One of the most stressful components of transitioning away from the classroom is the very small—and often very stressful—application window. That’s why I’m dedicating this episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast to navigating that aspect of the job search. With the summer inching closer and end-of-year stress at its peak, I want to help you sift through your application woes. In this episode, I walk you through a strategy to help minimize your fears around not finding a job before summer ends. I’m not saying that will be the case, but I want to help prepare you for the worst-case scenario. That way if it does happen, you’ll be ready to take appropriate action based on your particular situation. Whether you’re in the middle of applying to a job, about to start, or even just considering doing so, be sure to listen to this episode.
Recap and BIG Ideas:
✨Many teachers underestimate the application process in other industries. It can take upwards of 6 weeks for some jobs.
✨Despite the small application window teachers face, there are steps you can take now to help get ahead.
✨Planning for the worst-case scenario will help you identify and evaluate potential risks before you get too far into the process. It will help bring clarity and build confidence.
✨Taking a ‘for-now’ career is a great way to gain experience in a new industry, especially if you are set on not returning to the classroom.
✨While an entry-level position in a new industry might mean a dip in salary, you have to decide if it’s worth it based on how unhappy you are in your current position.
✨You’ll never fully feel ready for such a big change. Don’t let that fear deter you from your goal.
✨Instead of looking back at the results that you didn’t achieve, reflect on the process. Use your experience to better prepare for next time.
The Two-Month Application ‘Rule’.
Daphne: First and foremost, I want to talk about what you can do during this application window to get the best results. Can it be overwhelming to jump into a job search before the school year ends? Yes. The truth is, while your peak application season starts about two months before your last day of school, that timeline is not set in stone. It’s obviously going to depend on each situation. So, if you’re already past that two-month point and are starting to panic, please don’t. I don’t want you to give up before you’ve even begun, using “But Daphne said…” as an excuse not to get started.
Just to give you a little background here, I created this timeline for a couple of reasons. First, careers outside of the classroom are more competitive. They also take much longer to go through the interview process, taking upwards of six weeks to do so. I don’t want you to apply for a role and then not hear back until you’re already in the classroom. You might find yourself feeling stuck in that cycle all over again. Then you’ll either stay and a career another year that you know is no longer a good fit for you, or you’ll have to deal with breaking your contract. While the latter is possible, it’s a bit more complicated and definitely not ideal. However, if you do find yourself in that situation at the time you’re listening to this, I have a blog all about breaking your teacher contract that can help.
I’ve found that teachers often don’t realize just how different applying in other industries can be. In many cases, they wait until the very last minute to start even applying at all. Many underestimate how many applications they need to send out or how long it might take them to optimize their resume to truly show they are the right candidate for new positions.
Truthfully, teaching positions are less competitive than other roles. So if you’re only experienced interviewing and applying for teaching positions, you may be going in with a skewed perception of how many applications or resumes you really should be sending out during this time. The average job hunt takes about nine weeks of aggressive application. You want to take that into consideration with your job search timeline and planning process.
Other Resources to Help You Through the Application Process.
I know that this is challenging, but remember that difficult does not mean impossible. So, while the application window seems so small, there are ways to get the best out of it and help your chances of landing that next position. I’ve gone into more detail and provided useful tips in several past episodes.
I definitely recommend circling back to those for actionable advice. I recommend listening to Episode 2 if you want to learn some of the top career paths for teachers transitioning careers. While the application window is small, it honestly does help if you’re applying for the right positions.
Regardless of which positions you’re applying for, you do want to tailor each resume to that specific job and really showcase those transferable skills and experiences. Episode 29 is filled with tips and strategies to help you rewrite a stellar resume.
If you’re looking for interviewing tips, listen to Episode 21. There are some great tips from a CEO who actively looks for teachers to hire.
Lastly, consider joining the Teacher Career Coach course if you haven’t already. It’s the best way to get step-by-step guidance throughout the entire career transition process. I walk you through all the steps you need to take on this journey in sequence and in-depth. The Teacher Career Coach course was created to be the most thorough resource out there to help you save time and have everything organized in one easy-to-use location. It’s also designed to help you avoid making the common mistakes that I see teachers make during this process.
Why You Should Plan For The Worst-Case Scenario.
Now, let’s assume that you do all of the right things and you still struggle to secure a new role by that certain date. I’m not saying that this is going to happen to you, but I’m a big advocate of planning for worst-case scenarios so that you can be prepared.
Planning for a worst-case scenario is a practice that many project managers utilize to identify possible risks, and determine if they should move forward with a big project. Usually, if it’s something worth moving forward with, the pros outweigh the cons even in these worst-case scenarios.
So, let’s look into what those risks might be. I want to be totally real here and acknowledge that a guaranteed timeline is outside of anyone’s control. There are just too many possible factors outside of our control. It’s unfortunate and inconvenient, yes. But knowing this fact going into it actually puts you ahead of everyone else who usually gives up when they’re faced with an unexpected obstacle.
I want you to be well-equipped with strategies to help you overcome any potential obstacles. Honestly, any big and meaningful decisions that you ever make in your life are going to come with a level of risk and some roadblocks. The most important thing is to not let fear talk you out of moving forward if this is something that you truly want.
There’s an element of resilience here as you take on these unavoidable risks. I want to help you be smart and calculated and have backup plans in place while you take these risks so that you can keep moving forward with your goals, regardless of what happens.
The Mindset Shift You Need As You Navigate The Job Search.
Someone recently shared this Derek Sivers quote with me that I love. He says, “Remember how Tarzan swings through the jungle. He doesn’t let go of the previous vine until the next vine is supporting his weight.” With that said, my advice is to change careers like Tarzan. Don’t let go of the old one until the new one is supporting you. Make sure you don’t lose momentum.
I just love that quote. It brings up a really good point. Yes, I’d love to be able to confidently say, “Now this time, my friend. This is the year that everything is going to change. You’re going to have the perfect timeline, and by the end, you’ll have the perfect job lined up.” There is a very real chance that that could happen for you— it happens all the time. I don’t want you to let fear or imposter syndrome tell you that it’s not possible for you. You could land that perfect next job this afternoon, or tomorrow, or next week, or next month. You never know.
One of the things that all the former teachers I’ve supported have in common is they felt like it would never happen for them. Then, minutes later, they finally got that one YES that changed their life. I remember having that same doubt myself. The thing is, it just takes one single YES. That’s all you’re looking to get. So again, I want you to remain optimistic here. Remind yourself that this is possible for you. That’s really the most important thing.
I know many are using this worst-case scenario of not finding that next job within the timeline to talk themselves out of even trying. I’m here to push back on that thought process. If you find yourself thinking that way or using that excuse, just know that it’s your brain tricking you into staying in your current comfort zone. Even if you’re truly unhappy, your brain pushes for you to stay in that place of comfort.
The Important Questions To Ask Yourself As You Begin Your Job Search.
If you’re in the midst of this job search, or you’re about to get started, or even if you’re wondering if it’s worth starting at this point in your timeline at all, the first question I want you to reflect on is this: What support will you have as you swing to your next vine? What would happen if you didn’t have a job by a certain date? Will you return to teaching? Will you opt for a ‘for now’ career instead of a forever career as a way to get your foot in the door in another industry?
Having the answer to that first question will help relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling right now. Again, it’s about thinking of the worst-case scenario and realizing that you’re covering those bases. Then you can confidently move forward regardless.
Here are some questions to consider if you know that you do not want to go back to the classroom, regardless of having a new job by that certain date. First and foremost, do you have an emergency fund saved up if you don’t take a new role with a specific salary by that certain date? Do you have other sources of income that you can create or depend on? Do you have a partner who can pay the bills if there is any gap in your full-time employment?
Pros Of Taking A ‘For-Now’ Career.
Now let’s talk about the pros and cons of taking that ‘for-now’ career in a new industry. This just means taking a job that might not be your ideal position. Maybe it’s not your ideal forever career, salary, company, etc.
Let’s start with the pros. First, you would get your foot in the door at a new industry. This is great for networking and learning the ropes with hands-on experience in a career outside of teaching. You’ll gain transferable skills and resume-building experience. You’ll also have the benefit of surrounding yourself with colleagues whose skills you can learn from.
This path also buys you some more time to figure out what you actually like and don’t like within that new industry, which is a huge perk. There are quite a few former teachers from the Teacher Career Coach course that have taken this path and received promotions within their new companies pretty quickly. So, you never really know where this opportunity will take you. It might just lead you to that forever career you’re after!
One teacher from the course was so burned out that she just started working at her local grocery store. Within months, they promoted her to being a store trainer because her educational background made her a perfect candidate. However, she wouldn’t have had the experience of working within the grocery industry if she hadn’t taken that first step.
Another former teacher from the Teacher Career Coach course worked her way up inside an educational technology company after taking an entry-level position. Now, after only one year at the company, she makes more than she ever did as a teacher.
In this ‘for now’ career, you will likely have a regular contract, which means you can still apply for other positions without the constraints of the tiny application season you’re experiencing right now. That alone is a big stress reliever. It’s also likely that you’ll have a lot of extra time back.
If it’s a regular 40 hour per week position, you can potentially pursue other revenue sources like freelancing or starting a side hustle. It’s an opportunity to pursue other things that might spark joy or provide new insight into what direction you want to take for your long-term plans.
Also, we can likely assume that there is a huge influx of candidates applying for similar post-teaching positions right now. So many teachers have been thinking of leaving the classroom after this past year. If you take a ‘for-now’ position that doesn’t end up feeling like the right long-term fit, you can apply for better-fitting jobs once school is back in session. At that point, the candidate pool for some of these roles will be less competitive than they are right now. Again, this is just an assumption and I can’t predict the future or make any guarantees. But it’s definitely something worth considering.
Lastly, decide whether you will be able to return to teaching the following year if you do take this approach and it doesn’t work for you. Find out what taking one year off would mean with your salary and retirement, all of those types of things.
Cons Of Taking A ‘For-Now’ Career.
Now, let’s talk about the cons of leaving teaching for a ‘for-now’ career. For starters, you might have to take a dip in your starting salary if you didn’t get into your desired higher paying roles like corporate trainer or instructional designer. However, this is a more common scenario for those who have been in teaching for over five years. Many newer teachers actually find that they make more money in entry-level positions outside of the classroom if they’re using the appropriate strategies for finding their next position.
This is where you need to know your specific situation. For some people, any dip in salary is a firm non-negotiable. If that’s where you stand, there’s no shame in that. In that case, you can keep teaching in your back pocket as a ‘for-now’ career instead of a forever career versus finding a lower-paying ‘for-now’ position in another industry.
Deciding On A ‘For-Now’ Career.
For those of you who do decide to stay in the classroom for your ‘for-now’ position, please don’t stop pursuing your career transition if it’s what you truly want. Use the next year to get a head start. Start working towards your goals and strategically building your skill sets through a side-gig like freelancing. This will only help set you up in your next application cycle. The reason I continued to suggest freelancing is it’s a great way to learn new skills while earning extra income. If you’re considering heading down the freelancing path, I highly recommend listening to podcast Episode 13 all about freelancing.
Some good ‘for-now’ careers that I suggest exploring would be higher-level entry roles inside larger companies that you would like to work for, or inside the industry that you’re interested in pursuing. Either of those are great options.
Is Staying In The Classroom A Feasible (Or Healthy) Option For You?
If you are higher up on the salary schedule with more teaching experience, staying in the classroom until that right job comes along is the most common choice teachers make. It totally makes sense. I only want to challenge this decision if you are truly miserable. I mean, if you’re going to the doctor on a regular basis for stress-related illnesses or your therapist can see that you’re miserable and encourages you to switch careers, please factor this into your decision-making process.
Consider whether or not staying in the classroom really is the right choice for you. You know, in my last year teaching, I was miserable to the point where I was experiencing stress-related illnesses more often than I was not. Life is just too short to stay put somewhere if you are that unhappy and it’s negatively impacting your health.
Another really important factor to consider if you are certain you no longer want to be a teacher is if returning next year will just keep you stuck in the same cycle of unhappiness. Is it better to take the dip in salary just so you can start trying the next chapter of your career? Acknowledge whether or not going back into the classroom another year will set you up to never try to leave again. You know yourself best here. Some people just know if they go back another year, they’ll likely never leave.
Change Won’t Happen Overnight, But Don’t Let That Deter You From Your Goal.
So let’s get back to where you are right now. Have you really started moving the ball forward? Or have you just focused a lot of time and energy thinking about leaving teaching?
I find that people always procrastinate on starting until they’re ready. I’m sorry to tell you, but you’ll never feel totally ready for a change this big. Our brains love to keep us within our comfort zones, even if we’re unhappy. Just know that there’s a big difference between thinking about a change or reading about a change or listening to podcasts about making a change and actually making the effort to move the needle forward towards the result that you desire.
I suggest you start to get your hands dirty and build the skill sets that you want. By trying out different programs or by training adults, maybe you can take a freelancing gig to get your feet wet and learn an industry or skill set. If you haven’t already started this process, maybe you need to start sitting down and actually talking to the people in your desired industry, even if they’re totally strangers.
If you’re afraid that you’ll give up on your dream if you do return to the classroom another year, make a note to take these small steps throughout the school year to help keep you on track. Once you start to immerse yourself in this world beyond the classroom, it becomes far more real. Then it’s going to be a much harder reality for you to ignore and give up on. It’s easy to get caught up in the desire or expectation of things falling into place for us so quickly, but life isn’t always like that. And again, there are so many factors that are out of our control.
I’ve heard it described the same way that you get your car out of a rut; You just have to go through it by stepping on the gas and getting a little messy before you’re able to get out of that hole. It also reminds me of a conversation I had recently with my health coach about how much weight I had to lose. She stopped me and she said, “That’s good, Daphne.” At first, I didn’t understand what was so good about wanting to lose weight, but then she explained that I was finally acknowledging how long it took me to get to the point that I was at in that moment. Then, the next step was to figure out the steps we needed to take to get me back on track to where I want to be.
It’s so common to just want immediate change. We want things to immediately fall into place and feel that instant gratification. The truth is, the longer we’ve been going in a particular direction, the longer it may take us to work towards a large substantial change in a different direction. That’s just how life goes. But just because it doesn’t happen now doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. It just means it hasn’t happened for you yet.
How To Keep Moving Forward If The Worse-Case Scenario Does Happen.
So let’s say you do hit that worst-case scenario. Let’s say you end up going into the classroom for another year. Acknowledge what you learned from this cycle to ensure it’s better next time around. With that knowledge and experience, you can plan strategically to overcome those roadblocks next time. Instead of looking back at the results that you didn’t achieve, just focus on the lessons you learned so that you can be better prepared for next time.
Reflect on the process. Ask yourself, what did you learn about the careers you were interested in? What can you improve on and learn about by next year? What can you do to ensure that you aren’t backed into a corner the following year? It might take some acknowledging that this year, you may not have been truly prepared for this process. That’s okay.
Use the next year to get ready for the following year. Get even more skilled so you can apply to more positions. Maybe you spend the next year creating a Teachers Pay teacher’s store so that you can earn money and add curriculum design to your portfolio. Maybe you freelance video editing or copywriting so that you can add those to your resumes. Maybe you just save up an emergency fund so you don’t feel backed into a corner and have more flexibility.
Whether it’s saving up an emergency fund, learning new skill sets, getting your hands dirty, or just focusing more on networking, every lesson counts. I recommend writing out the steps you plan to take and then start working towards them.
What To Do As The Application Window Nears An End.
If you’re nearing the end of the application cycle and you still haven’t landed that job, please don’t panic. I know that it stinks, but just remind yourself of the worst-case scenario. Maybe it’s taking a ‘for-now’ career. Maybe it’s teaching for one more year. Maybe it’s being unemployed and supported by your partner or savings account until you get that one yes.
When you’re done listening to this episode, I want you to really think about what that worst-case scenario would look like for you. Can you make that scenario work? And is that worst-case scenario worth it if it means you’ll find a new and more fulfilling or financially satisfying career at the end of it? At the end of the day, only you know the answers to those questions.
If you know in your heart a change is what you want, you may always regret it if you don’t give it your all or give up only after one try. Big goals take time. Let’s say it takes you two years to land your next career. Yes, working toward a goal for two years is a long time, but if that two-year process prevents you from staying somewhere where you are miserable for 15 years, then I absolutely believe it’s worth it. Once you truly start to get your hands dirty and find something you’re passionate about, you’ll find the drive to keep pushing.
Now, if none of this resonates with you, or you start to realize that changing careers is no longer your dream, that’s okay too. It’s okay to walk away and start working towards a new goal that doesn’t involve finding a different career. Maybe it’s a health-related goal. Maybe you are going to commit to going to therapy. Maybe this is the year you want to work on your marriage or prioritize your family over work.
You’re allowed to change your mind as long as you can confidently say it’s not just fear talking you out of making a change. Make sure that it’s just no longer your dream. There’s no shame in that.
Always make sure you are listening to and following your heart, not your fear. The bottom line is you can do whatever you want in your life. You are capable of figuring out all of the steps and putting a plan into action to make them happen. It’s really not about leaving or staying in the classroom. It’s about finding happiness, period.
So, just promise me and promise yourself that you will make the necessary changes in your life to truly find happiness again. Promise that you will not give up until you get there, no matter what direction you end up taking or whatever roadblocks life throws at you.
Just know that I’ll be here to help and support you along the way as you swing from one vine to the next.
Where to start
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