There is no one way to tackle a career change: there are many different ways to prepare yourself for a new profession outside teaching, and you have to take the time to really research the role and plan for how you can attain it.
When searching for alternative jobs for teachers, one of the main difficulties people face is that they just randomly apply for vacancies that they feel only somewhat interested in. This usually leads people to a dead end, for the simple reason that they have not properly taken the time to understand the job they are applying for, and haven’t thought about what they can bring to the role.
In order to find the right path, you need a more strategic approach. It’s crucial that you know exactly what you are embarking upon, and that it is something you have a genuine interest in. There are ample resources - such as careers advice and online help – to support you in the process.
Many of the most successful career changes come from following a hobby. There often is very little retraining involved if you have the talent, know-how and some experience to get you ready for the job.
For many people, career changes are about following a dream they’ve always had but never properly realised. Whether it does stem from a hobby, or if, for example, if you have always dreamed of owning your own business, preparation and market research is the key to smooth-sailing and success.
But career transitioning isn’t always a simple task – it can entail complications, and the input of lots of time and money sometimes too. Saying that, it can often be fairly straightforward, as long as you put the time in and seek all the information you possibly can.
Some jobs don’t require completely new training or entry qualifications, and many tend to require training on the job. Some careers will also accept, and sometimes even provide, distance learning, so that you can train as you work.
Wherever you see yourself in five years' time, it goes without saying that career changes can be daunting. Having a good idea about where to begin your job search and thinking critically about your skill set and the way in which it is presented to employers not only makes the transition easier, but it also ensures that you're certain about making major changes to your professional life.
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Life after Teaching: Start with Small Steps
To get the ball rolling, you can start by identifying the position you’re currently in. Ask yourself what strengths, qualifications and experience you have. Perhaps your current credentials could be applied in ways that will suit new professional roles - this will become clearer as you research new, non-teaching roles. Thinking about your skills acts as great preparation for interviews.
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O*Net OnLine is an excellent website for finding out what different job roles entail and for careers assessment. You can search for careers you are interested in, and then explore the various jobs, along with their general descriptions and activities, that fall under this career category.
You need to build up a clear idea of what it is you want to do. Saying ‘I want something less chaotic’ or ‘I know I want to work in business’ is not enough. By using databases such as O*Net OnLine, and speaking to people who can advise you, you can see the breadth and diversity of careers that are available to ex-teachers.
Think about what makes you stand out, what are your selling points? As an ex-educator you will have a degree, a vast knowledge of your subject area, and many transferable skills which you used to teach and communicate with pupils. So write them down and analyse how they could be put to use in a new and different professional role and work environment.
Recognising both your personal and professional strengths and attributes which you have gained throughout your time as a teacher is the first crucial step to a successful career change. Making a note of your skills and thinking about how they may be transferable to your new career will not only help you to visualise yourself in a new role but also learn how to present your skills to potential employers on your CV and during the interview process.
It’s important to remember what you want to gain from a new career, and how you wish to develop as an individual. Think about what you dislike in your current job – you might gain a whole new perspective on changing careers! This will give you a better idea of what you want in terms of the organisation, personal development, salary and benefits, for example.
You might also find that it's the organisation itself or the exact job role that you don’t like, so a change of scenery or a different teaching position within a similar organisation might be the change you were after.
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Careers after Teaching: No Need to Retrain Straight Away
Career changes can turn your life upside-down, for better or for worse. Take your time and start with the steps above to make sure this is the right move for you. Once you’re sure, you can start exploring the possibilities of retraining and preparing for your new role.
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You can also perform a Myers Briggs Type Indicator, or other similar quizzes, to test your personality and decision-making methods. This can show you what kind of career might suit you, and help you find a job which is tailored to your way of thinking.
You might find that employers will take you on with exactly the credentials you already have. This is more likely to be the case for careers that aren’t too drastically different from your current work, such as taking on another role in the school environment or working in teacher recruitment.
One popular example of leaving the classroom for a new career within education is becoming a tutor. While private tutoring isn't a non-teaching role, it offers an alternative experience to teachers who see the value in one-on-one time with individual pupils outside of the classroom environment.
And while it is incredibly similar to being a teacher, tutors are not legally required to hold any kind of teaching certification. Of course, the more highly qualified you are, the more popular you will be, but as a former teacher, you won't have to worry about any further study in order to realise your career change!
The benefits of leaving teaching full-time for tutoring are what makes the change so rewarding.
One ex-teacher from Buckinghamshire turned to the world of tutoring after she was unable to change her full-time teaching job to a more flexible, part-time one following the birth of her daughter. After starting out in her local area and relying on word-of-mouth to spread the news of her services, she went on to set up a business which helps primary-school pupils prepare for the 11-plus exams required to be granted a place at a grammar school.
This teacher, Sian Goodspeed, is just one example of a certified teacher who has left the education system to develop personally and professionally without the need to gain further qualifications.
If you're a teacher who loves their role as an educator, yet has a classic case of wanderlust, there is always the option of teaching abroad.
There are endless international teaching opportunities available - especially if you're a native English speaker, as the demand for English teaching in East Asia is high.
So, if you've got the travel bug and want to fully immerse yourself in a new culture whilst continuing to exercise your teaching skills, applying for ESL tutoring jobs abroad could be the start of an exciting stage in your career. Don't worry if you're not an English teacher in the UK - all you need to be eligible for a work permit (and visa) in many Far-Eastern countries is a degree and an accredited TEFL qualification. TESOL and CELTA certificates are often also accepted.
It is also common for ex-teachers to want to leave the education sector altogether. Drastic changes can be just as rewarding as smaller ones - and this is what makes the process of rebranding yourself and your skills worth the effort.
Allow yourself the time to adjust to a new career prospect, and to reinvent yourself for the new role so that you can apply your current skills in different ways.
Make sure, as well, that you have really studied the career you plan to move into, whether it's a move into the private sector or staying in the public sector in some capacity. Sometimes when people get bogged down in their current work, it can feel like a dead end and any alternative can seem more appealing.
Career changes often mean going back to square one. Looking at websites such as Prospects can, therefore, give you a good idea of how to get started.
In order to create your dream career, you might have to make some sacrifices. For instance, if you've spent over a decade in teaching jobs and you're looking for a new job in a business, you may have to be prepared to take on an entry-level role and work your way up the company hierarchy, even though your colleagues of the same age will have already had time to develop in their careers.
It might be a bit unnerving to potentially be starting your new career on the same level as recent graduates, but there are always options for gaining relevant experience before you enter your new workplace. Researching training opportunities that will give you a boost in your career before you apply for any jobs is a great way to learn about personal development and career progression in the area you're interested in.
Take a long, hard look at the target job role. Research the day-to-day activities, the nitty-gritty. Is the job as appealing as you originally thought? Is the daily activity and workload what you expected? Does it actually excite you more?
For instance, if you're an ex-primary school or secondary school teacher who is hoping to pursue a career in law, doing plenty of research about what goes on behind-the-scenes of legal cases as well as the responsibilities you will be expected to take on should help you decide where making such a big career move is the right path for you.
Use your network to find out as much as possible before making any drastic moves. Ask people you know, such as friends and colleagues, if they have any insight or information to offer. Read widely, maybe consider speaking with a careers advisor or visiting a careers fair.
For specialised roles where you do need specific training – for example, nursing, law, police, or counselling – you might want to do your research into the types of training available, such as diplomas, certification courses and apprenticeships, including the time it will take and how much it will cost.
Some careers require training which is provided by the government, or on the job by the employer directly. This is worth considering when weighing up factors such as time and money. You might find that you have the time but not the funds, or reversely, that funding isn’t the problem, but you haven’t got enough time to commit to retraining.
Remember, you don’t have to immediately quit one career for the next. You can continue your work, perhaps switching from full-time to part-time, and try to fit and necessary training around your current life. There are also many evening and online training courses available for some professions, so find the best fit for you.
Night courses are an especially good idea if you need to keep your day job. These tend to be available for more vocational and creative courses, such as languages, massage, floristry or electronics, for example, as well as law.
For a teacher looking to kick off their career as a lawyer, night classes are the perfect answer to the work-study dilemma.
As a teacher, you'll be required to have a degree, however, if it isn't in Law, you'll have to take a law conversion course if you want to become a qualified legal expert.
The most common law conversion course is the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), which takes one year to complete on a full-time basis, and two years to complete part-time (which means you can continue teaching while you study!). The GDL is offered by many law schools and universities across the country, so finding a course near you shouldn't be too difficult.
So, finding the time to gain the relevant qualifications is achievable, but the costs associated with career changes can be off-putting. Future lawyers can expect to pay around £10,000 for their GDL certification alone - so how do you fund your course?
Although government funding cannot be accessed by those who already have a degree and a postgraduate qualification, there are other options - it's all about looking in the right places. With plenty of research, you'll find out that lots of law schools offer scholarships and tuition discounts to their students. If this doesn't work out, you can always approach law firms who may be willing to sponsor your study - but be aware that this is rare and shouldn't be relied upon until it is agreed!
But what about careers other than law? Such as human resources management?
Again, such a drastic career change will require retraining - but in HR, you can usually do this on-the-job whilst shadowing another HR officer, meaning that you can leave your teaching career as soon as you find a suitable role.
Since most entry-level HR roles only require GCSE qualifications, as a former teacher, you will be able to enter a new career in HR with a good scope for career progression in the field. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), your personal attributes are as important as your professional experience.
This is where ex-teachers' transferable skills come into play. As someone whose professional experience working with young people has given them fantastic organisational and leadership skills, you will be an attractive candidate to any HR recruiter.
So, once you've landed your first HR job, what's next?
Think about your career goal in HR and research how you could reach it.
Wherever you see yourself in the next five years, gaining more qualifications is always a good idea. For HR, the CIPD offers certificates at a range of levels, so you can choose the one that suits your career aspirations.
Here are the average study times for the various CIPD qualifications:
|Foundation (Equivalent to A-level)||Intermediate (Undergraduate level)||Advanced (Postgraduate level)|
|Diploma (Cover a wide range of subjects)||1 year||18 months-2 years||2-2.5 years|
|Certificate (Learn HR essentials)||9 months||12 months||9-12 months|
|Award (Focus on one subject)||1-6 months||1-6 months||3-6 months|
Like most qualifications in the modern age, you can study for your CIPD diploma, certificate or award in a way that suits you.
Whether this means part-time study, online learning or a combination of several study modes, gaining a CIPD-accredited qualification to further your HR career can fit around your current work experience.
The transition doesn’t have to be immediate. By not jumping straight into a full-on retraining program, you can allow yourself to keep earning and gain experience as you build up to making a change. By giving it time and integrating the career move into your current life, you can ensure that the change is sustainable and that you are truly ready.
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What to do After Teaching: Start adjusting your CV
Retraining for a new career isn’t always a technical process – it can rest heavily on personal preparation and redefining yourself as a professional to help you understand which career profiles would suit you best.
A huge part of this process is looking back at your previous experiences, and at your current role, and start thinking about how you would fit in with the career you wish to move into.
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Appealing to employers and selling yourself for a new job role all starts with your CV. At this stage, your CV will probably heavily reflect your life as a teacher, and you might feel like your work experience isn’t what employers are looking for.
Start by breaking down your CV section by section. Look at your skills – how can you transfer these to the target career role? As a teacher, you will have all sorts of important skills and qualities that will fit well into many careers, such as communication, interpersonal and organization skills.
Are there any elements you could add or change to make your skills applicable to a new career? You can perform a basic skills assessment online to determine this.
Look back at your work experience and identify where you have developed, what you have accomplished, and what skills you have learned. Think about how these experiences have affected you both personally and professionally, and direct the focus to suit the criteria of the target job.
In tutoring jobs and education, there are all sorts of situations that you will find yourself in. The breadth of teaching will demonstrate your flexibility and ability to juggle multiple pressures at once. You will have ample experience of dealing with people of all levels, and of navigating some very difficult situations.
In the workplace, there are always similar patterns of challenges and objectives. Look for evidence of times when you have met certain targets, worked under pressure or handled a difficult situation and think about how you could apply this to the roles which interest you.
Start tailoring your CV, removing anything completely unrelated or irrelevant, and show that your focus is the target career.
This means you might have to be hard on yourself. Picking apart your carefully-constructed teaching CV will be difficult, but it's something you'll have to overcome if you want your job hunt and subsequent career transition to be successful.
No matter how many years of teaching experience you have, applying for a new job outside of the education system can be incredibly daunting - and this is why it's essential to remember to tailor every version of your CV to the specific role you're applying for.
Doing plenty of research on each role and highlighting the areas of your skills and expertise which apply to it on your CV is key to landing an interview.
And remember: your CV should simply act as a taster and invite further questions at an interview - so keep it snappy!
Whether you're simply moving into a different area of the education system, or you're leaving teaching for something entirely different, there is lots to consider and prepare for.
Making sure that you do your research and complete the relevant training courses as well as presenting your personal skillset in a way that makes you an appealing candidate to your prospective employers are key to a smooth and successful transition out of teaching and into a new role.
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