In this episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I interview the wonderful Nicole Bryson. Nicole left teaching after an impressive 17 years in the classroom for a higher paying position as a training consultant with a workforce management company. Nicole shares how the Teacher Career Coach Course helped her overcome her challenges and find success after 10 full years of searching for new roles.
Recap and BIG Ideas:
✨ Nicole didn’t always want to be a teacher, but found her way there and stayed for 17 years.
✨Teachers have so many skills! Read job descriptions carefully and take note of the roles you can do. Highlighting these skills may just mean changing the wording on your resume.
✨Finding a job outside of teaching can take some time. Between applying for jobs to going through the interview process, be ready for it to at least take a few months.
✨Now that she is out of the classroom and working remote, Nicole has such a great work-life balance and because she is well compensated for her work, she does not need to have the extra jobs she used to work.
Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Wanting to Be a Million Different Things
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Hi, Nicole. Thank you so much for being here today.
NICOLE BRYSON: Hello. Thank you so much for having me, Daphne.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Nicole, I feel like I’ve connected with you on Instagram for so long.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: But I’d love if you shared your story of working in education with our audience.
NICOLE BRYSON: I guess if I started from when I decided to become a teacher because it wasn’t like I wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up. I think growing up, I kind of was like Alice in Wonderland. She has a quote in Lewis Carroll’s book, or maybe it’s just the movie, that she imagines a million different things before breakfast.
When I was little, I wanted to be a million different things every single day and I honestly didn’t think about being a teacher until I was in the first physical therapy class that I took. One of the very first classes because that’s what I wanted to do. I thought that’s what I was going to do and I took this medical terminology class.
It was going to take a lot of studying and I thought, “Oh my goodness, I really don’t want to study.” Not that first semester, anyway, I was having way too much fun. And I thought, “What could I do that would not require a lot of studying?”
And I loved English and I loved writing and I loved literature and I thought “Hot dog! I know what I could do. I could be an English teacher.” Now, I know that sounds horrible in the beginning. However, when I really got into it and started looking at teaching as a profession, I really saw that that’s where my heart was and my true passion because I saw so many people growing up when I was in school who they just needed somebody on their side.
If they just would’ve had somebody there to help guide and through then, man, they sure would’ve made it. That’s really when I saw yes, I want to be a teacher.
So I became an English teacher, but I found out that English teachers were a dime a dozen so I needed to make myself marketable and in that last year of school. I got a minor in Spanish. So, I taught English and Spanish in high school here in a little town in Western Oklahoma and I did that for 17 years.
Of course, everyone knows you don’t just teach those two subjects. I also did the yearbook for 17 years, I worked with the football team, I taught alternative school in the evenings, and then I also had my two or three extra jobs along the way as well.
I worked for my parents in their accounting office and would help all of their Spanish speaking clients, I would paint for people in the summertime. So just anything that I could do for extra money, that is what I did. That basically is my time in education in a nutshell. I taught English and Spanish.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: When did you start thinking about making a career change from teaching?
NICOLE BRYSON: So, I started in 2004 teaching and I think by 2007, I was really like, “Man, I am ready to change and get into something else.” I was a single mom. I’ve basically been a single mom my whole teaching career and at that time my daughter was seven. I already realized that there was so much time taken away from my time with my daughter, Riley.
In fact, she had a pallet in my classroom at the high school. So, she would get off the bus, come to the high school, she had a little place, she had her snacks, and she had a pallet because we’d be there so late. She would have to go to sleep there.
So, when she was seven, I started thinking, “Man, I really need to do something else, but what was there for me to do in Western Oklahoma?” What could I do that I would be there after school with Riley and that I wouldn’t have to send her to some kind of daycare?
I really started looking and then I really, really started looking in 2010, but just couldn’t find anything. Then in 2018, I found a virtual school that I could teach for online. I did that for a couple of years online and it was better, but it’s still just public education. In general, just has so many issues that it still was just very disheartening.
I still had that stomach issue problem every Sunday night. You just want to bawl Sunday night. The worst feeling. So that’s when I really started looking like, what else can I do?
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: That issue the quote-unquote “Sunday scaries.” Everybody makes jokes about it. There’s memes that are passed along with teacher Instagrams.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yeah.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: And for maybe, I hope knock on wood, the majority of people it is kind of a joke, “Oh, I don’t want to go.” But for so many people, myself included and many of people that email me, slide into my DMs, end up being on this podcast or taking my course, it’s not really a joke.
It’s somebody bawling or having anxiety and dreading every single time they think about going back to work. That is not normal. That is not something to normalize.
NICOLE BRYSON: I didn’t realize. I’m not one of those people that think, “Oh my goodness, I’m so stressed.” I’m pretty much a go with the flow, happy-go-lucky person.
So, I didn’t realize that that horrible feeling I felt on Sunday nights or the night terrors that I would have at the end of the summer closer to when school was starting back or just the night terrors that I would have weekly that would wake my daughter up from the middle of the night, I didn’t realize that those were from teaching and the environment that I was in and the stress that I was under.
I don’t ever think of myself as a stressed person, but that was what I was in. So yes, the Sunday scaries are definitely real. I cannot tell you the weight that has been lifted off my shoulders since, I guess since January 11th, when I started with my new position.
From Teacher to Training Consultant
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Yeah. So let’s dive into that a little bit. What is your new role?
NICOLE BRYSON: So my new role, I am a training consultant with a workforce management company. Basically, I create training materials for clients. They could be anything from hospitals to different types of manufacturing companies.
I create these deliverables and then I also train their managers and their HR department to use different types of software. Scheduling software, timekeeping software, and those type of things. It’s been really interesting being in the corporate world as opposed to public education.
One of the things that I have found really awesome that I love is that first of all, I feel like I’m treated like a professional. Whenever I was a teacher, I always felt like I was just a teacher. Not that anybody ever told me that, but I just felt like in society, “Oh, you’re just a teacher.” Almost like I was like just a 15-year-old babysitter or something.
Here within my company, people come to me like I am an expert. I never felt like I was treated as an expert in my field, in public education. I felt like I was micromanaged, but here people come to me like I’m an expert and I’m just treated as a professional. That has been game changing.
Something I find really interesting is my manager will be like, “Is this too much? Are you okay? Can you handle this?” I thought, “Oh my goodness, I was a teacher. This is a cake walk. If this is all I have to do after what I did for 17 years, I am fine.” So, I feel like every day is a Friday or every day is like the night before Christmas when you’re five years old or like I’m about to leave for a trip to Disney world or something like that because it’s just been such a fun ride. It’s been awesome.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: As we’re in this, as we’re recording this episode, this is eight months into you working there. So, it’s not honeymoon stage anymore. It truly is something that’s been a really great fit for you. How did you actually find this position, the training consultant position?
NICOLE BRYSON: I would look for things that involve training, corporate training, that was a big one that I would look for. Then I just looked for things when I looked for job descriptions. Just the things within the job that I felt like I would fit those descriptions. So, even though maybe I did not know the product that they needed someone for if I had those skills that they were looking for that is really what I focused on.
Then also I look— because personally for me, I did not want to leave where I live. All of my family lives within 30 minutes of me. So, I didn’t want to leave. My daughter’s in college just a couple towns away and she plays softball for that college, so I didn’t want to move— I needed something where I could work from home.
That is just what I looked for. Something that had corporate trainer or any kind of trainer, then something that my skillset was in that job description, and then something I could work from home.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: So, it’s completely remote?
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. If right now — COVID, that’s like our world — right now with COVID a lot of the training people just want to do remote training. However, if our training ever does go onsite ever again, I will have some onsite training, but right now it’s all remote.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Will that be local travel or do you know if you’re going to be traveling like across the United States for different training opportunities?
NICOLE BRYSON: Yeah. We have clients worldwide, so I could go anywhere in the world which is really exciting.
Leveraging the Skills You Have for the Job You Want
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I love that. I was curious if you actually leveraged your bilingual education for this specific role because of a lot of training opportunities are looking for roles, human resources roles, anything where you’re training a large demographic, they’re looking for people who are fluent in multiple languages.
NICOLE BRYSON: That was something that they did ask about and something that did come up, yes. So yes, if you can put yourself out there to go learn another language, go learn another language.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Especially for training positions. Not for every position, but especially for training positions it does.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Or even just leveraging that you’ve worked with English language learners and that you understand the ways to support them even if you are not fluent in another language is something that translates really well.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes, that is so true. A lot of teachers, even if you don’t have a second language that you’re fluent in, a lot of teachers have worked with non-English speaking students and so they do have those skills to help support for those students. So yes, such a great point to bring up, Daphne, that those teachers know how to work with people who may be lacking. So yes, such a great point.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: When I was listening to you earlier, too, you said that you didn’t have specific knowledge of the tools, when you’re talking about the specific knowledge of the tools that means, the payroll or human resources tools, but did you have any experience working with payroll or human resources at all prior to applying to these positions?
NICOLE BRYSON: What’s really weird is when I was the lead teacher, I trained my new teachers on the payroll software that we used and what’s coincidental is my company will be training later on down the road, that same payroll software. So right now, we don’t, but that’s I think kind of one of the reasons that they were like, oh, huh, she knows that. None of us do, but later on she is going to be beneficial.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Yeah. It was probably in the job description saying, “Do you have experience with ‘blank?’” And you’re like, “Oh shoot. I do. I absolutely do.”
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. It wasn’t like the back end. It was just a front user. I knew where to go to see a payroll stub or to see where my W2 or W4 information was. So not even anything, not configuration, nothing like that. Just front-end user.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Yeah. For anyone listening front-end user is usually just the customer, whatever we would be using. So, Google classroom, but not necessarily setting up Google Chrome for all of the different computers.
It’s just how to use Google Classroom, how to click here, how to go to that. But the backend user is usually the more technology heavy, IT people who have to actually push it out to everybody or configure it on an admin level, and sometimes they ask you to know that too, which is just usually a YouTube video or looking on the company website away. They have training everywhere for it.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes, yes. Or like if the job description said somebody who’s familiar with Facebook. Well, we all know how to use Facebook, we may not be able to configure it on the back end, but we definitely have used Facebook before.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: How did you start to rewrite your resume?
NICOLE BRYSON: When I was looking at my resume, I think that was probably one of the things that I loved about your course the most. Well, I think actually the most in your course was my interviews because I was really, really nervous and that helped. But so with my resume, when I’m looking at the description, I’m looking at those action verbs and I’m thinking, “Okay, what have I done in my teaching career that goes with that action verb?”
Maybe not necessarily everything that’s in that description that they’re looking for, but what have I done with that action verb that goes along or parallels what they want. So maybe I didn’t do something specifically with some type of software or whatever they’re wanting to you train with, but I have multi-tasked…
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: So, if they asked you if you trained specifically on one platform, you would say, “Okay, well I haven’t, but I trained specifically on these platforms,” just to show that you had trained specifically on something.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. Yes. So if they’ve asked, “Have you trained others or have you led training on ‘such and such?'” Well, no, but I’ve led multiple trainings with multiple individuals or with group, et cetera. So any type of trainings or leadership, cohorts that I’ve done, I’ve used those.
Interviewing Can Be Quite the Process
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: And you started to touch a little bit on it that you felt like the interviewing resources and the Teacher Career Coach Course helped you with your interview. Do you want to talk a little bit about what happened during your interview for your training consultant position and what kind of answers you gave?
NICOLE BRYSON: So I wasn’t really sure how I was going to answer because everything I’d ever done was in teaching, but I knew that it needed to make sure that it was specific. After I went through everything that you had about interviews, your interview section helped me to make sure that when I was looking at all of the different experiences I had, how could I take those experiences and make sure that those focus more into what they were looking for.
So, when they did say, “Tell us about out a time when you were teaching adults” or something like that.
Well, yeah, I have taught adults and so I could talk specifically on when I was training new teachers on whatever we were working on and I could talk specifically to, not that they were teachers, but that they were adults and how I work with them as being adults, instead of public education teachers.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: That’s one of the things that even just the slight difference in the vocabulary that you use because if you keep saying, “Teachers, teachers, teachers, teachers, teachers” in all of your interview answers, that’s what they’re going to see you as.
But if you just use the vocabulary that means the exact same thing, “I trained adults in this way, this is how I differentiated because they’re adults,” and you’re asking me about adult training and you’re showing them that you have that without reinforcing the “Oh, but she means teaching,” or “she means her job as a teacher.”
NICOLE BRYSON: Yeah. Right.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: That really helps people because they’re not going to make the inferences on how everything translates over. You have to do it for them. So, you have to confidently be able to prove to them how it goes over when you are applying. I love this story, I love how happy you are, I think it’s really good to hear some of the gaps in the story.
This was not probably the first application or first interview you went on. Did you send out quite a few applications prior?
NICOLE BRYSON: Oh my goodness. I’ve been looking since like 2007 and I didn’t get this until January. So yes. I had been looking for over 10 years and I remember… okay, this is really kind of funny. I had a phone interview with a company and they were looking for somebody who could teach teachers how to teach online. That’s what I had done for two years.
It was a horrible interview, in fact, and I had not found you yet. It was probably a blessing I hadn’t found you yet or I probably would’ve nailed it and I would be with them and not where I am now.
But she said, give me your elevator… what is it called? Elevator pitch. Oh my goodness. So she said, “Give me your elevator pitch.” And I said, “How many floors do I have?”
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Oh no. I don’t think that that’s norm. I know that I teach about it in the course, but I don’t know if that’s even a normal question. If someone asked me, I would know what it is now, but that’s funny.
NICOLE BRYSON: Well, I was like, “Man, I don’t even know how long I have. Are we going like to the very top? Do I have just one floor? Am I already out of time?” So, I had never really thought about if I was going to package myself in a short amount of time, what am I going to say?
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: And that’s not a skill you learn overnight.
NICOLE BRYSON: No.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: You have to develop it and keep adding to it and refine it over months.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. I’m pretty sure that bombed right then and there. And what’s funny is she did email me and let me know that they went with someone who had experience training adults, even though I had been teaching online for a very long time and whatever, but I just thought that was funny. I had never done that.
When you do interview, like before I interviewed for this position I have now I watched your interview section probably five or six times, I had notes just all over my desk. I wrote everything out that I was going to say over and over and over again because that’s how I remember things. I write it, write it, write it. Then I got up in front of the mirror and I said it over and over how I thought that I would say it.
Then right before I had my interview, actually it was a long process. It was five interviews altogether. Before that first one, actually before every single one of them, I would sit for 30 minutes in Teams, so I could see myself and I was sweating profusely the whole time, just so I could go over and over what I was going to say and look into the camera. Just make sure that I was on point. So interviews are, I think, key. So key.
Once you get your foot in the door, you have to be prepared and be ready to show them that yes, you do have the skills and that you’re not just a teacher and that what you do in the classroom does equate outside of the classroom to other areas as well.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I had three months of just the yuckiest interviews that I bombed when I left teaching in 2017. I remember that they asked me to train on an online product and I had to put together a video of how I would train and it probably was a position that would pay half of what my position now makes.
But I bombed it. I didn’t know how to sell myself or show that I was capable of doing it. It’s something that you need to practice because there’s only a short period of time that they have to be able to determine whether or not you’re a good fit for the company.
NICOLE BRYSON: Right.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: They only have between 30 minutes and an hour.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yeah.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I also love that you acknowledge that this was a lengthy interview process. A lot of teachers struggle with the timeline component of I’m going to start applying in June and that way I’ll get a job up before July, before I go back to school. It’s just not realistic. It’s why I always say like start applying in April.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. For sure.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Start aggressively applying then and worst case scenario someone likes you, you got some experience you had to say no, but most of the time it takes a long time for you to even get callbacks. Then, the interview process is not as easy as it is with getting in and out of a classroom.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes, for sure. So I probably, if I was in the classroom — because I was a lead teacher when I got this position and so I wasn’t in the classroom — if I had been in the classroom, I don’t know what I would’ve done. I don’t know if I would have applied. I don’t know if I would’ve left my school like that. I don’t know, maybe I would’ve anyway.
However, I applied before Thanksgiving. Two weeks before Thanksgiving and I didn’t get hired until the end of December and I didn’t start until January 11th.
It was a long process, and they actually sped it up because when that very last interview or the fourth interview with the Vice President of Training, I kind of went on a limb and I said, “If you’re going to hire me, can we maybe do this quick? Because I would really love to give them Christmas break or winter break to find somebody to replace me.”
She sped it up so they could find someone. That was really nice of them. It probably wouldn’t have gone that fast if I hadn’t asked. So yeah. It’s a process.
The Benefits Continue Outside of the Classroom
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Once you finally did land a position, you got that yes, did you struggle with the decision on your end?
NICOLE BRYSON: Oh no. Oh my, no. The very next day I had the interview with the EVP, and he said, “Yeah, this is basically just, you’re interviewing me to make sure that this is what you want to do.”
Then they sent me the offer and my chin hit the floor because I had never, ever in my entire life made that much money. What’s really sad, in Oklahoma, if I taught for 25 years — the cap is at 25 years in Oklahoma — I would never make that money much. I would never make that much.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: So how many years were you teaching in total?
NICOLE BRYSON: I had taught 17.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: So 17 years and this was still a very large pay increase for you?
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. I don’t have to have extra jobs. I was able to get rid of all of my extra. I do have a side gig, but it’s just because I want to.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: You get extra time and then you’re like, “What am I going to do with all this time that I have after?”
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. And then the benefits and then just what they do as a company. They have, I’d never heard of this before, but they have an unlimited paid time off program.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: A lot of teachers always ask me, “Well, what about summers off? What about vacation time? I can’t lose it because of this.”
If you value your summers off, if you are very happy and if that is a deal breaker for you, then let it be a deal breaker for you and keep looking for something that fits for you. But I always talk about not every company does, but two of the companies that I’ve worked for have had pay time off opportunities.
There are many companies that have that and that means you and your family can take vacation whenever you want. When there’s a wedding, when there’s a special event, it’s not just during this chunk of time when you’re actually still kind of working and stressed out.
NICOLE BRYSON: Yes. And so being a single mom and a teacher, I wasn’t working at the school during the summer, but I still had two to three extra jobs in the summertime and I still didn’t have any money to go anywhere. It was not a win-win.
So personally, having some money to be able to go somewhere and being able to go anytime of the year that I want, that is big for me. So yeah, I didn’t, going back to did it take a long time? No, not at all.
I did talk to both my parents who are accountants and I just wanted to run the numbers and talk to them for a moment and see about moving my teacher retirement to a 401k and just all of that and just make sure this is what I’m going to do.
After I bounced it off of them, I told my principal, “Hey, I need to talk to you.” And as soon as we got on a call together, she said, “You’re leaving.” I can’t pass this up, it’s an opportunity, I can’t.
She understands. I mean, most people in education, they want what’s best for you. They understand and we have to understand that we have to do what’s best for us. We were not put on this earth to be a slave to a classroom. So you have to do what’s best for you.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: If you thought about leaving teaching for the last 10 years of your career, but you still stayed there year after year after year, you were doing yourself a disservice from not at least exploring and trying those emotions because you can return if you decide to, but you did not sign an invisible contract that said I wanted to do this at one time in my life and that’s who I am for the rest of my life.
NICOLE BRYSON: Right. Yes. That is so true. I can go back someday if I want to. What is totally sad is that I think I would rather go stock a shelf in the middle of the night at some grocery store than go back to teaching. However, I may want to someday and that’s fine and I may not want to and that’s fine, too. But I do think that the 17 years that I was a teacher, I was a really good teacher and I touched a lot of lives.
I think that that is probably something that even though I was miserable a lot of that time, and there were things that happened and oh, that could be like a whole podcast in and of itself, like not even just an episode that would just be a whole podcast.
There were a lot of things that happened that were horrible. I still think that I probably would not change that because there were so many good things that happened for so many people.
Now a lot of those kids, those students that I had, they now are adults with their own families and they do great. And so I probably would not change that, but would I go back? Probably not.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: It’s the experiences in your life that maybe were challenging that only make you stronger and make you more clear on who you are as a person, but in your life, you wanted to be a teacher, you wanted to touch lives, and you did that for 17 years. So kudos to you.
NICOLE BRYSON: Thank you.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: You did so much and for anyone listening who’s struggling with leaving after two years or 10 years, know that you put in the work and you’re able to come back to it, especially if you leave in a way that you keep your teaching license, so making sure that you don’t burn any bridges on your way out, but you’re able to explore those options if you were thinking of doing it.
Nicole, this has been amazing. I wanted to ask you one final question before we go.
NICOLE BRYSON: Okay.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: What did you learn about yourself along this way? Along this journey?
NICOLE BRYSON: I learned that, and not to toot a horn or sound just conceited or anything, but I have a lot to offer. And when I was in the classroom, I didn’t realize how much I had to offer, but I have a lot to give, and now in the position that I’m in, I’m growing.
I’ve probably grown more professionally in the last eight months than I did the whole 17 years I was teaching. And I’m just so dang excited to see what adventures and new journey that I’m going to have this next 17 years.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I’m so excited. When COVID’s over, knock on wood, and they start to send you on some international trips, I’m going to have to lurk on your Instagram and see where you’re going.
NICOLE BRYSON: I’m so excited. Can’t wait.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: Nicole, congratulations.
NICOLE BRYSON: Thank you very much.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: I’m so excited. I’m so happy I finally got to meet you after so long communicating with you.
NICOLE BRYSON: Me too, yes.
DAPHNE WILLIAMS: This has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
NICOLE BRYSON: Thank you, Daphne, for having me.
I want to give a huge thank you to Nicole for coming on and sharing her story. I know how challenging a career transition can be and for anyone in the audience who’s struggling right now, I am here to help. If you haven’t yet, check out my website.
There are plenty of blogs and free resources to help you get started. Make sure to head over to teachercareercoach.com and you’ll find resources on rewriting you resume, the top jobs that hire teachers, and even a frequently asked questions page that has quick links to your most frequently asked questions about leaving teaching.
Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you on the very next episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast.
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