and talk about your role and who helped you get to where you are today. But if you do a play-by-play of every single thing that happens, it might be perceived as immature or show that you just don’t have a professional filter or that you’re struggling to learn your new role and that you’re focused on where you came from instead of where you’re going to.
Now, another example of oversharing that you don’t want to do is accidentally spilling the beans, especially a social media setting or whether you have an Instagram account where you share about things and telling too much about something that your company is trying to keep a secret. So it is pretty common to actually sign NDAs on top secret projects. I’ve signed NDAs in some of my past roles. An example would be if your company’s in the process of building a top secret product that they don’t want people to know that they’re even working on, you may sign an NDA, which means that you don’t talk about it whatsoever or talk about how you’re researching your competition or who they even perceive their top competitors being. So you want to make sure that you really understand this information, especially if you are posting on LinkedIn or commenting on LinkedIn because this can have a really serious repercussion for you if you accidentally spill something when you have signed an NDA.
And lastly, your work hired you knowing that you are transitioning from an education background. They are probably excited about the way that they see the similarities between what you did and where you’re going to. And people at your company may potentially ask you about your teaching position. They may ask you about why you left your teaching position and there are so many times that this will actually get brought up. But if you find yourself accidentally oversharing and talking too much about your old job, that can get old really quick in the same way that it gets old when a person that can’t miss any opportunity to bring up their ex, that person that anytime anyone’s talking about, this is my favorite movie, and they’re like, “My ex took me to go see that,” or and wraps even a nice conversation that you’re having about a partner that you’re with right now and they’re like, “My ex would’ve never done that.”
This is a trauma response. And I did a past podcast episode about how a career hunt is like dating. It’s episode 61, so you want to go back and listen to that episode if you have not already, but there are going to be traumas and not normal habits from your past work environment that are going to impact your ability to filter some of these things out. That’s okay. The best bosses and managers are going to help guide you in the right direction. But it’s best to just notice if you find yourself in a pattern of these behaviors so that you can identify when it comes up and try to stop yourself from doing it too often in your new role.
One former teacher in our survey said that she had to learn that not everyone needs to know why you have certain triggers in the workplace. A big trigger for her was always anytime she asked for time off… She worked in a district that you were not allowed to basically use any days you were ashamed even if you had a doctor note, they made it a really big issue. So when she started her corporate role, her manager eventually had to let her know, “Hey, you don’t need to keep sharing why you need time off or need to keep sharing why you’re sick. You’re oversharing here. And that’s just not something that we do. We don’t need to know. We want you to have your privacy and be able to just say, Hey, I’m taking this time off.” So I don’t want you to listen to all of the different examples that I’ve given and think that you’re going to get in trouble or fired for any of these things. You’re a human and you’re learning these new roles, but it’s just so important to focus on where you’re going instead of where you came from.
Focus on listening and observing what you can learn in this new environment and how your coworkers behave and how they also behave on their professional profiles. Get to know their interests related to work and industry and focus on building professional relationships. Don’t worry, the personal relationships will come too. You’ll still find that you can bond with people in the same way that you bonded with those teachers in your past position, but it may just take a couple of months of evaluating who’s who and how they actually behave in the workplace before you start to make those types of connections.
Daphne explains why the second mistake to avoid in a new role is overworking
And the second mistake that former teachers are making in their new role is overworking. Working excessive hours being unpaid and chronically overworked is just such a regular occurrence in education and this is also something that we often celebrate and give people who are working themselves to exhaustion, we give them the title of good teacher and then the teachers who leave early are given this slacker title. We’re conditioned as former teachers to overwork ourselves. That’s just the way that the system was built. And this is something that many former teachers in our surveys have told us that they struggled with. One former teacher said that in her new role, she needed to clock in and clock out. And when she first started, she was secretly working off the clock because she was afraid of looking lazy or she wasn’t doing enough.
And we had another former teacher say that they were trying to do another employee’s work in addition to their own to help the other employee. And then the manager caught on and actually had to intervene and tell them, “That is not your job. You need to be focusing on only your work.” It’s difficult to break this habit and especially still feel like you’re succeeding in a new role when you’re coupling this habit of overworking with imposter syndrome. One of the best strategies is to just schedule regular breaks to refresh your mind and to help you increase your productivity. And once again, I am here to tell you that this is just easier said than done.
As you may have known on one of the more recent podcasts this year I was diagnosed with ADHD. So I work around strategies with executive function coaching and with a therapist around these types of issues a lot because there are so many days I can find myself staring at a computer for seven hours straight because I got completely sucked into what I’m working on, but that’s not healthy or sustainable for the long term. One strategy that I really like is just to add a 15 minute break on your calendar and it forces you to go on a mental health walk or a stretch or a walk around the office. And many workplaces actually encourage this type of behavior, especially if you are working remotely. They have probably struggled with overworking and finding breaks before you were onboarded into this company because most likely they went remote during the pandemic.
So this is something that many people struggle with when it comes to a remote work environment. And you can always reach out and tell someone, “Hey, I’m finding myself just clued to my computer for eight hours straight. I’m not taking breaks. Do you have any strategies that can help me? Do you feel comfortable with me putting a 15 minute mental health walk break on my calendar and blocking off right before my lunch starts? Or right at two o’clock when I start to feel like I’m a little bit more sluggish and I need to get outside and move around for a couple of minutes before I come back for the rest of my day?”
And just letting them know that you’re struggling there might be something that can help you find a solution that works for your company as well. And one of the former teachers that we talked to said that they were struggling with the idea of not finishing all their tasks before the day ended, even though the tasks weren’t due yet. Their boss told them that work-life balance was important and that they had plenty of time throughout the week to continue working on those specific tasks. And they said that as a former teacher, they were so used to having to get so much done by the next class or in the next meeting that it was just tough to change that habit even though what the boss had told them just sounded so simple and obvious. And it was helpful for the boss to understand where they were struggling with this mentality so they could watch for signs of them overworking themselves in the future. So don’t hesitate to ask for help or delegate tasks if you do have someone you can ask to help take over some of your tasks if you are overwhelmed.
And lastly, just utilize your vacation days and your paid time off to recharge. Companies that have positive cultures proactively discourage their employees from overworking and they even encourage paid time off when they see signs of it. I have heard from so many people in their new roles, and this is something that’s completely foreign to someone in the teaching profession, but a company, a manager saying, “Hey, I haven’t seen you take any time off in the last four months. You need to schedule something. You need to schedule a couple of days off,” and being proactive about, “Hey, I want to see you take more time off. You’re not taking off any of your paid time off.” Not all companies have the exact same culture, but there are companies out there that do really value work-life balance, and you’ll be surprised how hard it is for you to embrace it as a former teacher when you came from an environment that was overworking you.
Daphne talks about the third mistake to avoid in a new role—workplace gossip
The third mistake that many former teachers make is gossiping and gossip is just unavoidable in any work environment. This is not unique to teachers whatsoever, and this is something that I also struggle with. Workplace gossip is often categorized as personal issues or it can actually be work performance issues, but it’s done in a way that is malicious. It’s just mean-spirited and there’s not any intent to support that person or to try and find a solution to whatever the issue is. And when you are in a new work environment, if you do not know anyone, you won’t really know who you can trust or who you can potentially trust in three months or six months or nine months. People can be petty. And if you are engaging in corporate gossip, you don’t know how that can get manipulated in a way that, and not to scare you, like every corporate environment is like dog eat, dog succession, but there are going to potentially be people around you who will use situations of unprofessionalism in order to leverage their career in the future.
There are going to be people who potentially will taddle on you to managers so that they start to look a little bit more professional and they start to grow in their career. And you also don’t know, like I mentioned in the story at the beginning of this podcast episode, if anyone you are talking to is potentially really close with the person that you’re about to talk to them about. So you just want to focus on speaking positively about your colleagues, about the company that you work for, especially while you’re still finding your footing and you’re new in the position. Just try to find the good in everyone and what they are potentially good with when you’re talking about them.
And another one is if you hear someone who is gossiping, you can instead of gossiping about the other person, try to offer constructive feedback. Is there a solution to this problem? Is there something that we can do? If it’s workplace related gossip like, “So-and-so was so unprofessional.” Maybe you can give a strategy of, “The next time that happens, maybe you should try and use this type of redirection with that person who was being unprofessional in the meeting.” And use some of your teacher brain of classroom management of, “Hey, this is exactly how I would redirect someone who was getting off topic or being unprofessional.” Instead of sitting and talking about how unprofessional and annoying so-and-so is. Try your hardest to just offer a solution. The best thing that you can do to grow in a new corporate environment is to build a reputation of trustworthiness and to be known for maintaining confidentiality and not being someone who talks negatively about other people.
Daphne shares why being afraid to ask questions is the fourth mistake to avoid in a new role
The fourth mistake that former teachers often make is they are afraid to ask questions. This is another one of those issues that comes from being in an education environment. If you worked where no one supported you, even when you begged for it, you learned to do everything independently. But corporate environments have completely different systems where they encourage asking questions, and it’s important for you to acknowledge to yourself it’s okay to ask new questions as a new employee. It’s okay to be brand new at something. Seek clarification when you are not sure about the tasks that you’re supposed to do or the expectations because we received so many survey responses from former teachers who just wanted to take the initiative in their first few months, maybe they performed a training that they weren’t supposed to do or a similar task. And while this may end in your favor as showing how helpful you are and what a go-getter you are, this sometimes ends up with you actually getting in trouble for not asking clarifying questions or asking if it’s okay for you to take that initiative first.
So one of the best things that you can do in the first few weeks of working is whoever your direct manager is, ask them how to best communicate with them. Do they want daily check-ins if you’re struggling? Is that a Slack message? Would they want you to just show up at their desk if you’re in person? Would they like to put a 30 minute weekly meeting on their calendar so that they can identify any questions that you have that week? So during those times, you can start to go over, hey, do you expect me to ask for approval before I start these types of projects that you didn’t explicitly ask me to do? And then once you know you have approval for a task or an expectation, ask them if they want you to continue to ask every time before you move forward. And you don’t have to ask every single time.
Once you get to the point where your manager says, Okay. I trust you. Anytime you’re going to answer an email about blah, blah, blah, I trust you with this,” then you don’t have to ask. You’re moving towards having autonomy in these specific situations. Asking questions also might not always be the right strategy. For example, if you’re in a very large meeting with the entire board of directors and they’re trying to get through a one hour presentation, you don’t want to be the person who keeps raising their hand and asking a lot of questions. Unless they have a specific time for you to ask at the very end, you may want to ask your manager for clarifying questions if there is not enough time or if you’re really new and you just don’t understand a lot of the different things that they went over and you’d rather just get scaffolded into what they were talking about in a more private situation.
And then also, you may not want to ask a lot of questions in a client meeting. There are going to be times that you definitely want to ask clarifying questions if you’re a salesperson, but I just want to make sure I share this story. One former teacher shared with us that they asked far too many questions during their meetings with clients and got reprimanded because their manager let them know that we don’t want to look like we don’t know what we’re talking about. So they had to focus on learning to sit back and being more quiet in those types of situations while they were still figuring out their role.
What I would suggest that you do if you’re looking to learn the fastest and who you can ask questions to, learn your organization chart. This is going to take some time because I remember being totally new in my new role and not understanding what half of the acronyms meant or what anybody really did. Just it’s time for you to sit down and look at who’s going to be the best person to ask about what specific question I have. You can ask senior colleagues or mentors for specific guidance, or you can ask your manager if there’s someone in a similar position as you that you can sit down next to during work hours so that you can just learn from them all day. Create some digital notebook that you can search so that you can go back and refer to anything that you learned so you can avoid repeating the same questions. I use tools like Notion and OneNote for me to take my notes. Those are both really helpful tools in situations like this.
Daphne explains the fifth and final mistake to avoid in a new role is announcing your exit before you have a new job lined up
And the last one that I want to go over is going to be really rare, but I have to bring it up because this is one that can do more damage to your career than some of the others. Do not tell them that you plan to leave the company until you have a new job lined up. I had to add this to the podcast episode because I received one message so far from a former teacher who really wanted to help prepare their employer that they had planned in the future to start applying to new jobs at different companies that are going to be higher paying. And they used that role as a stepping stone. Their employer trained them on the role that they were doing, got them some good experience. And this is something that’s really common, and they wanted to tell their employer that they planned to leave far in advance because they really liked their employer. They wanted to do “the right thing” because it would take months to onboard and train a new employee.
Unfortunately, the strategy blew up in their face and they had to leave within two weeks time and they did not have another job lined up. It’s really important for you to, as a new employee, focus on excelling in your current role before discussing future plans because your employer might start to get resentful that they spent money training you, that they took a chance on you, and you’re already talking about leaving if you have not been there for years. So avoid sharing your intentions of leaving too early in your tenure. Once you have started to approach other companies and you’re starting to get bites and you have signed a contract and you’re potentially going to leave, that’s when you would communicate your plans professionally and respectfully.
The reason why this former teacher went above and beyond is because in the teaching profession, they let their principal know far in advance, maybe back in February that they planned to leave in June. So they wanted to give the same professional courtesy, but unfortunately that is just not how things work in a corporate environment. They’re not going to hold onto you while you look for other jobs. So it’s just so important to make sure that the time is right for you to have these types of conversations and never, if possible, burn bridges. Express gratitude for the opportunities and the experiences that you gained in this new role. And just part ways amicably, because you don’t know who else at this company you may want to lean on in four years time, for another promotion or another type of position. So you always want to leave on good terms with the company. But two weeks time is the corporate norm. Hey, I’m leaving. I already found another job. Here’s my two weeks notice. That really is the corporate norm, so you don’t have to give far more advanced notice than that.
So the five mistakes that you want to avoid in your new role are don’t overshare, don’t overwork, don’t gossip, don’t forget to ask questions and don’t tell them that you’re leaving too soon. And if you have made any of these mistakes, please do not beat yourself up. This is just trying to help those who are going into a new profession. But these are all mistakes that I have absolutely made and many other former teachers have made as well. So you are doing great in your new role. You are absolutely crushing it, and we are so proud of you.
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.)