A lot of teachers underestimate how different interviewing for positions in new industries can be—myself included. Luckily, I’m here to help you avoid that mistake. In this episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast, I dive into my top five tips for interviewing in new industries. Yes, these interviews can be intimidating. That’s why I discuss everything from preparing your answers and recognizing your abilities to giving yourself a break and accepting things that aren’t in your realm of control. I even throw some bonus advice in there about what to do if you hear that dreaded “no” after an interview. Don’t let its length foot you. This episode is chock-full of both practical and valuable advice.
Interviewing Outside Of Teaching Recap and BIG Ideas:
- Do your research on the specific company and role to best prepare and practice your answers to interview questions in advance.
- Remind yourself of your many skills and accomplishments. This can help you show up to an interview with confidence.
- Always answer questions about your teaching experience and decision to leave with professionalism to alleviate any fear that you may be a toxic employee.
- It’s okay to be nervous. If you find yourself stumbling during an interview, acknowledge those nerves as excitement for the particular position.
- Some things are simply out of your control. So, don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t do well and don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t end up getting the position.
Interviews Can Be Intimidating—Especially In A New Industry.
One of the things that I was the least prepared for in my career transition journey was interviewing for positions outside of the classroom. In one interview, I had to walk through how I would instruct teachers on how to use a particular online math game. While I did okay, I know I didn’t perform as well as I could have. I definitely could have been more prepared.
In another interview for instructional design, I was asked to describe how I would create a program teaching someone how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I started overthinking it. I remember thinking if they don’t know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, would they be able to use an online resource that would teach them how to do that? Or did they live in this world where they know how to read and use online resources, but they just really need detailed instructions on using a butter knife and opening up a bread bag. Long story short, I totally froze. I couldn’t formulate an answer to the question.
Interviews in general can be intimidating and stressful, but even more so when you’re exploring a career you’re not as comfortable with. So, I’ll share five tips to help you prepare for any upcoming interviews that you have outside of the classroom. I want to help you feel more confident as you prepare for and go into these interviews.
Interviewing Outside Of Teaching Tip #1: Prepare And Practice Your Answers.
My very first tip is to prepare your answers in advance and then actually spend time practicing them. This one may seem obvious, but I’ve worked with so many teachers who haven’t thoroughly prepared for their interviews and are easily caught off guard.
To best prepare, you need to know about the role and what it’s requiring you to do. I have worked with hiring managers for the past few years to develop my materials in the Teacher Career Coach Course. They’ve told me stories of teachers who in their interview admitted they aren’t really sure what an instructional designer, project manager, or curriculum specialist even does. They’ve even asked if the hiring manager could explain it to them right then and there.
If you still have questions in your interview, that’s okay. However, you need to go in proving that you’re the type of employee that this company would want to hire if you do your homework. If a question can easily be answered in a Google search prior to coming into an interview, you should do that. You better at least do your homework on what the role is that you’re applying to.
It’s more than knowing the role though. Make sure to read the specific job posting multiple times to fully understand the specifics. Don’t rely on assumptions based on other positions because each job will be unique in its requirements. For example, some Customer Success roles have a really strong sales focus. Others are more focused on building and maintaining customer relationships and may not be sales-focused at all.
If you can clearly determine the job duties by reading the job posting, you can build your answers to interview questions in a way that showcases how your skills and personality align with the job’s specific functions. Sometimes you can look up interview questions in advance using Glassdoor. You can also reach out to your network or The Teacher Career Coach Course private community if you’re a current course member, to learn questions that other people had to answer.
Then you can start preparing your answer using language specific to the particular job and industry. Yes, they have your resume and clearly know that you’re a transitioning teacher, but it is vital that you can show them you’ve done the homework and you know what the role entails. You want to show them that you’ve immersed yourself in this new world. It shows initiative and that you’re passionate about the role. This all helps to alleviate some of the nerves of a hiring manager who might be afraid that you’re a career hopper. Honestly, hiring managers may have reservations, thinking you’re applying to any position in order to get out of teaching. While that might be the honest-to-goodness truth, you really don’t want the hiring manager to know that or feel that way.
Interviewing Outside of Teaching Tip #2: Be Yourself And Own Your Awesomeness.
My next tip is to own your awesomeness. You are qualified and you have many accomplishments, but it is very likely that you’re selling yourself short. So many teachers suffer from low career self-esteem. We’ve been devalued for so long in our experience in education that we forget how freaking amazing that we are.
You have done amazing things, and I’m not just talking about your regular teaching duties. I mean, even beyond that. You are extremely well organized. You have juggled managing upwards of 30 clients on a daily basis. You track data. You make appropriate adjustments on a quarterly basis to meet your company’s objectives. You strive for amazing customer relationships. You reach out to your customers or clients on a regular basis. You simply go above and beyond. You know your customers so well that you can likely anticipate problems before they even arise. You’re also able to chunk any complex subject into bite-sized pieces to then easily train others on it.
Now, those are just a few of your many amazing attributes. I want you to start writing them down. It’s time you own them. Literally, practice telling yourself in the mirror how freaking awesome and accomplished you are. It can be difficult and challenging to see this in ourselves. Teachers suffer from—and have to work hard to overcome—some serious imposter syndrome.
Owning your own awesomeness can help you come into an interview with confidence. If this role is inside an education company, you can even leverage your experience as a subject matter expert. I mean, you are so valuable in whatever position it is at an education company because you know how their ideal client thinks. You know how to speak to the ideal client. You know how to handle any objections or pain points that their clients may have about their particular product. You were the ideal client and in many ways that is the ultimate experience.
Interviewing Outside of Teaching Tip #3: Remain Positive.
Tip number three is to always keep it positive. Remember earlier how I said you need to alleviate some of the nerves of hiring managers who may be afraid you are a career hopper? They don’t want to think that you were only applying to this position to get out of teaching. And it’s a very real possibility that they will think that.
They also might be afraid that you might be the toxic one. So, they need to make sure that you’re not coming in with a bad attitude. Therefore, you cannot bash your last career or your last employer. You need to answer questions about your decision professionally and with optimism about your future in this new role. That will help to alleviate any concerns that they may have.
You know, there are a lot of different ways that you can approach questions around why you left teaching without raising red flags. I’ve actually worked with an HR expert in The Teacher Career Coach Course who helped me write different templates you can use when addressing this. So, if you are a course member, I recommend reviewing the interview module to review these resources.
Interview Tip for Interviews Outside of Teaching #4: Give Yourself A Break. You’re Only Human.
Tip number four is to just remember you are a human. It’s okay to be nervous. I learned this trick to help deal with such nerves, and I have used it a lot in my own experiences. First, if you’re feeling nervous, just acknowledge and name your nerves. So, if you feel your heart beating too quickly, or you think you’re going in super nervous, just think to yourself, “I am feeling nervous right now. I’m feeling nervous because I don’t know what the outcome of this will be or how it will go. But that’s okay. In less than 30 minutes I will know how it went. Then I’ll no longer be nervous and my heart will no longer be racing.“
Acknowledging your nerves can actually help you calm down. If you find yourself stumbling on questions during an actual interview, it’s okay to stop yourself and just say, “I’m so sorry, I’m just so excited about this opportunity. I guess I’m a bit nervous. Just let me rephrase that.” Remember, the interviewer is also a human who has experienced nervousness before. They won’t think twice about your request. This approach may actually help buy you some time to give a better answer.
The company is looking for the best fit for this role. They’re looking for someone who’s qualified, determined, and passionate about the company, their mission, and this role in general. But they’re also looking for a human being that will sit next to them in the office or be in meetings. If you’re sitting there in the interview just reciting lines verbatim, you’ll sound like a robot. That’s not really someone that they can trust to be a good culture fit.
Now, going back to my peanut butter and jelly story from the beginning. Funny enough, I actually landed that instructional design position. How? Because I simply acknowledged, “Hey, I’m trying but I guess I’m overthinking this question. I’m so sorry. I guess I got a bit nervous.” The interviewer and I were able to laugh about it. I answered the other questions well and he said he could tell that I was super qualified. He also noted that I was able to comfortably acknowledge when I struggled and that I was a good culture fit for the company.
Honestly, sometimes they will just throw in curveball questions like, “What would you do if aliens arrived today?” just to see how you answer. These types of questions help them determine if you’re a robot or a real human being, in that you can have some fun and answer these out-of-the-box questions without a script.
Interviewing Outside of Teaching Tip #5: Accept Things That Are Out Of Your Control.
My last tip is to just accept that things might be outside of your control. So, don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t do well. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t end up getting the position even if you did really well. Some hiring managers may have biases because of one answer or the fact that you’re a teacher leaving the position or potentially an age bias. All of these situations stink, but they’re also outside of our control. There’s nothing that you can do about it. So, just keep improving and applying until you find a position that’s the right fit for you.
Just know that you honestly may have been the most qualified candidate for a position and still not gotten the job because Jeff from accounting has a nephew he referred who ended up getting it. You’ll never really know the true story, but we always just end up assuming it’s because we were the worst. We must have been the worst candidate and we did terrible, even when we thought we did well initially. The truth is that they picked you to interview over who knows how many other applicants. You made it into the top few candidates, which is an awesome win in itself.
While there are many things you can’t control, you can control what you learned from this interview. What questions could you improve for your next interview? You can also control how you react to the news that you didn’t get the job. Does this “no” mean that you’re going to give up hope altogether? That you’re just going to quit? Is this the roadblock that makes you give up on your goal of switching careers? Not on my watch, if I have anything to say about it.
How To Deal With Rejection.
I hear noes all the time. The truth is, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t super comfortable failing. So, just know that in this process, you are going to hear a lot of noes. It’s going to sting but you have to grow and get comfortable with it and keep moving on. Eventually, you will hear that one “YES” and that’s all that it’s going to take.
A “no” in itself doesn’t really have to be the last word. So, if they send you an email saying, “Sorry, we went with another candidate,” don’t let that no be the answer. Instead, follow up with an email saying something like this:
“Thank you so much for this opportunity. I loved meeting you and I’m really passionate about working at this company for reasons XYZ. So, if there are any other positions in the future, I’d love to be considered if you feel that I’m qualified.“
You never know what that one last email could do.
Reviewing My Top 5 Interviewing Outside Of Teaching Tips.
So to reiterate, my top five tips are to write your answers down and practice them. Next is to own your awesomeness. That third tip is to always keep it positive. Next, remember to be human and, lastly, accept that things might be out of your control.
If you want more interview support to help you with a career transition, I highly recommend signing up for The Teacher Career Coach Course. I help walk you through all of the most commonly asked questions including, “What happened at your last job? Why are you leaving teaching? What are your strengths and weaknesses?” I also cover the best strategies you can use to stand out and be memorable. There are tons of templates for following up and more to help save you time and energy figuring it out.
If this podcast or the Teacher Career Coach course ended up helping you land a position, please let me know! DM me on Instagram @teachercareercoach or email me at email@example.com and share your story so that we can continue to share all of these former teacher paths with the audience.
Where to go next
If you’re just beginning to think about leaving teaching, brainstorming other options is a great place to start. But if you’re like many others, teaching was your only plan—there never was a Plan B. You might feel at a loss when it comes to figuring out what alternatives are out there.
Start with our free quiz, below, to get alternative job options for careers that really do hire teachers!
Taking the First Steps to a New Career
If you’ve already taken our quiz, it may be time for the next steps. I want 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.
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—trying to juggle teaching, figuring out a resume, researching jobs, and hoping to nail down some interviews before signing next year’s contract.
You don’t have to do this on your own.
If you are considering a career change from teaching, I have a resource that can help you today. With the help of an HR expert with over 10 years of experience, I’ve created a guide to support you in the early stages of your transition out of the classroom.
In the Career Transition Guide, I’ll walk you through the factors to consider and answer those first-step planning questions including:
- A compiled list of over 40 careers that teachers can transition into
- An overview of how to read job descriptions
- How to evaluate the risk of leaving a full-time teaching job for the unknown
- Example translations from classroom-to-corporate resumes
- A checklist of everything you’ll need to do for your career transition (so you know you aren’t missing anything!)
- and more…
Take the first steps on your path to a new career now for only