Photo by Depositphotos.com
Photo by Depositphotos.com
People often ask me, “What’s the #1 thing you would say about getting started with a new job search?”
My answer is almost always to ask in return, “What do you want to do next in your career?” It’s shocking how few people can answer that simple question. In fact, in my experience, only two in a hundred can tell me without hesitation what they want to do next in their lives.
They are quick to tell me what they don’t want to do…but few people even let themselves consider what they want. Instead, they focus on what they think they can do or what they believe they can have.
If you are at a career crossroads, it is time to let yourself dream of possibilities! Don’t let anything keep you from considering what you want. Likewise, don’t think of settling for what you think you can have or worse, what you might deserve.
I encourage my clients to forget about the “how” of what they want for the time being. Don’t worry about how to make it happen even if you want something that sounds outrageous. Becoming a coach to teachers suffering from burnout sounded outrageous to me a few years ago. At the end of a lot of soul searching, however, I decided that was exactly what I wanted to do. Once I got past worrying about “how” I just started doing it, and I am still going strong.
Not everyone feels comfortable being in front of a camera, so for this case study, Richard has offered written answers to questions that I asked him about the work we did together as we considered the possibility of a new career path. He was experiencing symptoms of teacher burnout when he reached out to me a few months ago. Find answers to questions I asked him as we approached the end of our work together about the benefit of the work we did. He hasn’t yet made his transition out of teaching, but he is definitely moving in the right direction.
(Richard) I have been a teacher for decades, and I was discovering that it was getting harder and harder to get my work done. I actually never believed in burnout, but in talking with Kitty and some others, I started to believe that burnout might, in fact have been the problem. A very long commute and having two small children drained all the enthusiasm and efficiency that I long had for my work. I simply started noticed that I was constantly fatigued and irritable. Furthermore, the school I worked at decided to grow class sizes and increase workload, despite many teachers there already putting in a good 60 hours a week. This kind of life for me started to become unsustainable. I found it hard to be an energetic teacher going at a full sprint for ten months a year. I’ve heard that many people switch careers several times in their lifetimes, but I never thought I would be one of them. So, I contacted Kitty, who specialized in working with teachers, to see what my options were.
Furthermore, the school I worked at decided to grow class sizes and increase workload, despite many teachers there already putting in a good 60 hours a week. This kind of life for me started to become unsustainable. I found it hard to be an energetic teacher going at a full sprint for ten months a year. I’ve heard that many people switch careers several times in their lifetimes, but I never thought I would be one of them. So, I contacted Kitty, who specialized in working with teachers, to see what my options were.
(Richard) I spent most of my time working with Kitty on what might be realistic options for a new career. I started out taking an inventory of myself including my interests, skills, passions, wishes. Kitty’s course has several lengthy questionnaires, which took some time answering but were well worth the effort. Some of what Kitty noticed I already knew about myself.
My fascination with “big picture questions,” for example. Learning that she saw the same things in myself was encouraging for me. It gave me the confidence I needed to look into certain types of fields and not others. Indeed, Kitty provided a wealth of books and internet resources to help my self-exploration. It helped me really start to look hard at what I loved about teaching (and would want to keep in a future career) as well as what I disliked about the profession (and would want to avoid in a new career).
The most exciting thing that I discovered was my interest in questions of meaning and purpose. This led us to discuss the possibility of entering a ministry or chaplaincy. I had long considered this possibility, but what I think I needed to hear was someone else tell me that this really could be something that I did with my life. It wasn’t a “pipe-dream” or a pure fantasy. This led me to look into theology programs, including secular and Buddhist mindfulness training programs. The idea that there were other things I could do actually made my current job a little easier for me too. I felt far less trapped. I think Kitty’s encouragement was invaluable for me to consider that I was freer and more in control of what I did with my life than I was feeling after teaching for so long.
(Richard) I am presently still teaching, but what has been exciting for me is that, once I started to consider a more religious profession, more doors for such a career started to open up for me. I am currently apprenticing with a mindfulness teacher, and I will begin a year-long training and certification program in June to become a mindfulness teacher for adolescents and children. I feel particularly called to this task since I have found that the stresses I experience in my job are equally shared by my students and their parents. I would like to help them all cope better with the pressures that are imposed on us. I don’t know yet what this means for earning a living, but I am excited by the prospect.
(Richard) I think what I most valued from our conversation was Kitty’s encouragement and positive attitude about making changes in my life. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it helps to hear someone give you “permission” to move on, to try something new, to follow your passion or your dream. I think I was waiting for an invitation to make a change and that doing so was what was needed in my life. Such a change, though, is scary, as one is making a leap or taking a risk.
There is no guarantee my plans will ultimately work out, but I was encouraged by all the examples that Kitty shared with me of people who did take the leap and did land safely on the other side. Kitty often said to me that if we can be clear in what we want, the universe will open up opportunities for us. I think this is true insofar as, by making a commitment to investigate a new path for myself, I became aware of a lot of opportunities that were right there in front of me but that I wouldn’t I have noticed had Kitty not encouraged me to look for them. I am grateful for her guidance and encouragement throughout our time working together.
(Richard) Yes, I would recommend Kitty as a coach, especially to those who feel burnt out and stuck in teaching. Teaching is a harder job than I think many realize, especially if one is a committed teacher. Kitty worked for years in education, and she understands what burnout looks like and how to move past it. I found her to possess a wealth of resources – from books to internet sites and businesses to innovators and entrepreneurs in a variety of fields. I would often take note of all these resources to track them down once our conversations were over, and I always found them helpful for giving me new ideas on how to look at my own situation and how to build a new career for myself. I also found Kitty to be extremely encouraging and positive about making good changes in our lives. I found our time working together invaluable, and I would recommend her with great enthusiasm.
When Nicky first approached me, she was ready to make a change in her career. She wasn’t sure what that change should be, however. She had gone back to school after a few years of teaching in high school, and she had earned a Ph.D. in chemistry. Upon graduation, she went back to teaching high school because it felt familiar, and it was “safe.”
After just a few months, she knew she wasn’t going to be happy in the K-12 world long term. She had no clue how to where to start a job search, however. Luckily, her friend, Brooke, was able to tell her about me. I had already been working with Brooke (see her case study above). She referred Nicky to me to get help.
As Nicky points out in the video, having a career coach helped her become more positive in her outlook. When we began our work together, she was feeling pretty down on herself. She lacked the personal and professional confidence that she needed to stretch herself and examine all of the various possibilities that were available to her.
In the end, Nicky left the K-12 world and entered the world of higher education. She is now doing the exact type of work that she said she wanted to be doing when we began our work together.
Nicky also learned about the roller coaster aspect of the job search process. There were a number of peaks and valleys along the way in her individual job search journey. Job search is fraught with complications, and most of them are outside your control. You can go from the elation of feeling you have found the job of dreams to the deflation of learning you came in “second,” and someone else got the job. A competent and experienced career coach can help you manage your expectations during the process.
Nicky’s was not an overnight success story. We started working together in October of 2014, and she didn’t land her new job until the summer of 2016. In the meantime, she turned down at least one concrete offer and took herself out of the running for another opportunity that just didn’t feel like the right “fit.” That takes courage. It also takes confidence and the belief that something better will come along.
Nicky is an example of someone who learned to practice what I refer to as the “3 Ps” of successful job search. She practiced patience and persistence, and she didn’t allow herself to panic…even when she might have wanted to. She decided to take action and change the trajectory of her career. She is now working on a college campus and teaching students who are training to become teachers on how to teach chemistry the right way. This has been a passion of hers for as long as I have known her. To get where she is now, she had to step out of her comfort zone, and she had to take action. She has definitely grown in her confidence in herself, and she continues to work on stretching herself. Congratulations to Nicky on having the patience and persistence to make the change in her life that she wanted. Way to go!
I help burnt-out teachers explore their career alternatives. Sometimes the alternative is simply a transfer from one school or school district to another. Sometimes what is called for is a completely new direction. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is what I want my clients to know. Helping them explore their career alternatives means exploring all of the possibilities that make sense for them. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
For information on how one teacher went from near burnout to a situation where she is not only flourishing but she is sharing with her students what she learned about the importance of managing stress and practicing mindfulness, click here.
To learn more about how you too might go from feeling stressed out and overloaded with your job, contact me. I would really love to help you if I can.
Also, check out my video presentation on the 7 signs of teacher burnout if you aren’t quite sure if you are there yet. Even if you are only experiencing a few of the seven symptoms, you owe it to yourself to consider your career alternatives, don’t you?
Until next time.
I don’t know who you voted for, and at this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s water over the dam. If you are a public school teacher, or you are married to a public school teacher or you are a proud product of our nation’s public schools, buckle up. We are in for a rough ride for the next few years.
Public education has been under siege since 1983 when the Reagan administration dropped the bombshell report, A Nation at Risk on the country.
I started teaching in 1975, and public education had already begun to be questioned before 1983. The media and certain pundits had started to complain (even then) that the public schools in the United States weren’t keeping up with other nations when comparing test scores. Of course, those same members of the media and those same pundits routinely overlooked the fact that post-school segregation, more students from more diverse backgrounds were taking standardized tests like the SAT, and when disaggregated, the U. S wasn’t doing that poorly in comparison after all.
The United States has, until recently, been a place where education was valued, and until about 20 years ago, it was a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that the country needed to invest in public schools so that students could be given an equal opportunity to succeed. The United States, after all, has been the place where anyone could be successful no matter how humble their beginnings. A good education and a willingness to work could lead to a successful career and a better life.
Oh, how things have changed! Today, we have re-segregated our schools as a result of backing off the intention of Brown v. Board of Education. We don’t even fake for “separate but equal” anymore.
In urban areas, schools are neglected to the point that buildings are falling apart, and no one seems to care. Those who are pushing for charters and choice also don’t seem to care that not everyone will have the luxury of school choice…and no one is yet addressing what will happen to those “left behind.”
Given that we now have a President who apparently couldn’t care less about public education given his choice of Education Secretary, it is time for public school teachers to wake up to a new reality.
If there had ever been a year for a teacher to be a one-issue voter with that one issue being education, this would have been it. I suspect, however, that like many people who wanted “change,” many teachers voted for change as well. Like I said, buckle up. We are about to see “change” like we have never seen it before across the board–including in our nation’s schools.
When I talk to them about their interest in my services, teachers tell me pretty much the same thing: “I still love my kids, and if I could just teach without all of the other “stuff,” I would be satisfied to stay. (They often use a more descriptive term than “stuff.” I’ve cleaned it up for a G-rated audience.)
The problem is that the other “stuff” has become a non-negotiable part of the job!
Arbitrary standards that are attached to equally arbitrary test scores which have been linked to teacher evaluations (thanks for nothing, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) have made teaching an untenable proposition for a large number of teachers.
While the economy was crippled due to the economic melt-down of 2008-2009, many of the teachers who started suffering from job burnout long before now stayed put because there weren’t a lot of other jobs available to them. As the economy improves, however, the possibility that there might be other opportunities available to them has created a desire for many teachers to want to at least explore their options.
When teachers contact me, I tell them that I can’t offer them a job. I am not a recruiter. I am a Career Transition and Job Search Coach specializing in working with teachers who are feeling the pain and disillusionment of job burnout and who are ready to explore their professional alternatives.
Here is the thing: Because teachers are well-educated, have a solid work ethic, learn quickly, and are good communicators, they are ideally suited for many other lines of work. They just don’t know it yet! And that is where I can help.
What makes me an expert? I was a teacher and librarian for over three decades. I then went on to become the President of the Virginia Education Association. When I left that job I was burned up…worn out…done.
I couldn’t find the energy or the desire to go back to the classroom although had there been a library for me, I probably would have gone back. What I was offered was a middle school English position which was out of the question for me. I knew I didn’t have the physical stamina. I didn’t have the emotional resilience that I would need to deal with middle schoolers. More importantly, I didn’t have the desire.
I believe that children deserve to have teachers who want to be with them. So, I retired a full six years earlier than I had planned.
Once I made the decision to retire, I felt relief flooding over me. I knew I had made the right decision for me. I took some time off to rest, and I needed a lot of rest.
At the end of six months, I decided it was time to reinvent and retool myself. That was three years ago.
I have established my own business, and I worked with one of the premier career coaches in the country where I received top notch training. I then launched out on my own, specializing in working with teachers who need my help in finding a new career path because their teaching career no longer lights them up or provides the sense of joy and satisfaction they hoped to find when they decided to become a teacher.
So what to do if you are ready for a change? Before we can determine if you need help, you should determine if you are, in fact, suffering from the symptoms of teacher burnout.
Ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered “yes” to any of these seven questions, it might be time to consider making a career move.
Regardless of your current level of job burnout or just general stress, if you are still reading this post, it means you need to consider taking action today to get yourself out of the rut of a job that no longer serves you. You are considering new goals or ridding yourself of a situation that is sucking all of your enjoyment out of life.
If you have questions, thoughts, or suggestions that have worked for you, I hope you will share. My only rule for commenting on this blog is to keep it civil, keep it appropriate and keep on topic.
If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me at http://kittyatcareermakeover.coachesconsole.com or fill out the contact form below:
Until next time.
Thanks to Shutterstock for the photos.
For many teachers, this is the time of year when thoughts turn to whether or not they should sign their contracts for next year. Some feel ambivalent about it and stall making a decision until they feel they don’t have a choice. They reconcile their low-grade unhappiness and general dissatisfaction with teaching as a career as something they can probably tolerate for at least another year. Many secretly hope that something better will come along, and they will make a career move without having to put any real effort into it.
Those kinds of serendipitous moves do happen, of course, and they happen frequently enough that they may seem plausible. For the majority of teachers who are struggling with the question of whether to stay or go, however, if you fail to make a move on your own, you are likely going to drift from year to year until you feel you can’t leave.
Now, please don’t think that I want to encourage teachers to leave the classroom if they are happy doing what they are doing. I believe that every child deserves to have a teacher who wants to be teaching, and teachers who love what they do and thrive on the pressures and demands of teaching should stay put. I would never encourage someone who is happy teaching to explore their professional options outside of teaching. That is not what I am up to at all.
What I do is help those teachers who have decided they don’t want to–or can’t for a garden variety of reasons–stay in the classroom one more year. They are burnt out with teaching, they aren’t enjoying their job anymore, and they just want OUT.
I get calls from teachers in various stages of their career–from 5 years to 20 years–who pretty much tell me the same thing: I love my kids, but I can’t stand all of the other stuff that goes with teaching. (“Stuff” includes the pressure on kids to perform on arbitrary standardized tests; equally arbitrary evaluation systems; paperwork that never ends; and the general lack of respect that is offered teachers across the board in the U.S. today.
I get it because I have been there. For years, I wrestled with the question of whether to stay or go because I was tired of the stagnant salaries and the low level of respect that I felt from everyone involved from my school board members to my President.
I stayed because I wanted to try to make a difference from within the teaching community. It was why I became a local leader in my education association, and it is why I decided to become a National Board Certified Teacher. I am a life-long learner addicted to school, so I earned two Masters degrees and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership. I ultimately ran for and won the position of president of my state teacher’s union, and I fought hard to maintain the status quo because as I took office, the economy crashed and my state’s association lost 5,000 members in the course of a few months.
When it was time to leave my job as president of my union, I could not fathom having the energy or the stamina to go back into the classroom. In spite of the fact that I had not planned an early retirement, I decided that the best decision for me was to go while I had a choice.
After taking a much-needed rest, I reinvented and retooled myself, becoming a Career Transition and Job Search Coach. I specialize in helping teachers who are bored or burnt out and want to make a similar transition into something new. I also work with other mid-career professionals who find themselves at a career crossroads, and I help them figure out what they want to do next. My ultimate aim for each of my clients is that they find work that is perfect for them, no matter what that may be.
While I don’t want to encourage anyone who is happy in their current job to change what they are doing, I also don’t want people to stay in a job that no longer serves them or is making them unhappy. An unhappy teacher is going to make for unhappy kids…and kids deserve teachers who want to be with them. So, my ultimate aim is to provide those who don’t want to stay any longer a viable path out while not feeling guilty about putting their interests above their students’ interest. Martyrdom is not an attractive trait in anyone, and there is no place for it in the classroom.
If you aren’t sure whether you can see yourself teaching for the next 10 to 20 years, you owe it to yourself to at least explore your options. I am providing a free, live workshop this coming Tuesday evening, March 8 at 7:00 p.m. EST. The topic is “Jumpstart your Job Search in 10 ‘Easy’ Steps.” I will cover the 10 things that I believe every job seeker or career changer should know as they undertake the task of changing their job or career. I invite you to join me by registering here. See me Tuesday night and learn what you may not have thought about as you begin to explore your professional alternatives.
You may also download a free report on the 10 things everyone should consider when changing jobs or careers by visiting my website. It is a free report that you may sign up for and receive. It is only 3 pages long, but it provides information you may want to consider.