Before I became a teacher, I think I considered almost every career 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 others who had jobs often 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. To be honest, after a great deal of thought I don’t think I’d be very good at it. But if you already discarded the idea as you research new careers, maybe you should rethink it.

Further reading:

  • 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 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.

One aspect of my writing work involves résumé writing, mostly for teachers looking for teaching jobs. But I’ve also done several résumés for job seekers looking to change careers.
If you’re looking for a new field, you may be tempted to re-write your résumé in a functional format, to highlight the skills you developed as a teacher. However, I don’t recommend the functional format. A solid work history is a tremendous asset, but it could easily get lost in a functional résumé. I have read that recruiters also view functional résumés with suspicion, because they can be used to mask a spotty employment history.
So, what to do? I have used a highlight or summary section at the very top of the résumé for all the job seekers I’ve worked with. I think this feature would be especially useful for career changers who have a strong work history. This section allows you to give special attention to the skills you have which can be transferred to a new field. For example, the ability to manage others, knowledge of computer hardware and software, and organizational skills are often sought by recruiters and hiring managers.
Here’s the summary section from my own résumé. Most of the work I’ve looked for has been in educational publishing so I still emphasize my teaching background while addressing important non-teaching skills. I also spent my entire teaching career in the same school system, and since that is an asset I wanted to make sure it got the attention it deserved.

When you apply for jobs, it’s worth the time to tailor your résumé to the specific position you seek. However, that can be done easily in your summary section. On my résumé, the line Professional educator seeks position integrating research, writing skills and teaching expertise has been modified often- I’ve applied for curriculum writing jobs, fact checking jobs and freelance educational publishing work.
I recommend Expert Résumés for Career Changers, and I refer to it often, when updating my own résumé and when writing résumés for clients. It has a lot of great samples of résumés, representing people from a wide variety of fields, with a lot of great tips too. If you’re hoping to be in a new career by the start of the next school year, now is a great time to begin evaluating and revamping your résumé.

Even though Christmas isn’t here yet, you may already be thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. Getting a new job, or transitioning to a new career altogether, is a popular resolution. But, like with most resolutions, you may be unsure where to begin.

If you’ve found your way here, you’re a teacher or have a background in education and you’re interested in a career change. Since there are still several months before the end of the school year, you have a good chunk of time ahead of you. But it’s important to use the time effectively.

You may already have an idea of what you want to do…or maybe you don’t. If you’re up for a little reading during your well-deserved Christmas vacation, here are a couple of great books to check out.

  • I am a big fan of What Color is Your Parachute? Its status as a career-searching classic is well-deserved. It’s updated annually, which is great, because we all know how quickly the current career landscape changes. Though I am a big proponent of public libraries, I think owning this book is preferable, so you can highlight, take notes and have it on hand as a reference. There is also a workbook, which is full of exercises to help you pinpoint your next career moves.
  • When I graduated college back in the mid-Nineties, I came across Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type in my local bookstore.  I purchased it after flipping through it. It’s been updated since, the last time in 2007. Because this book is more focused on you and helping you identify your personality type, it doesn’t need updating as frequently as What Color is Your Parachute? In addition to the exercises, which can tell you a lot about yourself, the book contains profiles of people which are really engaging and fun to read.

Changing careers involves actions, so you’ll have to do a lot more than reading. But I’ve learned that reading books can be a great place to start. You’ll learn about yourself, and about the process, and hopefully build more confidence that will help you make this change.