Step in a new direction

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
Are you wondering what your next move is? Whatever stage in your career you're at, it helps to take stock. In the first of a four-part series on getting a job, Jenny Bird provides the answers
Are you wondering what your next move is? Whatever stage in your career you're at, it helps to take stock. In the first of a four-part series on getting a job, Jenny Bird provides the answers

Taking time to reflect on your career is a great way of reinforcing strengths, clarifying aims and deciding if now is the right time to move job or school.

Classroom teachers have a fantastic range of skills, including presentation and communication; data collection and management; creating materials; people management; technology expertise and regulatory awareness.

The key is in believing you have great skills, knowing how to present them and being clear about what you want from your career.

Teachers can see the higher potential of their pupils and should apply the same attitude to themselves.

The Cigar model is a practical and easy-to-use framework to help you assess your career.

C Begin by assessing your Current reality. This will set the context from which to start your career assessment. Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers:

- What do I consider to be my three major achievements in recent months?

- What have been my disappointments over the same period?

- What concerns andor challenges have taken most of my recent attention?

- What are the most significant opportunities available to me right now?

- What are the three most valuable insights I have gained from recent feedback from others?

Reflecting on recent achievements and challenges will enable you to clarify what is working well and what isn't. You may discover you have achieved much more than you realised. Or, if you haven't achieved all that you wanted to, perhaps there have been external factors that you had little control over. Maybe your school is going through difficult changes that aren't aligned with your values.

Look at your Ideal career aim. Be clear about what "good" looks like as this will set your intention for future success. Create a compelling vision of where you want to be in 12 months' time. Imagine you have just enjoyed the most professionally rewarding period of your life so far. What has happened? What does success look like to you? What are you doing? How do you feel? What are you most proud of?

Write your bigger picture in the present tense using powerful, vivid words. And think big. Create a vision with three clear outcomes for each stage - short, medium and long-term.

Once you have assessed your current and ideal career you can focus on the Gaps between the two. Ask yourself:

- What are the three most significant gaps between where I am now in my career and what I am, and where I want to be in my ideal career in 12 months' time?

- What are the three areas that would have the greatest impact on my performance if I focused on enhancing them over the next six months?

The gaps can be straightforward, such as acquiring a specific skill. However, sometimes gaps require changes in behaviour, attitudes or beliefs that can be harder to recognise and shift. For example, you may be holding yourself back and need to change this attitude before you can move forward.

Look at current job specs to see what the real gaps are between where you are and where you want to be. What are the buzzwords that are being used in the roles you are aspiring to? Can you match your skills and experience to these? If analysis of inspection data is a requirement, then writing reports on pupils, keeping a register and marking papers are all relevant skills. If the job spec requires a record of innovation, look at any materials you have created and successfully used in the classroom. Have you come up with a new process in your department or the school as a whole?

Always keep an eye on job specs - even if you have no intention of applying for the job. This is a fantastic way of getting ahead in your career. Look at jobs that are one or two steps ahead and identify the skills you don't yet have or need to develop. You will probably find that you have more skills than you realise.

Once you have assessed the gaps, you can then work on a plan of Action to move yourself forward. What are the three things you can do now that will make the biggest difference in achieving your career goals?

If you need to brush up on specific skills then look at local authority resources. If you want to broaden your management skills then mix with people from other teaching organisations - or even from businesses - to get a different perspective. Volunteer to be a staff governor as you will then be sitting on a management committee. Also, look to attend a generic leadership course. So many skills are transferable.

Networking is a great way to develop your career. Speak to as many different people as possible and pick their brains. Teaching is a real cross-discipline profession, so sit on a committee and mix with others to get a different point of view.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone by mixing with senior personnel, preferably those with a positive, energetic, "can-do" stance. Gravitate towards people who are moving up the career ladder. Proactively look for opportunities. What can be gained from the local community?

When defining actions or objectives, it is important to remember to make them specific, measurable, achievable, reviewed and timebound. Use positive language: "I will" instead of "I'll try". It's a good idea to find someone who can hold you accountable; actions publicly stated are far more likely to be achieved.

Make sure you Reinforce or Review the actions you have identified on a regular basis to see how you are getting on and to sustain momentum. Set regular deadlines, review progress and celebrate successes.

Once you have worked through the Cigar model, you will have a solid overview of your career, the gaps to work on and the next move you should take, if any. It will also act as a marker when you next come to assess your career 12 months hence.

Jenny Bird is executive coach at the Full Potential Group. See or info@fullpotentialgroup



- Keep up-to-date with job specs. They are a great way of highlighting potential skills gaps.

- Mix with colleagues from other organisations or those on the promotion ladder.

- Look at the skills you've got and see how they can be applied in more senior roles.

- Keep focused on the bigger picture - see your full potential.

- Network, network, network.


- Hold yourself in a small place by saying: "I'm only a teacher."

- Allow yourself to stay in a position of comfort as this will stifle growth.

- Rely on others to run your career. It is your responsibility to drive your career

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today