Life After Layoff: Ten Tips for Teachers to Break into a New Career

Life After Layoff: Ten Tips for Teachers to Break into a New Career

A year of teaching can feel like a reality television show. You’ve got your big personalities, petty squabbles, and occasional meltdowns. You suffer and succeed together. Antagonisms emerge. Relationships grow. And yet, after everything you’ve been through together, eventually someone has to go. Year after year, teachers face the same question: Who’s getting voted off this time?

For those, there is the emotional exit scene. From betrayal to defiance to desperation, teachers suffering at the hand of budget cuts grapple with how they will pick up the pieces of their careers and move on. A quick transition to a new school would be optimal, but widespread budget cuts could make finding a new teaching job more difficult.

If you’ve been furloughed or find yourself among the masses cast off from the profession due to budget cuts, you can recover more quickly and establish yourself as a contender in the job market with these tips. 

1. Reconnect with your hobbies. 

This might be more difficult than you think. We tend to dedicate so much of ourselves to teaching that we lose sight of the things we enjoy. But figuring out your hobbies can be a valuable first step toward a new career. Hobbies relieve stress, boost self-esteem, offer a chance to network, provide insight into your strengths, and can even serve as a springboard for a new business. 

2. Get to know people in other fields. 

Networking has become the job seeker’s most essential tool. If you’re looking to break into a new industry, surround yourself with people who can help you in your transition. Research the field, and send an email to someone in a position that interests you. You’ll be surprised how willing and eager people are to talk about their work. 

3. Do some job-shadowing. 

Teachers are always being reminded of how lucky they are to have “all that time off.” While you’re on a break, other professionals are still working. Use that time to your advantage. Reach out to one of your new contacts and set up a day to shadow him or her on the job. This will help you determine whether the job is right for you and help you grow your network if you decide to pursue that career.

4. Rethink your resume. 

Teachers’ greatest blunder in applying for new jobs is writing their resumes in terms of the classroom instead of the board room. You do amazing things in the classroom every day, but employers won’t understand that until you show them. Stay away from teaching-specific language, use strong action verbs, and translate your skills to how they will apply in your new position.

5. Focus on transferable skills. 

People skills have taken precedence over technical skills in today’s job market, and teachers are experts at cultivating relationships. When writing your new resume, place your greatest emphasis on the soft skills that set you apart as not just an effective employee but an outstanding addition to the team.

6. Learn new skills. 

Transferable skills are great, but you may need to master new skills if your new ideal job is a total departure from what you’ve done in the classroom. Teachers are natural figure-it-outers; use your love of lifelong learning to help you gain the skills necessary to enter into a new field. Instead of investing in a new degree, check out the internet for tutorials, learning marketplaces, and independent course creators for inexpensive access to the knowledge you need.

7. Make your resume a living document. 

Gone are the days of sending a generic resume with every application. With applicant tracking systems standing guard over the coveted first interview, your resume must satisfy specific criteria to gain access to the exclusive circle of interviewees. Scan every job description for keywords and create a custom-matched resume that incorporates the company’s language into your qualifications.  

8. Don’t do it alone. 

Stepping away from your identity as a teacher can be an overwhelming experience. You need people on your side to offer strategic and emotional support as you make this transition. Get your family and friends on board with your decision. Find a Facebook group of like-minded former teachers. If you can afford it, work with a career coach.

9. Consider becoming a “teacherpreneur.” 

Teachers have many unique talents that they take for granted because they come so naturally. Think about your specialty, the thing that you seem to do better than anyone else, that others come to you for when they need help, and see how you can develop it into a business. Chances are, if people you know have a consistent need for your talent, you can create a niche for yourself and market your skill to a wider audience.

10. Take a “bridge job.” 

Times are hard. And though your teaching job may be gone, your financial obligations are not. Don’t be afraid to take a less-than-optimal job to keep you and your family going until you figure out what you want to do (or until another teaching job opens up). As you work this bridge job, look for opportunities to learn new skills that could serve you later as well as insights into what you do not want to do when you move on.

And remember: you are a teacher. You’ve thrived in one of the toughest jobs out there. You have the resourcefulness you need to succeed in any career path you choose. The teaching profession was lucky to have you, and you will be missed.


Life After Layoff: Ten Tips for Teachers to Break into a New Career

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Melisa Ferguson
Melisa is a mom, world language teacher, and self-care enthusiast.
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