Career change: Getting it right

If you know that you’re ready to move on from teaching how do you make the right decision about what you do next? Although researching alternative options is often, understandably, where most people start, career change is more likely to be successful if you begin by gaining clarity about what’s important to you and what you want from your work and then look at the alternatives.  

Most career change books such as the classic “What Colour is Your Parachute?” by Richard N Bolles or ”How to get a job you love” by John Lees, are based on this approach which is also the method used by most career change coaches.

You can gain clarity about what’s important to you, by thinking about the areas below. Your answers will give you an acid test against which you can assess any future possibilities.

  • Values: These are what make you tick – the intangibles such as respect, fairness and honesty which are important to you. Think about five people you admire and what you admire about them. What you admire in others is often something you value.   
  • Skills: Think not only about the skills you currently use in teaching but those you use away from work too. Then ask yourself which skills you most enjoy using. Work which gives you the opportunity to use all or some of these will be the most fulfilling. 
  • Strengths: These are likely to be what comes naturally to you. As with skills, people who hone strengths they enjoy playing to are the happiest in their work. “Now, Discover your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O Clifton helps you uncover your “signature strengths”.
  • Achievements: What have you achieved in both your personal and professional life? Don’t think of these only as promotions or prizes. They could be about a moment when you felt daunted by something and did it anyway or overcame a barrier – something that others wouldn’t necessarily even know about but which you know was an achievement for you.
  • Interests: What absorbs you so much that you don’t notice time passing? What interested you earlier in your life? What are the interests with which you may have lost touch?
  • Motivators: Think about when you have felt motivated by your work. What was happening? Being part of a strong team, having influence, feeling secure, the chance to work independently, to use creativity or to be acknowledged are all potential motivators. What makes you feel motivated to work?
  • Ideal organisation: What sector are you attracted to? Would you like to work in a large, medium or small organisation? Or would you prefer self employment? What qualities would your ideal colleagues have? What values would the organisation have? Where would you like to be located?
  • Working patterns: How important is flexible working to you? Do you want to work full time or part time?

Once you’ve looked at all of these areas, talk through the information with someone else to help you to get to the essence of what’s most important to you.

If you have alternative careers in mind you can then rate how good a match they are with what you want. While your next role won’t necessarily give you absolutely everything you want, you will at least be clear about your “must haves” and what you’re prepared to trade off.

Michelle Bayley, CPCC, PCC, Certified Professional Life and Career Coach.