Teaching is a career that if you have the passion for it, is extremely rewarding. You see on a daily basis the impact you make on young people’s lives. I felt that for 15 years, but last June, I made my exit from the classroom.
I loved that I had a hand in making lifelong readers and writers, but also good human beings. I pored myself into my craft. Constantly reading about innovative approaches, paying for and attending professional development events to keep myself sharp, buying all the tools I needed to scaffold learning and spark engagement, writing grants when the needs were larger than my checkbook, taking home my grading and lesson planning every night and weekend.
I did it all and I do not regret any of it, but at some point, it gets to be too consuming given the constant bureaucratic mandates, increasing role of teachers as surrogate parents, endless testing and constant degradation of profession by the public. I say this knowing I was very lucky.
I worked in a public high school and public university. My administrators gave me a great amount of autonomy in curriculum planning, classroom philosophy and general operations. Again, I was lucky. I knew I could not continue the constant work and made the decision to leave before I became a teacher who just checked the boxes.
It was exciting that last year. I felt free and excited to dip my foot into something new. I loved teaching, but I hope at some point the public will truly realize the great work that teachers do every day as they not only teach children, but provide snacks and meals, use their paychecks to buy supplies, give their off time to support students at events, serve as counselors and provide support for those facing homelessness, domestic abuse situations and bullying. Many of my colleagues worked extra jobs just to make their own ends meet and that is a travesty in our society.
Enough soapbox. Transitioning out of the classroom is not easy. I knew I wanted to write in a professional capacity. Luckily, I have some published pieces, maintained this blog for the past decade and served as a trainer of writing in various capacities. What I did not realize is the landscape has changed a great deal.
I went ahead and updated my chronological CV, joined some remote work sites and started applying. It was not so successful. I knew I had the skills they were looking for, so I blamed my lack of copywriting or digital content creations for not landing some gigs. And that was some of the problem, but more of the problem was how I was presenting myself. The thing about changing careers is you need to figure out what the new job is looking for and finding where that intersects with your skills, that equals transferable skills and teachers have lots of them.
As I was looking around at advice for career changers, I ran across a really informative site : StandoutCV. I gobbled up their wisdom. Based on their advice I started looking at all the different job sites to gather the skills and requirements companies were looking for in new hires. I made a list of key words and then started listing my own skills to figure out what transferable skills I possessed.
It turned out I was in pretty good shape. As an English teacher, I was comfortable communicating with others, writing for a variety of audiences, collaborating, meeting deadlines, attending to details, creating content in many forms and editing for voice and style- I was actually a really good fit for professional writing.
Then I needed a vehicle to show this for potential employers. Enter the Combination/Hybrid CV. I realized as a career changer with depth of experience in a field I no longer wanted to work in, I needed a document that showcased transferable skills and allowed me to what a good candidate I actually was. One of the remote work sites I joined has a step-by-step guide to writing a stellar Combination CV, Flexjobs. They provide examples of a good and bad version of each section, as well as a sample. Their guidance was really helpful. One other site I really liked when crafting this new version of my CV was O*Net Online. This site allows you to look up any job and get the complete profile of that job including skills, work habits, tasks, abilities and knowledge needed. This helped me adjust the language of my CV to more mirror the jobs I would be searching.
Some may wonder why I chose a CV versus a Resume. If you have a number of publications, presentations and awards/certifications, it might be beneficial to include these and that calls for a longer version. It depends on your experience and what type of job you want.
The CV was just the start for me. I realized I needed some other types of writing samples besides academic journal articles and poems. This is where it gets tricky for writers because everybody wants experience even for an entry position. I went to the internet again to research how to get this experience. They all relayed similar advice: start a blog, network, do some spec writing, use volunteer opportunities. I did some spec writing for an online travel guide website and then an opportunity presented itself. An acquaintance of mine who is a wedding photographer contacted to me to look at her website and give her an opinion of usability. I did that, but as I was looking, I realized I could propose something that would help both of us. I offered to ghostwrite all of her content to make it tighter and add SEO in exchange for giving me a testimonial and allowing me to excerpt some of the writing without outing her identity (important when you ghostwrite). She accepted and I am currently working on putting up these items on my professional portfolio.
The moral of the story here is that leaving the classroom does not have to be the end of your professional life. Think about what your dream job is and look at how you can massage all your experience into something new and exciting.