Join me on this episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast for this conversation with former teacher, and Teacher Career Coach course graduate, Lynn Barrios. After teaching science and math for six years, she felt weighed down by the many hats her job required her to wear and the lack of work-life balance. While she loved being in the classroom and educating her students, she knew it was time for something new. After sending out over 60 resumes, she’s found herself making an impact in education working in EdTech. Learn how she decided on this new path, how the Teacher Career Coach course and its community helped her throughout her career transition, and all about her new role as a customer engagement specialist.
Recap and BIG Ideas:
✨Teachers are used to putting others’ needs before their own. But, if you’re feeling immense dread and overwhelm or a complete lack of work-life balance, it might be time to consider other career options.
✨ Instead of solely relying on job posting sites, check out the career pages of companies you are interested in working for. Narrow down your job search by looking for positions that you qualify for and that sound interesting, then do more research from there.
✨ Once you are able to look at your classroom experience through a corporate lens, you will have a better understanding of the different career paths you are qualified for.
✨Even if you have to take a pay cut initially, ask yourself if gaining that work-life balance is worth it. (If you can afford it, it probably is.) Raises and promotions in the corporate world happen on a much larger scale (and much faster) than in education.
✨While moving up in the education world usually means going into administration, there are so many opportunities for professional growth in roles outside of teaching. (While still making an impact on education.)
✨Former teachers are ideal candidates for many positions at EdTech companies because they can connect with and understand the target clientele on a deeper level.
✨A teacher career change is challenging. It’s extremely helpful when you have some sort of community to help support you throughout the process.
Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Learn What Made Lynn Curious About EdTech.
Daphne: Hi, Lynn. How are you doing?
Lynn: Hi! I’m doing awesome. Thank you for having me on the show.
Daphne: I’m so excited that you’re here today. You are a Teacher Career Coach course graduate. But you also have an interesting work history. Not just in education, but you also worked in another industry before pivoting to education.
So I wanted to start off by asking you to introduce yourself. Tell me a little bit about what got you here.
Lynn: Absolutely. So, before I went into the education world, I worked in electrical engineering for about two years, which is what I have my bachelor’s degree in. But being a teacher was always in the back of my mind. Even in college, I was a membership educator for my organization. I loved teaching and helping and seeing that lightbulb go off.
So, when I realized the engineering environment wasn’t quite what I imagined it to be, I decided to pivot into education and become a teacher. I went on to earn my teaching credentials in both math and science.
So, I was still sticking to the core of engineering. I started out as a science lab teacher, which I did for three years. And then I taught seventh-grade math and science for the last two years in the classroom. But I just started to realize that teaching in the classroom did not give me the work-life balance that I was looking for.
So, that’s when I realized that those resources I use in the classroom that are important to me were made by someone. Someone has to work on the other side of it, and come up with the ideas and offer customer support. That’s when I got the idea to combine both my technical engineering background with my education background and try to work at one of these software companies. And that began my journey into the world of EdTech.
Dealing With Teaching Guilt.
Daphne: So, actually getting to where you are now in a new company and a new position wasn’t really easy for you, right? You’ve said you struggled a little bit with prioritizing yourself and the teacher guilt of wanting to find a new position.
Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Lynn: Yes, absolutely. In education and teaching, you’re not putting yourself first. You have your classroom, which for me meant 60 students, and they are your priority day in and day out. Even when you have hard moments in your personal life, as an educator, you’re always thinking, “I need to do this for my students. I need to continue lesson planning and grading because my students need the feedback.” And you forget to take care of yourself.
And, unfortunately, part of that was a lack of support from our admin. I’ve definitely spoken up about my mental struggles, especially with a pandemic this year. I gave very specific examples where I broke down over the littlest things in my personal life because all these other things are building up in the classroom. And I think as educators, naturally, we’re always going to want the best for our students and their families, and we forget about our own health and our mental well-being.
Daphne: Yeah, no, I completely understand. I mean, you can be the ‘best’ teacher for 10 weeks in a row, spending every hour at home thinking about lesson planning. But on that 11th week, if you hit a breaking point and need to pull back and do less, there’s pushback and resistance. And there’s also a lot of guilt and mental struggles that you start to face.
The Lack of Work-Life Balance For Teachers.
Were you honest with people in your school district or at your school that you were thinking of leaving the classroom altogether?
Lynn: At the very beginning, I told one or two members of my school admin, only because I wanted to be upfront with them. At first, I told them I would likely not be returning next year. I told them that I wasn’t leaving this school for another school, but that I’d be leaving teaching altogether because I wasn’t myself anymore. I wasn’t taking care of myself.
As teachers, we are asked to do so much. And it’s not just the grading and the planning and the teaching itself. We’re asked to work on committees and to do after school programs and to tutor and to make sure that we’re checking our emails all the time just in case students are reaching out to us. And so we always have to be on.
And that was really hard. There was zero work-life balance. I told my admin that it’s partially the education system altogether and how society views teachers. We are their best friend and we give them what they want. And then we are lazy employers when we have two months off in the summer. The running joke is that we need summers off because we’re working so much during the school year, right?
On average, we get to campus at around 7:30. School starts at 8:30. Then you’re teaching until 3:15. Then you have to plan for the next day or grade or go to meetings. It’s never-ending. So, I expressed that to my admin.
Daphne: I remember that pushback of, “Oh, it must be so nice to have summers off.” And I kept thinking that it was nice to have summers off. But after I left, and I realized that I was much happier year-round, I started to reflect on those summers that I had off. I felt like maybe one month or three weeks of it was actually me feeling like myself, but the rest of it was dread of going back to work.
It’s not normal to feel immense dread going to your place of employment. It’s normal to be on vacation and not want to go back. But I’m talking about those Sunday scaries where you feel extreme stress and need therapy about how much you dislike your work.
If someone’s listening right now who doesn’t feel that, it’s because it’s not universal. Not everyone feels that way about their job. And not every school district or every school environment does that to teachers, either. It’s just kind of a unique situation.
Learn Why Visiting Company Career Pages is a Smart Tactic.
Now, as you started to explore new roles, did you have any idea what direction you were heading in?
Lynn: Not really. I knew that I wanted to work at these companies creating those resources I’d been using in the classroom. But I didn’t know what the word for that was. So, I started by going to the company websites. To be honest, I would just pull up their website looking to see if they had a careers page. From there, I would see what positions they listed and then looked into those in more detail. But I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do.
Daphne: I think that’s really smart that you were actually looking at those company’s careers pages. A lot of people go directly to LinkedIn and start looking for jobs. BUt it’s kind of like those websites that post teaching jobs where it’s so easy to apply that 1000 teachers are applying to the exact same position. It’s the same with the positions that you’re finding on LinkedIn. It’s just as easy for 1000 people to be applying. And if someone’s a teeny bit more qualified than you, you might not be considered and that’s where people start to get frustrated.
But going directly to the careers pages themselves usually removes that extra step, and it does get your foot in the door a little bit easier. One of the jobs that I got as a teacher was a district that wasn’t posting on those sites. You had to actually write out a formal application, print out your resume, and send it in a manila envelope. And for some people, that’s an extra step that they’re not willing to take. So, that’s really great that you did that.
Did you find yourself hitting a lot of roadblocks during that phase, as you were starting to apply for positions?
Lynn: Yes, because even if I loved the resources, the company may not have been hiring for a position that I actually would want or would qualify for. There might be things like PR, or marketing, or something that just wasn’t up my alley. So, it wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be like, “Oh, look up this website. They’re hiring. Perfect, I’ll get hired next week.” So it was definitely not that easy.
Finding Jobs You’re Qualified for and Writing Your Transition Resume.
Daphne: When you go into those job search boards, you’re going to see all these positions out there. And you don’t know which ones you should apply for unless you really have done your homework, done a lot of research, and started to dive in and talk to people in the industry. Until you do that, you don’t know which roles you’re actually qualified for.
So, you look at even this PR role for an education company, right? As a beginner, I might look at that and say, “Well, that sounds like something that maybe I would be qualified for.” But I would say they are looking for someone with legitimate experience for a public relations role. However, there are a lot of jobs at education and educational technology companies that are completely aimed at former teachers. For those roles, being a former teacher makes you qualified. But reading that job description is not going to explain that to you as easily.
So, how did you start to pinpoint the jobs that you were qualified for versus the ones that you weren’t qualified for?
Lynn: The keywords that I was looking for in job descriptions were skills that I had used in the classroom. And that’s where your course came in handy. Honestly, the part of the course where we translated our skills was truly a game-changer. As soon as I was able to look at my experience in the classroom through a corporate lens I was able to really see more positions I could succeed in. It also helped me push a little bit outside of my comfort zone as well.
And to be honest, I did apply for various positions that I maybe wasn’t quite qualified for. And so that feedback, whether I was invited to do an interview or if I got that immediate rejection, helped me recalibrate on what I should be applying for as well.
Daphne: I love that you touched on the part of the course where all the translations are and I want to give due credit where it’s deserved. Allison Arnie is the resume writer that helped me with all of the course materials when it comes to actual interview questions and resume writing. I had the experience of leaving the classroom myself, but I’m not an expert in those hiring components. You can listen to Episode 29 where I interview Allison Arnie all about writing your teacher transition resume to learn more.
One thing that people always kind of get a little bit wrong is that if they got a job as an educational consultant or instructional designer, they can write resumes. That they can show you how to do it too. But that’s not best practice. You really need someone who’s actually been on the hiring end of things. Someone who has hired for multiple companies and who’s worked in human resources and actually scanned and looked at resumes. And that’s where Allison came in.
She helped work with the former teachers, and teachers, and myself, and we talked about all the skills that teachers actually do in the classroom and all of the jobs that teachers are most qualified for. Then we just matched it all up and created all of those resources right there. I wish that I could say that it was entirely me, but I definitely have a huge team on board for the Teacher Career Coach course to help create all these materials.
Learn How The Teacher Career Coach Course Gave Lynn Guidance and Confidence When Choosing and Applying to Jobs.
Did you find support, even with pinpointing positions that you are interested in, using the resources in the Teacher Career Coach course?
Lynn: Yes, it was definitely useful to have that list of different positions for former teachers. But it started with your quiz when it popped up on my Instagram. That quiz kind of helped plant the seed of the idea of finding a position outside of the classroom. And then, once I committed to the course, I looked at all the resources that were provided in there and all the research that’s been done already.
Then, I literally read through the list of jobs for former teachers and I wrote down all the ones that I would even consider. I combined that with my own research I had already done on different EdTech websites and LinkedIn and I started to get a vision of what kind of positions I really did want to apply for.
So, I was keeping a document of all the positions that I was throwing out my resume for. As I went down my list, the types of positions that I was applying for started to narrow down to similar types of positions rather than a whole bunch of random things.
Daphne: And that makes it a lot easier when it comes to resume writing and formulating your interview questions. Because if you were going in for a corporate trainer position one week, and then the very next week, you’re going in to discuss an office manager position, they’re going to have very different duties. So, you’re going to have a very different resume. So, that’s a really smart strategy for keeping everything fine-tuned.
How many interviews do you think you went on before you landed this one?
Lynn: I went on six interviews. And that was out of 70 applications that I had put out there over the course of two months.
Daphne: Thank you for sharing that. A lot of people start to get discouraged, even after sending out 20 or 30 applications. There are things that you need to make sure you’re doing correctly if you’re not hearing any responses. But especially right now, things are really competitive. And teachers are all kind of looking at the exact same position. So, you have to step up your game and continue to hang in there and keep pushing. I know that’s easier said than done.
What made you so excited about the position that you are now in as a customer engagement specialist?
Lynn: Oh my gosh. Given that this was my last interview, I had six rejections prior to this. Some of them were even interviews that I thought went well, and they came back and they told me that they’re moving forward with a different candidate. So, I have been pushed down time and time again prior to this particular interview.
But it was the person in this first interview that made me realize that this company is different. Yes, it is another EdTech company. However, the conversations that we had and the questions that she asked revolved around me. It just made me feel like she really wanted to get to know me. And so from this very first interview, which was on a Friday afternoon, mind you, so I’d had a rough week at work already at school, and she was taking time out of her Friday afternoon to meet with me.
It was a 30-minute screening interview and our conversations flowed so easily. We didn’t want the conversation to end. From there, I was set up to interview with four other members from the company, all from different departments. To be honest, from all the other experiences that I had with interviewing, that seemed like a lot of people. So at first, I was really intimidated to be interviewed so many times. But what I learned through each conversation is that I’m getting to know the different departments of this company and the different people at this company as well.
As they got to know me, I was really getting a good vision of the company itself and the company culture which was really important to me when I was looking this time around.
Transitioning From Teaching To Corporate.
Daphne: When you were going through that interview process, did they ask you anything specific about your experience as a teacher or why you were transitioning into a new role?
Lynn: Yes, we talked about that a lot. And a few of the people who I interviewed with were also former teachers. As soon as we made that connection, we were able to really talk about why they went through that process and why I was going through that process right now. We talked about how some of the frustrations that I had experienced in the classroom created a learning path for how I can perform in the corporate world, as well as working with customers. Because it’s not always easy working with customers who need help. They’re often frustrated themselves but as educators, we’re naturally patient, which helped the company see that I can also work with their customers as well.
Daphne: Yeah, and because you’re working on an educational technology company, your client is going to either be school administrators or, most likely, teachers. Basically, any role that implements the educational product into the classroom. And they are burned out, too. They’re frustrated and trying to figure something out. So, they need someone who’s going to be patient, understanding, and empathetic to show true customer service.
So that’s a really great point. I love that this company sounds like they have a really great culture, and you found a really great fit.
Taking a Pay Cut—Is It Worth It?
Since you were in the classroom for six years, do you mind if I ask if you ended up having to take a salary decrease to start in this position?
Lynn: Yes, I did. The school that I worked at paid fairly well for our area and for California in general. So yes, I did take a bit of a pay cut. And there were some negotiations as well, which was nice. But in the grand scheme of things and in talking to my husband about our finances, it was worth every bit to have that peace of mind to have a better work-life balance. To have my hours back. Because if I really were to break down how much I was getting paid as a teacher and how many hours I truly was working down to the dollar per hour, it’s not as glorious as it seems.
Daphne: Now, and I don’t encourage anybody to take a pay cut if you have done the math and you know exactly what you need to survive and you receive an offer that doesn’t work with your budget. It’s not a good fit for you if you don’t have another stream of income that you’ve already figured out, like a side hustle or maybe you’re freelancing on the side.
But if you can take a pay cut, and you see that something is a great fit, it’s probably worth it. Because I always like to remind people that once you’re in these positions, if you already like the culture of the company, the long-term actual career growth and salary increases usually happen at an expedited rate. When you’re in a school system, you have that set payscale rate. If you have a union they might do negotiations every 10 years for a teeny tiny bit of an increase.
But I have seen growth within education companies where, even with the initial dip in salary, you know, you find yourself making more than your teacher salary within the first few years at the company. I also love that you really focused on how much you were truly getting paid per hour and prioritized your mental health and wellness over an end-of-the-line financial decision.
There’s So Much Space To Grow in Roles Outside of The Classroom. (While Still Making an Impact on Education.)
Lynn: Exactly. And I really appreciate that you brought up professional growth because I really do see myself growing within this company. And in this current position, I get to learn the ins and outs of this product, which will then allow me to perhaps transition over to the engineering team or maybe the product team or maybe even the marketing team. Even in the interviews, it was clear that there’s going to be room for growth and I wouldn’t be stuck in this one position forever. I love that that was a conversation during the interviews.
Daphne: Yeah, that’s a really great sign. Now, not everybody wants to hear that. Some hiring managers want you to go in and say you want to stay in the role of a customer engagement specialist for the next 10 years and here’s why. Because they don’t want to go through the process of training and doing this over and over again. So you have to feel it out with each interview.
But you know, you don’t have to be completely honest about your three-year or five-year goals when you go into an interview. Once you’re actually in that company and you’re able to explore, that’s when you can start having those kinds of discussions. But the fact that they had it right off the bat is really great.
That’s something that happened for me as well. Once I got into an education company, I realized I could go on to the learning and development team where I create all the learning and development programs that train teachers. Or I could become an instructional designer, which is something that I ended up pursuing as well. Or if I wanted to go into the marketing department, which is an area that I’m excited about, I could explore that.
You get to have your foot in the door in conversations you never would have had. Then you can start to decide what you like or what you don’t like, and move forward a little bit easier than you would from a situation where you weren’t having the exposure to these new opportunities.
Lynn: Absolutely. Like I wholeheartedly agree. Being at a company where I truly believe in the product and where I know that this is going to empower teachers and make an impact on education wherever I am in this company, I know my work is still meaningful. And I want to have a hand in everything in this company. I get really excited talking about it because I know that there’s more growth for me.
To loop back to the conversations that I had about my teaching experience during my interviews, one of the things that I touched on was professional growth in education. I love education and I loved being an educator. But I feel like the natural growth in schools would be to move up to an admin position, which is not really something that I wanted to do. If I stayed in the school, I would have wanted to stay in the classroom and to continue being a teacher. So, I feel like if I hadn’t left, at some point down the line, I would kind of be at a fork in the road where I wanted growth but not as a principal or district admin.
Daphne: So the company really valued the fact that you want to continue to grow, and you know that you were starting to feel a little bit stagnant with where your professional growth was going. As a teacher, we’re forever learners. We’re passionate about education and learning, even for ourselves. And sometimes we find ourselves at schools or districts where we don’t see the value in the professional development that we’re receiving at the school themselves. That can definitely be a struggle.
Learn More About Lynn’s New Position as a Customer Engagement Specialist.
Can you tell me a little bit about your day-to-day as a customer engagement specialist? What do you do? How does your day go?
Lynn: Absolutely. So we support teachers and admin. Our clientele is school positions who use our product. So, they will send in questions. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “I forgot my password. Can you please help me log in?” and we can handle that on our end. Sometimes it’s more complicated things. Maybe they don’t know how to do something or there’s a glitch on their end. And so we problem solve all day every day. And so we’re communicating directly with our customers via email.
We also bring a personal touch to it. Our team emphasizes making sure that we have a connection and that we don’t sound like we’re just like a robot, but to really make them feel important and to make them feel seen as well. The bulk of our day-to-day work is answering client questions and helping them make sure that their day runs smoothly. Ensuring that their school processes everything on their end as smoothly as possible relating to our products.
In addition to that, we also train new schools as well. So we have face-to-face time with school principals, school admin, and teachers who may want to use our products. And so that is also meaningful to me, because that’s tapping into my teaching side. I still get to push out information and I’m still satisfying that side of my professional background.
Daphne: I love that there are kind of multiple job duties that you have, where it’s kind of like tech support, but then also that like personal connection and building experiences with your customers.
I’m sure there was a teeny tiny learning curve with some of the specifics, but you already had experience with it’s a SiS company. You had experience with that, when you were a teacher yourself, of putting in student information into a rostering system. That’s what the product is, right?
Lynn: It’s everything. In addition to rostering and enrollment, there’s also attendance and report cards and grade books. We’re trying to have it all be in one software, whereas when I was using our SiS as a teacher, we needed supportive software in addition to what we were using at my school.
Daphne: So there’s probably a learning curve, but you already are ahead of the game much more than someone who comes in with no educational background whatsoever. And you can also likely anticipate problems before they even arise at schools, which is something that companies really value from former teachers. They can pinpoint and identify that it looks like said school district probably will have this problem because of X. Then you can reach out and try to problem-solve before the issue even occurs because that’s how much experience you have in this world and universe.
Does that ever happen to you?
Lynn: Yeah, a little bit here and there. As I’m learning about our product specifically, I’m always connecting it back to what I have used already in my teaching experience. That always brings up questions like, “Oh, why is it done this way?” Or, “Why is it done that way?” As opposed to what I was used to or what I was using as a teacher. So, I do have that connection. And I think that’s also something I bring to this company, is my experience using a former SiS as well.
Lynn Explains How The Teacher Career Coach Private Community Helped Her In a BIG Way Throughout Her TeacherTransition Journey.
Daphne: During your interview process, I know that you said that you sent out 60 or 70 resumes or applications, and you had quite a few rejections. I want to circle back around and talk a little bit about your experience in the Teacher Career Coach course and its private community. How did the course and that community help you get through the process?
Lynn: Oh my gosh. I cannot sing my praises enough because this process of leaving the classroom is extremely isolating. It takes a very unique person to understand what you’re truly going through. There are teachers out there who are true and true teachers. They will push through the hardships of education because they love being a teacher that much. And while I do love being a teacher, I know that there’s other positions out there where I know that I can still make an impact and have a meaningful job.
So, finding other people like that was so hard. And that’s what the community did for me. I am plopped in this forum where there were others who were going through exactly what I was going through. And that meant the world. I was scrolling through and reading posts maybe from even last year or so, or several months ago. And just reading all of their testimonies and the hardships that they were going through made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I’m getting a little emotional talking about it because it really was that impactful and it got me through my hard time. Sometimes I would spend Friday night just scrolling through the community of posts and just reading what everyone else is going through.
And in addition to that, there are celebrations as well in our community for those who did get positions and who did successfully find a job outside of the classroom. So, that was the light at the end of the tunnel for me, just seeing people who posted in the ‘Interview’ tab then posting in the ‘I Got a Job’ tab. It was encouraging to follow the journeys of other people as well. And that really got me through.
Daphne: Yeah. Everyone sees these testimonials on the Teacher Career Coach Instagram page, and then they think, “Oh, well, I suck, because I put out 20 resumes, and I haven’t heard anything back. But that person is really great because they got a project management role.” In those cases, it almost reinforces those negative talking points in their head and their imposter syndrome, because they’re not seeing the behind-the-scenes of everybody continuing to push through. It sucks for everybody.
That’s why people think, “Oh, it might be impossible to do this.” Because it is challenging. It’s not going to be an easy journey. You do need a sort of community to help support you through the process.
And I’m happy that there are so many different places now for people to connect. It’s not as stigmatizing of an experience, at least after this last year, where people are now able to vocalize their want to find roles that are still scratching that teacher itch, but not necessarily in the classroom. I’m just so grateful that you even shared that part of your story, because that’s where I was at too.
Once I finally got my new position, I realized, “Oh, all of you guys are former teachers. Did this whole process of getting here wreck you too?” And it did wreck everybody to get to that point. And that’s why it was so important for me to create something that could help and bring people together.
Now, would you recommend people purchase the Teacher Career Coach course if they are on the fence about doing so, but are serious about wanting a new position?
Lynn: I really would. Honestly, I was also very hesitant at first. I found you on Instagram at first and I followed you on there. And then I saw that you had the course and I thought about it probably for a good two or three weeks before I actually purchased it. And I did put out several resumes before joining the course. I didn’t feel as confident with those resumes. I felt like I was just shooting in the dark without having that guidance.
So, after several weeks of trying it on my own, I went back to your course. I knew you’d put in so much research and so many hours reaching out to everyone else to help put this together for people just like me. So I decided to do it as an investment in myself. It didn’t break the bank. I’m sure I spent that same amount on other junk that doesn’t really benefit me all that much in the end.
So, it was an investment in myself and it was worth it, hands down. As I went through the modules, watching the videos and just hearing your voice telling me what to do was really nice. But it also gave me confidence in my resume, in my cover letter, in the questions that I’m asking. I knew it was all research-based and your team had put in a lot of hard work to tell me that, okay, this might be the right path to go down.
Daphne: Thank you so much for sharing that. I mean, it is still wild to me to get to meet people who have taken the course. It’s just such an honor to be able to support people and help others navigate this journey.
I’m just so grateful that you’re here today, and especially that you shared your story. I’d love to continue to stay in touch and hear where this journey takes you. Because I can tell that you have a really bright future and you have a lot of great success ahead of you.
Lynn: Thank you so much. And it really is an honor to be here with you and to speak with you through this platform. Because the podcast definitely got me through it as well. I would listen to it on the way to work. I even listened to an episode right before that final interview actually, because I had felt so deflated. I needed something to pump me up. I just put on a random episode and just hearing things that validate how you feel really makes a difference.
So, I just can’t believe that I’m here talking to you and that I’m going to have an episode of my own. So it’s just it’s wild to me too. And I thank you for that.
Daphne: Thank you so much.
If you loved this episode, we have a lot of interviews with former teachers and Teacher Career Coach course graduates coming up in the near future. Stay tuned!
DON’T MISS THESE RESOURCES
Thank you to our podcast sponsor, Forever My Always by Eevi Jones. This book is a beautifully written and illustrated keepsake perfect for recent grads about to venture out of the nest for the first time. Gift a copy today!
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