The teaching profession has been around for centuries and is often viewed as a vocation as much as a profession.
Like many traditional professions, teaching benefits from having a clear career path, good salary, job security and lots of opportunity for career progression. Head teachers earn high salaries and enjoy having community status. They also get involved in many aspects of general education and child welfare.
But despite all this, teaching isn’t right for everyone. If you’re a teacher who’s ready to move on, you need to know how to make that transition successfully.
There’s good news if you're seeking a change because teachers have a lot of career options. In particular, they have many valuable skills to offer education-related organisations, including:
But there are many other choices available if you want to leave education altogether. That’s because training and working has a teacher has enabled you to build a wide range of desirable skills that are very attractive to employers in many sectors and industries.
In addition to your knowledge about student learning and development, you will have developed excellent communication and presentation skills, a high level of creativity and lots of experience resolving difficult emotional, pastoral, practical and logistical situations.
You’ll also be in demand from employers because you’re familiar with working to deadlines, adept at dealing with difficult people (teens and young children are definitely challenging) and able to handle change. (Amongst other things, you often have to cover for other teachers at short notice and respond to changes in curriculum or teaching methods.)
That means you can begin your journey to life outside of school with confidence.
It’s not all about what you want
Before you begin the process of changing your career, it’s good to have an idea of what you want to do next. This enables you to do some research and check your choices are compatible with your career goals, salary expectations and lifestyle preferences.
Then verify you’ve got the skills potential employers are looking for.
If you’re going to succeed in a new career, focus on what the employer needs and on the value you can add. Employers of all kinds are looking for staff who can increase profits, reduce costs and enhance the performance of the organisation. To succeed in changing your career, ensure you can do some – if not all – these things.
Focus on value
And it’s not just commercial organisations that hire on this basis. Employers in the public sector recruitment requirements are very much the same. Spending is often under pressure, so a government organisation needs to get as much bang for its buck as a profit-focused business.
As with any buying decision, it’s far easier for an employer to determine the profitability of someone who is already doing the job at a different company than it is to work out the potential benefit of someone new to the profession.
So that means you need to do more than just tell a story about your background and career (leaving the employer to read between the lines). You have to understand the value you can offer and state it clearly. If you approach your job hunt with the mindset of ‘what value do I offer’, your search and your applications will speak to prospective employers far more clearly. You’ll significantly raise your chances of getting the job.
This may sound hard-nosed but it’s the way employers think. So tell them what you can do for them and they'll be far more likely to notice you and hear what you have to say.
Transitioning out of teaching into other professions
Moving out of a career you’ve trained for and gained experience in isn’t always easy. You’re going from a position in which you have status and security to one where you may have no status and much less security. So while you may crave more regular working hours or just want to get away from working in a school, it’s important to be aware of what you’re leaving behind before you move on.
You'll undoubtedly find it easier to transition into a new career if you move to an education-related role. But that might not be for you. In that case, prepare yourself to do more research and a longer job hunt.
But regardless of what you do next, be sure to identify your transferable skills and good examples of how you gained and used them. These may be hard skills (such as delivering content and managing time) or soft skills (such as inspiring others and building relationships).
Give yourself time to do your research, process what you learn and get your mindset right and you can make the switch into a career that's right for you. If you would like some advice about how to make a successful career transition, fill in the form on this page and a consultant will get in touch with you shortly.
Transitioning into teaching from other professions
Just as moving out of teaching has its challenges, moving into the profession has its difficulties too. Many of these will be overcome via the training you’ll receive but you’ll still need to focus on what you can offer before you switch.
Teachers are always in demand so it’s easy to think the barrier to entry is low. But this is a bad reason to go into the profession. There’s no point training to be a teacher for all the wrong reasons: job security, salary, long summer holidays…
These are the perceived perks but they won’t feel like perks at all if you hate teaching and loathe being surrounded by kids all day. Being a teacher is demanding. The hours are long, there’s lots of administration (marking, lesson prep and so on) and prescribed holiday and working hours. You can’t go on holiday or have a long weekend away in the middle of term, for example.
But there’s more to consider than working hours…
You’re more likely to enjoy your work and progress in your teaching career if you have the skills to perform to a high standard. Although you won’t have the training or all the experience you need to work as a teacher at the outset – after all, that’s where the training comes in – you’ll still need some of the core skills required. Make sure you understand what these are and that they are skills you not only have but enjoy using.
If you’re interested in training and working as a teacher, you’ve probably already done some preliminary research around training opportunities, start dates and financial support while you train.
It’s also likely that you’ve checked job prospects in the area where you want to teach and know what you want to achieve as a teacher. Is being a head teacher part of the plan or are you looking for a steady role as a classroom teacher? Perhaps you’re looking to gain experience before moving into another area of education?
Talk to some teachers to find out what it’s like to do the job. There is often negative press around teaching including some items already mentioned: long hours, difficult kids, red tape, constant changes in curriculum… but there's another side to the story and it’s worth getting that from those who enjoy the job.
Teacher training options (UK)
If you want to train to become a teacher, work out the best way to get that needed training. And if you’ve trained as a teacher but never taught or are returning to teaching after a career break, you can also get support to restart your career. Here are some of the common options available:
Career options and progression for former teachers
If you’ve been a teacher and are returning to work after a break (but don’t want to return to teaching), you have the same opportunities as a teacher who's currently in work. You'll have to overcome the usual issues that come with applying for work after a break. However, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have the same opportunities as anyone else.
If you want to return to teaching after a break, what you do next will depend on your qualifications and how long your break has been. If you need additional training or support to return, you can find out more from the UK government teaching website.
Like any other job-hunter, you need to be clear about what skills you have to offer and what value you can add to the profession or a specific school before you start your search. If you’re not sure, it would be worth getting some help from a career consultant. They will be able to help you identify your options so you can apply for the right roles.
Primary school teachers career progression options
Primary level teachers have different options to teachers in secondary or further education because of their experience of working with young children. They may be well suited to working in pre-school environments.
The role of primary teachers means they have a broad education and are in an especially good position to work with people who need help with literacy and numeracy. Primary teachers are also particularly creative, able to think on their feet and skilled in managing difficult and unexpected situations.
Take some time to think about the specific skills you've gained in your role as a primary or junior teacher. How is it different from the skills that secondary and further education teachers have developed? How are those skills comparable to other teachers? Learn to differentiate yourself but recognise skills you share with others in your profession and this can broaden your options.
How to make a successful transition in or out of teaching
Teaching gives you many skills, from planning and delivering lessons to dealing with difficult students. Look into your options and focus on what employers are looking for. Assess your background and experience to identify what you have to offer. List your best skills and see how they match up to job descriptions for the work you want to do.
Finally, get really clear on what value you can add and how you'll make any company or organisation more profitable. Look at how you can transfer your existing experience into your next career.
Remember that you’ve done a demanding job in a challenging environment, so you can prove that you’re able to work under pressure, as part of a team and on your own initiative too.
Being a teacher gives you lots of options in both the private and public sector. If you balance your own ambitions with the needs of the employer, you can make a successful move into a suitable career in which you can progress.
If you would like some advice about how to make a successful career transition, fill in the form on this page and a consultant will get in touch with you shortly.
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