Your hidden assets

11th November 2005 at 00:00
Should you decide to elave teaching, you will have acquired many skills that will pay dividends in other jobs. Joe Clancy explains

You've been working too hard and are fed up with the way the kids disrupt your lessons. Or maybe you've found that teaching doesn't suit your lifestyle. Whatever your reasons for wanting to quit, it doesn't mean your time spent working in the classroom has been wasted.

Whether you taught for a few months or several years, you will have acquired skills that will set you up for a successful career elsewhere. And employers are realising that former teachers have a lot to offer: communication skills, leadership, initiative, patience and organisation, to name just a few.

As Joelle Cleveland found when she decided on a career change. She discovered that those skills are transferable to the world of business, and she has used them to secure other jobs. First, she became an education officer with an arts charity and, later, an events organiser and marketing administrator with the General Teaching Council.

"People often say teaching is a single career path," she says. "Not so.

There are lots of skills you develop that are useful in all kinds of careers in business, finance, industry, and the public services."

Joelle spent two years teaching art in a challenging south London comprehensive after gaining a degree in history of art from Cambridge. It was long enough to make her realise that a teaching career was not for her.

"I did not like the rigidity of the timetable," she explains. "My motivation is low if I know I am going to be doing the same thing every Wednesday morning. I prefer to work on a project by project basis. It just didn't suit my style of working."

Joelle trained with Teach First, which offers a unique scheme for graduates from top universities. They receive mentoring and recruitment assistance from UK companies. At one brainstorming session, the young teachers identified no fewer than 43 transferable skills.

"These are skills all teachers will have which are transferable into the workplace," she says, "from communication, to planning, and the ability to work under pressure. I felt I was a good communicator in being able to present things for my tutors at Cambridge, but I then had to work out how to communicate in a way an 11-year-old could understand.

"Graduates are often employed for the technical skills they bring to their first job. But, as their career progresses, technical skills become less important than personal skills, which are more important when climbing the managerial ladder.

"As teachers, we were immediately working on our personal skills, on how to manage people and how to organise them. It is a different skills-set which will be increasingly useful elsewhere."

Brett Wigdortz, chief executive of Teach First, agrees.

"If you can successfully lead and communicate with a group of 30 or more pupils," he says,"it is likely you will be able to successfully lead and communicate with anyone in any situation.

"If you can deal with the day to day problems and the ups and downs of pupils in a challenging school, then any other problems will seem easy to deal with.

"Business leaders say they can recruit smart graduates, but what is missing are people who have real presence in a meeting, or who can successfully deal with and recover from difficult situations.

"These are skills that any teacher has in abundance."

Tom Evans is quitting teaching after two years to become a lawyer. He believes the time spent teaching maths to pupils who "sometimes did not want to be there and did not want to listen" will be invaluable in his new career.

"I enjoy teaching but I've always had an interest in legal matters. My degree was in maths and philosophy and I wanted to use them both. Law gives me more options.

"I am so glad I did those two years as a teacher. I acquired all kinds of skills in organisation, presentation and teamwork that I could never have got in any other context. As a teacher you are modelling behaviour that you expect of others so you have to show respect and earn the respect of your clients, the pupils, and your colleagues."

David Kampfner, who runs the arts education charity SS Robin berthed in Canary Wharf, east London, is used to employing former teachers to run its museum. "We seem to be attracting a lot of young teachers who are looking to develop and transfer skills outside the classroom," he said.


Adaptability No matter how well planned,lessons can and do go wrong. You must think on your feet.

Communication No audience in a boardroom, courtroom or conference hall is likely to be as difficult as the class you've faced daily.

Humility Training and professional development means you are always learning. Employers like people who don't know the answer to everything.Humour If you can't laugh at a bad situation when you first start in the classroom, you quickly learn to. A sense of humour is vital in dealing with clients.

Leadership. Every day you lead classes of 30 or more children. If you can handle them, you can handle anyone.

Mentoring You issue praise, punish, and solve problems every day. In any workplace, you will be mindful of the needs of others.

Organisation Knowledge is essential to impart something useful, but unless you can mark, prepare and meet deadlines - for yourself and your pupils - effective learning won't happen.

Patience If a class of pupils acting disruptively doesn't break you, the chances are nothing will.

Resilience When things go wrong in the classroom you have to bounce back and get on with it. People are relying on you.

Teamwork Part and parcel of the job, whether with your class, subject teams or other colleagues.

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