Before I became a teacher, I think I considered almost every possibility in existence at the time. Some, like accounting and everything science-related, had to be discarded immediately because of the training and education requirements. Other professions, like sales, seemed to require skills and personality traits I lacked.
But I had an epiphany after an unusually difficult day at work. I realized I was indeed selling something to my students. It wasn’t the specifics of identifying nouns or verbs, or being able to explain the sequence of events in a story, though those are both important.
I was trying to sell an idea. A dream. My students lived in a neighborhood where most of the residents struggled financially. Many people were out of work, while those who had jobs contended with low pay. People who wanted to get ahead found they could only do so by furthering their education. And without being aware of it, I was attempting to sell the idea of education and accompanying financial prosperity. Maybe if my own training focused more on a sales approach, I would have been more successful. I don’t know, but the experience showed me that teachers who are looking for a new career should at least consider exploring the possibility of a sales career.
Like teachers, salespeople contend with unfortunate negative stereotypes. They’re perceived as trying to make money at the expense of a poor sucker they convince to buy something. But true salespeople know they also have to educate their consumer. They’re not really persuading someone to buy something; they’re providing information, showing their clients the benefits of their product and guiding the client to a well-informed decision. Whether you realize it or not, as a teacher, you’re doing the same thing: providing access to knowledge, helping student see the benefit of education and how what you’re teaching them fits a larger scenario, and helping them learn about themselves so they can make well-informed decisions about their future.
Of course, every teacher will not necessarily make a great salesperson. But if you already discarded the idea as you research new careers, maybe you should rethink it.
- Teachers; the Best Salespeople
- This article has a short snippet about textbook sales, which is the most natural transition for a teacher, but it’s not the only option.
- This thread from Indeed.com covers transitions to pharmaceutical sales, one of the more challenging areas to enter. Though difficult, it’s not impossible, and I’d imagine someone with science teaching credentials would find their background especially well-suited.
You may have read the story of Kelly Blazek, Cleveland’s 2013 “Communicator of the Year” who maintained a job bank for area professionals. She had also cultivated a large network on LinkedIn, which is unsurprising given her specialty of helping people find jobs. Diana Mekota, a young professional relocating to Cleveland, sought out Blazek in the hopes of getting access to the Job Bank’s list of open positions. What she got was a lengthy, snarky smack down which might have her wonder if any nice people lived in Cleveland.
Clearly, there are a few lessons here. The teacher in me still loves lessons.
- Don’t let this story make you rethink joining LinkedIn. It’s still a great way to connect with people, especially if you are trying to get information about a new career. However, you need to think carefully about your approach. This story really underscores the need to put thought into every interaction. It’s so easy to forget there is a real person with real feelings on the other side of the monitor.
- Even though Blazek’s response was incredibly rude (and it may not have been the first time she issued such a response) she may have had a point about the way to reach out to people you don’t know. LinkedIn is not Facebook. On Facebook you can send a friend request to your second grade bestie and assume they will remember your name, unless you were in second grade during the Truman Administration. On LinkedIn, you need to introduce yourself, but also include why you’re reaching out. Focus on what you can do for the other person. Obviously, you want to benefit as well, but emphasize what you’re offering, not seeking.
- There is nothing wrong with creating a template message so you’re not constantly creating something new from scratch every time you reach out to someone. You will need to personalize each message a little, but your strengths and skills and what you can offer to others will remain the same, though you may want to highlight certain skills based on the situation.
- Finally, I understand Diana Mekota’s motivation to share her experience with Kelly Blazek, but I’m also a little uncomfortable with what I see as a trend of using the Internet to bring shame and embarrassment to people. On the one hand, Diana probably spared other young job seekers from humiliation, but I wonder doing so will put her in a bad light. The online comments I read have been supportive of her; will her future employer treat her with kid gloves in fear that any slight will end up on Imgur or Reddit?
- It’s always possible to find opportunity, even when it comes from someone else’s misfortune. A couple of enterprising Millennials have started a new Job Bank for northeast Ohio.
If you want the quickest take-away from this story, here are two words: politeness counts.
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I’ve invested a considerable amount of time looking at online job boards and recently wrote about my favorite. Websites with job listings are almost overwhelmingly free, but you may stumble across one or two sites subscription sites and wonder if spending the money will provide you an advantage. Since everyone has a unique situation, I hesitate to say you should or should not purchase a subscription to a paid site, but I have a few tips to help you decide.
- Fortunately, the Internet allows anyone and everyone to be a reviewer, meaning there’s lot of information to help you make a decision. During my last few months teaching, I came across TheLadders.com, which claimed to have exclusive access to higher-paying jobs for mid-career professionals. It also offered a résumé critiquing service, included with a paid subscription. Even though I’d been writing résumés as a side business for a while, I was tempted to have my own résumé critiqued. I thought it would be good to have another professional perspective on my work. But I decided to do a little research before spending the money, and the time was worth it because hardly anyone had anything good to say about their critiques. In 2013, the site became the subject of a class action lawsuit, which you can read about here. Unearthing this information took me less than five minutes, prevented aggravation and saved money.
- A subscription site should offer more than just job listings. For example, LinkedIn users have to pay to access many of the site’s features, but paying for a subscription also allows you to communicate with other and network online. If you don’t want to pay, there are still plenty of free resources to help you along the path to a new career. Last week I wrote about LinkedIn and why you should create your profile even if you’re not ready to actively look for a new job.
- Telecommuting and work-from-home jobs appeal to many. Niche sites focusing on these positions might be worth the cost because scams abound in work-from-home positions. FlexJobs.comscreens all jobs and only posts legitimate positions, taking a lot of the worry from the equation. The site does not provide you with work, but it does list openings and offers additional resources like skills testing. You are paying for peace of mind, in my opinion, because you are assured that you’re applying to legitimate jobs. Currently, subscriptions begin at $14.95 a month, but searching for “flexjobs promo code” will likely lead you to a code that knocks a few dollars off the cost. I came across SAVE30, which may or may not still be in effect.
Your first choice should always be to utilize free sites. But as I pointed out, there may be an occasion where it’s worth it to invest in a short subscription. Consider it an investment in yourself, which will hopefully pay off in the form of a great new career.
Disclosure: I have no financial relationship with any sites I write about and I have not been asked to promote them. They are simply good-quality sites I like and want to share. If and when I receive compensation of any sort to write about a site I will update accordingly. All product links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you purchase the item.
Creating a LinkedInprofile is an important step in the career-changing process. You probably have some valid concerns about alerting your colleagues to your plans, whether it’s in person or through social media. But it’s possible to create a profile and begin researching new fields without feeling like you’ve rented a billboard to advertise your intentions.
LinkedIn has grown substantially in recent years; the majority of people on the site are not necessarily looking for jobs. They join because it gives them a place to showcase their professional expertise and share that expertise with other people in their field. You may find several current colleagues are already on the site.
I must confess that I’m not making the most of LinkedIn, but I’m trying to incorporate more visits into my routine. Joining groups and following companies in careers fields of interest to you can provide you with helpful information and contacts. You should pay close attention to privacy settings, since those will allow you to use the site freely. When you create your profile, you should keep in mind that you can edit it at any time, so if you aren’t ready to fully execute your career change, it can reflect your current skills and responsibilities.
I’ll be sharing additional tips from my own experience as I go along. In the meantime, here are some additional resources that I found useful:
- This Huffington Post article has great information about using LinkedIn discreetly, describing how you can use the site to research new fields, and later network and find a new position.
- There are some good tips in this article, though visually it’s not very well organized and the writing is choppy. But if you can overlook those elements, you will find basic information on setting up your profile. The article also suggests a professional photo, which I don’t think is absolutely necessary. A good photo of you (not you and your cat, or your dog, or your hamster) should suffice.
- Finally, LinkedIn has its own blog, which is also a great resource, especially once you’ve completed your profile and have gained some proficiency with the site.
I do have one tip to share in closing. Write the sections of your Background profile (which will include the Summary, Experience and Projects) in a word processing document. Having a backup copy will be useful. Also, always think of your profile as a draft, and be looking for ways to improve it. Though I don’t go on the site as often as I should, I almost always make a small improvement or two to my profile when I’m there.
It’s almost impossible to avoid the news about unemployment statistics. The numbers are disheartening for everyone, not just people who are hoping to change careers. However, taking a closer look may generate some optimism for teachers who are looking for new careers. Teachers can’t begin teaching without a bachelor’s degree, so those who choose to enter a new field are at an advantage over those who don’t have a degree. According to this article from June 2013, the unemployment rate for people with bachelor’s degrees hovered around 4 percent, while the unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma came in just above 7 percent.
More recent statistics continue to support the advantage of having a degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released this chart last month, which also revealed a lower unemployment rate for those with a college education.
This news doesn’t change the fact that transitioning to a new career is challenging and often stressful. But if you’re serious about getting into a new field, having a degree should increase your confidence. Knowing how to market yourself and play up the skills you developed in the classroom will help you stand out among the competition. I’m going to continue to share pointers on how to make yourself stand out, where to look for jobs, and how to get ready for interviews.