When I recently asked some clients what they saw as the biggest obstacle to transitioning out of the classroom, I heard the same answer over and over again: 

“Too many years teaching & so no one wants to touch me with a 10 foot pole…”

“Figuring out what I can do”

“Transferable skills, unsure of what field to branch into”

“Finding another job with my degree” 

“Confidence in my skills”

“Highlighting my skills as a teacher in a way that is appealing to other fields”

Educators who are ready to move on are unsure of what role and field to move into. But when I probe further, what I hear is that the issue is beneath the surface. Every one of my clients has career dreams. They just can’t bring them to the surface yet because they feel stuck, pigeon-holed, and doomed to be seen in the marketplace as forever a teacher. 

You can start building a vision for yourself outside of the classroom by identifying all of the things you’ve done and translating those into broader, less-teacher-y language. 

To do this, I use a three-step process. 

Step 1: List Every Single Activity You Did At Work 

Yes. I mean every last one. Even lunch duty. 

Look back at your calendar, or just think back to what you do in a typical day or typical week at work. For educators, the school year has various foci at different points in the year (kicking off a new year and test prep are very different!), so consider every part of the school year. Don’t forget any clubs or committees you have been on. Any professional development you’ve led or participated in. Any professional presentations you’ve delivered. Any special one-on-one or small-group work you’ve done with students. Every last responsibility and task you complete as a part of the job should be on this list. 

  • Lunch duty
  • Unit planning
  • Lesson planning
  • Lecture 
  • Diffierentiated instruction
  • One-on-one tutoring 
  • Step Team coach 
  • Started a Big Brother, Big Sister club 
  • Grading essays
  • Creating assessments/assessment design 
  • PLC leader 
  • Data analysis of student assessment data 
  • Action Research
  • Parent-teacher conference 
  • Parent communication 
  • Researching/learning about new teaching strategies
  • Attending or presenting at conferences 

You’re a teacher. This list is probably LONG. Much longer than this snippet. Think too of where you can break down larger, more complex activities into their smaller parts. 

Step 2: Zoom Out! 

The next step is to zoom out. How can you re-label these activities to translate more broadly into the kinds of skills you think employers want in the modern workplace? Hint: if you get stuck at this part, look at job postings on Indeed or LinkedIn for dream jobs and look at how they articulate the kinds of skills, knowledge, and abilities they are looking for. 

  • Lunch duty Interdepartmental collaboration, risk management and problem solving, management and supervision 
  • Unit planning Project and program management, internal communication, risk management and problem solving, interdepartmental collaboration 
  • Lesson planning Project and program management, internal communication, risk management and problem solving, interdepartmental collaboration 
  • Lecture Internal communication, oral communication
  • Differentiated instruction Risk management and problem solving, negotiation
  • One-on-one tutoring Stakeholder outreach, general outreach, and engagement
  • Step Team coach, Project and program management, negotiation, management and supervision 
  • Started a Big Brother, Big Sister club Project and program management, community engagement, stakeholder outreach
  • Grading essays Research and analysis, project and program management, internal communication, delivering feedback
  • Creating assessments/assessment design Project and program management, interdepartmental collaboration 
  • PLC leader Internal communication, team and personnel management, project and program management, interdepartmental communication 
  • Data analysis of student assessment data External communication, relationship management, project and program management
  • Action Research Research and analysis, data analysis, study design, risk management and problem-solving 
  • Parent-teacher conference External communication, relationship management, stakeholder outreach, general outreach, and engagement, delivering feedback, diplomacy, negotiation 
  • Parent communication External communication, relationship management, delivering feedback, diplomacy stakeholder outreach, general outreach, and engagement
  • Researching/learning about new teaching strategies Research and analysis, professional development
  • Attending or presenting at conferences External communication, stakeholder outreach, general outreach, and engagement
  • Report cards Internal communication,  stakeholder outreach, general outreach, and engagement, delivering feedback 

I’ve focused here in my translation on the broadest set of skills that are relevant across industries. You may be able to translate what you’ve done into a set of skills that relates to the particular industry in which you have interest. 

Step 3: Identity Which Skills the Employer From Your Target Job Wants To Have For The Role

For this step, you can take one of two approaches. If you already know what job(s) you want to apply for, look at the overlap between these skills you’ve listed and translated and what the job posting is asking for. If you don’t, look over the list and brainstorm a list of possible fields and roles that these might mean you’re prepared for. This is where Indeed and LinkedIn can be your friend. Do a bit of exploring, and don’t limit your vision too much. Take some chances and read job descriptions for roles you have interest in but either don’t know much about or don’t have confidence. 

And since I know that most teachers are female-identified, I want to highlight the statistic that men apply for jobs when they only have 60% of the qualifications while women apply only when they have 100%. I want you to think “more like a man” if that means that you will cast a broader net and refrain from limiting yourself and your future! 

Step 4: Cross-walk Job Postings and Your List And Check Alignment 

Look now for where there is alignment and where there is divergence. 

Is it in what you’ve actually done? Are there gaps with your experience and skills and what they want you to be able to do? 

Or is it just the language or terminology being used to describe those things? 

For example, maybe the job posting wants an Agile Product Owner, and a major job function is “defining Stories and prioritizing the Team Backlog to streamline the execution of program priorities.”

You might think, well I have no experience doing that. But once you dig further, you will find that defining Stories just means determining the smallest unit of work needed in the development of a particular product. Teachers develop products all the time. You may have led the development of a virtual learning space for students, for example. How did you chunk that larger product into smaller bits and pieces (in other words, define Stories)? 

Well what about “prioritizing the Team Backlog to streamline the execution of program priorities”? If we are talking about the development of a virtual learning space for students, our earlier example, this just means deciding what needs to be done first, who needs to be involved in the different parts of that work, to achieve the most important goals of the larger project. 

So as you can see, this involves a bit of research and a bit of translation. It also requires that you think broadly and flexibility about what you’ve done. 

And here’s why attention to terminology matters beyond building your confidence with regard to your qualifications: so many companies today use software to screen your application package including your resume to look for the key terms they use to describe the work they do. Without using the right terminology, you won’t make it to the hiring manager’s desk, even if you have the skills, knowledge and abilities to get the job done. So use the language of the industry, even if it feels weird! 

Finally, fill in any gaps. If the job posting calls for something you don’t have on your list, think about volunteer experience, professional activities, or even just personal endeavors that you can list and speak to the entirety of what the job posting is asking for. 

If you don’t have something and really can’t dredge up any evidence of those skills and knowledge and abilities from you experience, consider taking a class on a platform like Udemy or LinkedIn Learning. There are so many ways to strengthen your job application without financial investment — just investment of your time and energy.