Many educators looking for alternatives to teaching view the skills they develop in the classroom as so specialised, that they would have to ‘start again at the bottom’ of any alternative career they choose ..
This doesn't need to be the case.
In this post I explain just how many highly transferable skills you have - and how to translate these into well paid alternative employment, outside of the classroom.
I also want to reveal a newly developing opportunity for those with teaching experience .. which might just qualify as the perfect alternative job for a teacher ( that's step 7 .. )
But first let's dive in at #1 .. and it starts with you.
1. Realise How Amazing You Are
I often think that it’s ironic that as teachers, we spend a large amount of our time showing students how to transfer the skills they learn to other areas of their lives ..
.. but we fail to see the transferability of our own skills in nearly the same way.
In fact, the skills we develop in the classroom are some of the most transferable - and valuable - that you can possibly learn.
And on top of possessing some of the most transferable skills that exist, teachers go through a daily test of their abilities - in a way which most other jobs don’t come close to ..
In an office job, you can have a day (or week) when you float a little, taking longer for lunch - watching the clock, and playing on your phone until ‘home time’.
Ask any teacher who tries to take a ‘lazy day’ in the classroom, and they will tell you how impossible the children become when they realise you are not 100% on your game!
The result of this enforced daily practise, is that teachers develop their skills to a much higher level than employees in most other professions.
The first step to finding an enjoyable and well paid alternative to your teaching job, is to start recognising how transferable your classroom skills really are.
2. Recognise the Biggest Barrier in your Way
(It probably isn't what you expect)
Your biggest barrier to finding well paid alternatives to teaching, is NOT a lack of direct experience outside the classroom .. but to help prospective employers to appreciate the depth of your current skills.
Because there is a widespread misunderstanding of the role we do, the level of pressure we work under - and the skills we develop in the process.
Educators looking for alternatives to teaching roles first need to understand the range of transferable skills they have, and recognise the many ways they demonstrate these skills ..
.. as employers outside of education understand little of the complexity (or mastery) of skills required to be effective in a teaching job.
The better you can communicate and 'prove' your skills, the more alternative employment opportunities you will have available .. and the more you will be paid.
To begin doing this, it is useful to take an audit of the skills you have developed in your classroom job.
3. Identify Your Most Valuable Transferable Skills
Teaching is such an all consuming profession, we rarely get the chance to reflect on the skills we are developing, in the mad rush to 'fit everything in'.
If you look objectively at the job you do however, you will find MANY essential skills which highly paid opportunities outside of education look for.
Try these for starters ..
Hard Work and Commitment
There aren’t many professions where employees are expected to work 50+ hour weeks on a regular basis.
It is likely that you have done this for years, with a smile!
Often we work through whole days without very little break, and then stay into the evenings for events like ‘twilight’ training, or parents evenings .. as well as regularly taking considerable amounts of work home.
Most teachers display a quite crazy level of commitment. This is a massively valuable quality to have - and is transferable to every other job you might do.
Most teachers don't realise how hard we work in comparison to other career roles.
Ask any teacher who leaves the profession for another role, and they will tell you that they are regularly told to "slow down" in their new position!
Learning New Skills - Fast
Teachers take our own professional development seriously.
The first thing many employers look for is an ability to new things learn quickly - and while many job advertisements might say they require experience, too many people bring bad habits or a lack of commitment to their own development, into a new job.
This can be a serious disadvantage to an employer.
Your knowledge of the learning process, and commitment to professional development makes you highly ‘trainable’ - and a valuable potential employee.
This skill is often undervalued by employers - until they employ a teacher in a role they were apparently not ‘experienced’ in .. and see how effectively we learn new things.
So far, you're looking good.
But you will need to demonstrate more than hard work and an ability to learn quickly, to get an interview for most well paid alternatives to teaching.
So let’s start to think more widely about the skills you demonstrate in your classroom job .. and how you might leverage them ..
Incredibly Effective Communication Skills
This is often brushed over by teachers, as it comes with the territory ..
.. but there aren’t many other professions which develop communication skills as comprehensively.
How many years have you been 'training' to be as concise and clear as you need to be - so the even class clown can’t make the excuse that he/she doesn’t know what to do?!
Almost every moment we work, we are using advanced communication techniques to lead and control our classrooms. It comes so naturally to many teachers that we simply forget we are using them.
The sharp look, the hand gesture .. the way we read the room and know what each individual needs at each moment.
Your classroom experience has trained you (daily) to communicate extremely effectively, and tune what you say to suit the audience you have in front of you.
This is a massively useful skill - and one which you can demonstrate at interview easily too.
Working Under Pressure - and to tight Deadlines
Modern classrooms require an ability to organise a complex job and work under pressure - often at speed.
When data points are reached, reports are needed, marking needs doing FAST and on SO many other occasions in your classroom job - you have had to work effectively, often under ridiculous pressure!
Like a swan swimming on a lake, most teachers are furiously paddling out of view - while on the surface they glide effortlessly around their classroom .. apparently unruffled by the effort the job requires.
(Ok, you and I know we don’t manage that every day - but neither does anyone else!)
Teaching develops your ability to cope with pressure, and work to targets and deadlines - and EVERY job with a decent salary has moments when these are needed.
Many ‘ordinary’ people don’t have the level of experience you can demonstrate here.
Determination and Resilience
While I don’t like the way the word ‘resilient’ is used as an excuse for creating ever increasing workload expectations ..
.. you have demonstrated resilience in your classroom job.
The skills you develop in dealing positively with difficult students, balancing their needs with the ever changing requirements of management ..
.. and the challenges we face in a classroom which just DON’T happen in a ‘normal’ job, puts you in a select group of people who have experienced extreme pressure.
There are very few careers that hit you as hard as a bad day in school .. and yet, you get up each day and give yourself and your students a fresh chance to try again.
You might not realise how determined and resilient you really are.
Reacting Positively to Change
Most employees in non-teaching jobs don’t cope at all well with change.
It’s one of the things that employers look for in new recruits - as they realise that positive change is a key driver of improvement.
Too many people in employment do everything they can to reduce the workload they have .. and changing their habits is something they will often react badly to as a result.
In my 20 years in the classroom, change is the only constant that I have experienced: course specifications, exam boards, management changes, government requirements (oh, and the students of course!)
Teachers experience all these things and more - and are expected to adapt quickly in a fast changing environment.
This is a difficult thing to do - most employees outside of education don’t deal well with change at all.
Superb People Skills
Teachers have to quickly develop an understanding of what motivates each child (and adult!) they work with.
You regularly have to adapt how you speak and act, to suit each individual you work with and teach. Much of the time this is so natural that you don’t know you are doing it.
Your ability to work with a wide range of people - and read what they need - is rare.
Just because most of the time we are using this skill to find out which of two guilty looking students are lying to us .. or who hid Jonny’s bike behind the Science block - don’t make the mistake of undervaluing this skill.
Most people don’t have it - their jobs don’t demand it - and they never develop it.
ALL management roles of any kind, require this skill .. and where better to learn about people than a school?!
Most teachers don’t feel like leaders - and yet we lead every day.
Just because we lead children - doesn’t make the skill any less valuable.
In fact, the ability to lead a group of young people who don’t necessarily want to be lead by you (and aren’t shy of saying so) - actually makes doing so many times more challenging!
You regularly use advanced motivational language and techniques, rewards, humour, and consequences .. in a way most managers would not be able to do.
In most organisations outside the classroom, this is exactly what employers need from the people managing their teams.
Creative Problem Solving
Teachers are incredibly creative thinkers.
Each lesson you take a dry curriculum and turn it into something which holds the attention of even the most wayward child!
You have to think constantly about creative solutions to the problems the children present you with .. how to teach tricky subjects or skills, and what you can do to re-engage a child or turn a lesson which didn’t work around.
Creative problem solving is a skill you practise every day - it makes you adaptable, flexible and effective.
Who doesn’t want that skill in an employee?
Initiative and Responsibility
If teachers have an idea or plan to get the most from a student, we don’t wait until a manager is knocking on our door to make that change happen .. we take the initiative and make it happen.
As teachers, it can be hard to understand but most people in employment wait until they are told to do something, before actually doing it .. particularly if that something is in addition to their defined job role.
Employers often state ‘must be willing to work under own initiative’ in job adverts, because they are sick of people constantly asking permission to do their jobs!
You naturally have this skill. Not many ‘ordinary’ people do.
Teachers, or those with past classroom experience looking for alternatives to teaching, should start by taking an objective audit of the work they do - the tasks they complete - and the skills these require.
This kind of reflective analysis is the starting point for preparing any kind of application outside of the profession.
You aren't communicating what you have done (as employers don't understand your job well enough) .. instead you want to focus on communicating what you can do.
4. Develop a Different Mindset
It’s a cliche but it’s true, creating positive change in our lives (like improving our employment or income prospects), starts with mindset.
And this is especially the case if your experience has blinkered you to how amazing you really are!
Start seeing yourself NOT as a teacher .. but a possessor of the skills and qualities you display on a regular basis in the classroom.
When you do this, you open yourself up to many more new possibilities.
Lots of teachers I know who look for alternatives to their classroom roles, discount far too many possible opportunities - because they underestimate themselves, or see the skills they have as only applicable to other education based roles.
For further inspiration on the wide range of careers an ex-teacher can succeed in, see my 373 Fresh Alternatives for Teachers Tired of Their Classroom Job blog post.
5. Transfer Your Skills to Your Resume / CV
It can be challenging creating a Resume or CV for a job outside of teaching .. as employers often don’t understand the job we do - and it is necessary to explain things for them so they do.
In most other jobs, it’s easy enough to make a list of the tasks you have had to do.
Often these are familiar to the employer, and the HR representative simply goes through your paperwork, ticking off the experience they require to judge your suitability for the role.
Because most employers don’t understand teaching, or the skills (and mastery) required to be effective .. it is necessary when you prepare a CV/Resume or covering letter to be VERY clear about the skills you have - and the extent to which you use them.
To get an interview - rather than get knocked back because someone else was ‘more experienced than you’ - you will benefit from creating a CV/Resume and covering letter for each job you apply for.
This way when you analyse the requirements of the role, you can do the job of translating your experience into a language which ticks these boxes for the person selecting candidates for interview.
Simply getting a 'professional CV' produced which states the experience you have, and the skills you use in your current job .. often isn’t enough for many employers, who don’t recognise how challenging your job is - or how skilled you have to be to do it well.
This is complicated by the fact that politicians have been bad mouthing education for years - colouring the publics’ perception of teachers.
This is likely to mean that many people seeing your Resume/CV will think ‘they are just a teacher’ .. rather than seeing you as the superstar that you have to be, to be effective in your classroom job.
If you choose to apply for jobs outside of education, aim high - and treat each application with forensic detail .. like we do when planning an observed lesson!
Marry the things the observer (or interviewer) is looking for with what you show them - treat each application with detailed care.
Your goal is to get to interview and a chance to demonstrate these skills in person.
6. Demonstrate These Skills at Interview
When you go to an interview, be aware that the person meeting you, likely won’t understand the work you have done - or the level of mastery you have had to achieve, to be effective.
Take with you examples of the tasks, and experiences you have had which demonstrate the skills the job requires ..
.. and use these as ways to ‘educate’ your interviewer about the experience you have.
Doing this will help you respond to the question "what direct experience of XYZ do you have .. “
.. and help you put your experience and skills in a language which the employer can understand.
Employers outside of education have different ways of screening candidates - and certainly won't ask you to teach a 15 minute lesson!
One of these is personality and psychometric tests, which can be unfamiliar to teachers who haven't seen these before. A good guide so you know what to expect is available here.
7. Consider 'out of the box' alternatives to work
If your goal in looking for a new position is to at least match your current salary, then it will benefit you to start to think outside the box a bit.
For many teachers entrepreneurship is a genuine alternative to their classroom job.
While this might not feel natural to you - consider the following:
Do you ..
- Create rich experiences for young people in your classroom?
- Enjoy coming up with new ways to teach something?
- Use your creativity to experiment and find what works best?
- Take risks and teach your students in a way they don’t expect?
- Adapt what you do based on what works - and what suits each individual you teach?
- Work hard and keep going, even when things get tough?
Then congratulations .. you are an excellent teacher.
You also have demonstrated the skills required of a successful entrepreneur!
Being your own boss is perceived to be risky and expensive - and many traditional businesses you might start, can be.
But there is one relatively new business opportunity that suits someone with your teaching skills down to the ground.
It requires little to no investment, and you can start earning a significant income while you still work your classroom job.
So if you’re a classroom teacher looking for a high paid alternative career .. if you’re on the look out for a side income to add to your teaching salary .. or if you want to use the skills you have to make a bigger impact on the world ..
It might just change the way you think about the skills you have.