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What Career Transitions for Educators Can Look Like

May 17, 2023

Most often, we have found that teachers go into education because of their love for teaching and working with the students. Instead, they are often faced with poor leadership, a lack of freedom in how they teach, large overwhelming classrooms with too many individual needs, long hours, low pay, and unsupportive parents.

While most of the teachers we work with have been in their career for over seven years, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of sadness that comes with choosing to leave education.

We have found at Inner Compass Coach, working with educators has a twofold approach: supporting them with the emotional and the logistical aspects of changing careers. We have to help with the grief and loss of changing careers and assist with identifying career possibilities for their next move.

The Emotional Aspects of Changing Careers As An Educator

We often talk to our teachers and administrators about the grieving process and encourage them to feel and process their feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, and more as they work on identifying their career direction.

After all, many educators went into the profession for the love of teaching, their students, and wanting to make a difference. There's a lot of disappointment when they realize their career wasn't what they thought it should be.

The act of changing careers for most educators mirrors the experience of losing a loved one. Similar to the stages of Grief and Loss initially presented by famous psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, we've observed five distinct stages when educators decide to leave the profession.

Denial: Initially, there is denial when our educators see signs they should leave education, which is why when we talk to them, they've often been contemplating change for several years. They might have signs they need a change, but they will deny them, thinking they will go away, only to find that their denial makes things worse.

Anger: There's also the anger stage of leaving education- anger at the broken system, poor leadership, lack of support, and more. Our clients will often bring home a lot of stress and frustration from the job if they don't feel and process the anger.

Bargaining: There's also a bargaining stage where we will notice educators will debate if they want to remain in education for several more years, or make a change. They will say things like, "I'll make it through (fill in the blank), then make the change" or "I'll give it another year or two to see if it gets better." Often they will find that when they push off their change, things only get worse and they regret not working toward a career change sooner.

Depression: While we don't see this stage as prevalent for many of our clients, occasionally we have heard a client say to us, "I needed to take FMLA because my health was being negatively affected by the job." or "I was getting physical symptoms from the stress of the job such as migraines."

Acceptance: Most of our clients will come to us when they've hit the acceptance stage, where they have accepted that they want to explore changing their situation and want to make a change.

Sometimes we find clients will waiver between the different stages while working with us and still need support while processing their grief.

For example, a client might find themselves angry after a work conflict and need to talk it through. Another example might be when a client bargains leaving the profession when they start researching options outside their field because they feel intimidated about leaving education. They might need support and encouragement from their coach to keep going and giving themselves permission to explore options outside education.

Ultimately, we find a majority of clients end of leaving the profession and find meaningful careers that provide them better leadership, more freedom and autonomy, better work-life balance, better pay, and more appreciation for their work.

Below are some common examples of pivots and changes that we've seen or educators pursue.

Common Pivots and Changes for Educators

Training and development: If the educator truly loves teaching, this is a position where the individual works mostly commonly in the Human Resources Department to assist with the training and onboarding of new employees. We have also seen our clients work for companies that offer training and development for the different products or services they offer.

Instructional design: If our educators enjoyed designing curriculum during their teaching career, this is a popular path for those who can see themselves designing curriculum for various businesses, testing it, and figuring out what methods and tools will help the business with their training goals or the learner with their learning goals.

Project or program manager: For our educators who enjoyed both the creative and leadership aspects of their career, project and program management allows them to plan and execute all aspects of a project or program. This allows them to use their skills in people management, prioritization, multitasking, and motivating others to work toward a common goal.

Data analytics: If an educator is highly analytical and loves supporting in analyzing information and helping others make strategic decisions, data analytics has been a great career change for many of our educators. It also is the doorway to higher-level leadership and strategic roles.

Educational Consulting: For our teachers who love coaching and mentoring others, we have had had former educators transition into educational consulting, supporting schools and other educational institutions in being more successful.

Other Options: We’ve also seen teachers go into consulting, nutritional coaching, financial planning, real estate, and admissions, just to name a few.

If You're Thinking About Leaving Teaching...

If you are feeling guilty about leaving teaching, remember this: Sadly our educational system is broken, and we haven’t reached our breaking point in this country to demand change. You are not responsible for this. You can be an advocate for change, but you don't have to do it from the inside.

Here’s the thing: If you're burned out, it's hard not to bring your anger, frustration or sadness into the classroom. Moreover, it's not worth the detriment of your health or negatively impacting your family and loved ones.

When you transition into something that is a much better fit, it serves everyone, including yourself, your family, the organization you work for, and the greater good of this planet because your talent and energy are being put to good use.

If you need support during your transition, we'd love to help. We offer individual and group career coaching, so you don't have to navigate your transition alone. Reach out to schedule your complimentary strategy session here, and we can discuss all the possibilities.

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