Life is about creating yourself.

Recently, a lot of people have asked about my decision to go back to teaching.  ‘Tis the season for giving…  And asking questions.  With all of the holiday parties on the calendar this time of the year, there’s always a pique in curiosity and the desire to catch up.

Are you scared?

You already switched once, how do you know what you really want?

Why are you switching back to teaching?

I thought that you didn’t like kids?

Do you have a plan?

What does your husband think?

Are you currently employed?

What about finances?

To all those questions I say… No, I’m not scared. Yes, I did switch once before but that’s not stopping me from switching again.  That question has a long answer, are you sure you have the time to listen?  I never said that I don’t like kids and in fact, I want at least 3 of my own (some day).  Yes, I have a plan.  My husband and my family are very supportive.  Yes, I’m currently subbing and working with a non-profit foundation. I’ll never be a millionaire, but I’m paying my bills.

But in all honesty, the question I hear most often is “Do you think that I could switch careers?”  I know that everyone does not want to be a teacher, but I’m happy to offer some general advice.  Forewarning, it requires you to think hard and make many lists.

Creating Yourself

1.  Ask yourself “What do I really want to do?”  Create a list of all the things that you like doing.  If money was non-existent (ha, wouldn’t that be nice!) what would you want to do on a daily basis?  Be realistic – could you make a career out of it?

I graduated with a B.S. in Severe Special Education.  In college I truly enjoyed learning how to create lesson plans, differentiate instruction, how to use augmentative and alternative communication, and work with students in the surrounding school districts.  After graduation I moved back home and accepted a job in a county that had different guidelines, rules, and standards from what I was used to.  Change is always hard to adjust to and it was undoubtedly a tough year, but I learned so much.

2.  Ask yourself “What am I good at?”  Outline your capabilities, skills, and talents.  Do you notice a trend?  Are you computer savvy or do you prefer hands-on activities?  Are you very organized and like structure, or do you prefer to go with the flow?  Do you like to sit at a desk or to move around?

After switching from teaching to event planning, I quickly learned that I do not like sitting behind a desk staring at a computer for 8+ hours a day.  My eyes burned, my back ached, and my butt became flat as a pancake.  As a teacher I had the flexibility to walk around the classroom, engage with my students, take learning outside – the opportunities were endless.

3.  Thinking about your current job, what do you like?  What do you dislike?  Make a T-chart outlining the pros and cons.  Additionally, make a list of the non-negotiables and things that you wouldn’t miss.  Compare the lists.

Things that I liked about my previous jobs: encouraging women to live healthy lives (something that I hope to continue to do), interacting with people who shared similar passions, opportunities to travel, and the growth potential.  Things that I disliked: sitting behind a desk, infrequent face-to-face interaction, being away from my family on the weekends, and minimal instruction.  That said, I have zero regrets about my previous professional experiences and have learned a lot from each experience!

Don't be afraid to change.

Are you lost?  Does your head hurt form all of the thinking?  Are your eyes crossed from all of the lists?  Here are a few key tips for having a successful career change…

- Connections.  Nowadays a lot of people rely on technology to communicate but studies have proven that face-to-face communication is undoubtedly the most affective.

When I decided to go back to teaching, the first thing that I did was reactivate my substitute status.  Substitute teaching is not a glamorous job and the work can be inconsistent, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door.  Schools tend to rely on the same substitutes regardless of grade so once you’re “in,” you’re in. 

- Volunteer.  Look into volunteer opportunities.  There’s a good chance that you’ll meet current professionals who could be great future references.

Schools are always looking for volunteers.  From helping kids in the cafeteria, to organizing books in the library, and even after school activities, schools always need a few extra hands.  The work is unpaid, but one perk that doesn’t come with subbing is the chance to interact with parents.  Parents can provide insight that teachers and administrators can’t.

- Network.  Talk to as many people as possible about your dream of changing careers and tell them about your goals.

I contacted my former principal and told her about my decision to return to teaching.  She happily met with me and suggested that I contact a handful of local elementary school principals to speak with them about my goals.  Through those meetings I’ve received a steady number of subbing opportunities, as well as the opportunity to interview for a full-time position.

- Resume.  Keep your resume up-to-date.  Always include an objective, add any new certifications or degrees, and update your experiences.

I’m still working towards my Event Management Certificate so I will continue to update that information until I graduate.  When I make a decision about graduate school I will also add that information, plus my expected graduation date.  As for my experiences, I’ve focused primarily on my experiences in the classroom and less on my experiences in the event planning industry.

- Apply.  Apply for jobs.  Even if you think that the job is out of reach, go for it!  The only thing you have to lose is time.  Be sure to tailor your resume to each individual job.  Generic resumes are exactly that, generic and aren’t eye-catching.

This week I started subbing at my old elementary school (where I went for grades K-6!) and there’s a chance that this position may be long-term.  Fingers crossed!

Changing careers is a big decision and there’s a lot to consider, but don’t be scared.  Take a leap of faith and pursue your passions.  It takes a courageous, determined, and strong person to make a big decision such as changing careers and it can be overwhelming, but if you’re chasing a dream it’ll be worth it in the long term.

Question:  If money was non-existent, what would be your dream job?

Question:  What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who wants to change careers?

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Whether you’re seeking further success in your current role or a new opportunity, Kaplan University can help you prepare for the exciting possibilities ahead.*

As an accredited university built on more than 75 years of experience, † Kaplan University offers a wide range of career-focused programs designed to develop the skills and knowledge leading employers seek. Our focus: to offer you the most direct educational path to achieve your goals. Are you ready for a change?  Learn more at kaplanuniversity.edu.

* Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.

† Kaplan University is regionally accredited. Please visit http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/about/accreditation-licensing.aspx for additional information about institutional and programmatic accreditation.

— Allison

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Whatcha Think?

  1. These are some great tips, girl, and I am very excited to see where this job switch takes you :) I wish I knew what I wanted to do with my life; I love writing, running, working with kids, learning, reading, and helping people…but I don’t think teaching is for me (right now anyway)…so we shall see where life takes me. I like where I’m at for now, and when the time comes for me to find something new, I like to think that I’ll be shown where to go next!

    • Thanks Caitlin! I truly believe that anyone can do whatever they want, as long as they have the passion and strength to follow-through. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s definitely worth it!

  2. Definitely some great tips here, lady! I’m in my final year of school, and I’d be lying if I said I had any idea ‘what I want to be when I grow up.’ I’m definitely going to keep these lists in mind so that I can figure out exactly where my passions and skills lie.

    • Well, if you went to grad school I assume that it’s for something that you’re very passionate about? I bet you’ll find success with whatever you decide to do!

  3. Such wonderful advice! Always so good to re-evaluate goals and never stop setting goals! You are so motivated and I think you are an inspiration to many women about leading healthy lives even if that is not your actual profession. I hope your husband is recovering well! Have a nice weekend :)

  4. I admire your courageousness to go for what you want, quit your job when you felt it wasn’t working for you….even if there are unknowns. So many people just stay at jobs they hate and live for the weekend and think that this is life. They don’t realize that if you truly want to do something you CAN make it work!

  5. I honestly think I’d stick to what I’m doing: consulting. Maybe I wouldn’t be a federal consultant…I think I’d be happier in sustainability. But I love helping companies (or individuals) get organized, set their goals, and start achieving them. It is satisfying to feel a part of something bigger.

    • I’ve never considered a consulting job, not saying that I never would, just never have {yet}. I’ve heard more about them in the past year. If you like what you’re doing, there’s no reason to look elsewhere. Do whatever makes you happy!

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