Teachers develop skills for other careers

Dear Joan:
What alternate careers could you establish for an elementary education teacher? What would be alternatives without retraining?

Some skills possessed by most primary teachers are very high organization sills, management of aides and helpers, creativity, report and planning skills and rapport with parents using conference skills. What could these skills transfer to?

You are already on the right track. The first step is to break down the job skills you currently have into generic pieces. You might expand your list to include negotiation skills, conflict resolution, writing, persuasive speaking, coaching and counseling skills. I'm sure you will think of the others.

As a former teacher myself, I know how useful all those classroom experiences are in preparing you for other careers. However, most business people need convincing that those skills can transfer.

They will also want proof that you did all those things exceedingly well and that you are adaptable to a business environment.

You will also have to overcome the perception that teachers know little about business and are unused to being competitive and achievement oriented. There is also a belief - valid or not - that many teachers don't know what they want; they just know they don't want to be teachers. All additional perception is that teachers don't know how to work with adults.

Now that you know some of the barriers, you have to decide whether you're fully committed to changing careers. This probably won't be easy, so you better decide now, before you waste a lot of time.

Only if you are truly tenacious and committed are you likely to succeed. The job market is filled with experienced people who have been laid off and with whom you'll be competing.

If you are unshakable in your goal, I'm convinced you'll reach it. In fact, it's the only factor I've seen that makes the difference between those who make it and those who don't.

You're about to begin an interesting journey into the world of work. I can't give you fast answers and a career path but I can point you to the yellow brick road. You'll figure out the rest as you go...

Now, back to your lists. Carefully examine your job and all past jobs and divide a piece of paper into three columns: strengths; weaknesses (and things I don't like to do); and accomplishments.

Once these lists are completed, put together a resume. Don't worry too much about getting it perfect. That will come later. But do include accomplishments, not just responsibilities.

Now you're ready for the most important list. This is your list of contacts. Start with friends and relatives, neighbors, doctors, church members - anyone who works. You will use this list to answer the questions; What can my skills transfer to?

Call people on this list and ask them to meet you for a cup of coffee to take a look at your resume and to give you advice. Most people love to give advice and they love talking about their work even more. Ask them how they got to where they are and what an average day is like. Ask them about the skills they use. In short, ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening.

They will ask you what you're good at and what you want to do, so have your lists ready. If you can identify any common threads that run through past jobs, have those ready. Ask them where your skills might transfer. When they mention a specific job title, ask about it and get the names of any friends or colleagues that person knows in that field. Make sure that you never leave a meeting like this without at least two names and permission to use that person as a referral.

Call the person to whom you're referred and say, "Charlie Thompson suggested that I give you a call. I'm in the process of a career change and I'm exploring fields where my skills can transfer. He suggested that my skills are an excellent match for public relations work (for example). Would you have a few minutes to let me buy you a cup of coffee or lunch and seek your advice? I'm very interested in learning more about what you do."

What I've just described is an informational interview. It is a common occurrence in the business world and a step you must take to learn about jobs, write a business-related resume and meet the people who can hire you. Many first-time career changers are hesitant to call a perfect stranger to impose on his time, but I assure you you'll get a yes more often than you'll get a no.

In this interview, it's not appropriate to ask for a job. Instead, ask them to describe the results for which they are accountable. This will help you later when you're trying to put together a results-oriented resume. Ask them for the business jargon that explains what you have done in your past job. For example you will soon learn that teacher translates to "trainer" and what you call teaching is "facilitating."

Don't ignore your hobbies and volunteer activities as potential sources of new career opportunities. In fact, you may be able to list some of them as work experience on your resume. For example, if you designed and implemented an advertising campaign that was successful in helping your professional organization reach a goal, that would be very important to mention on a personnel, marketing, or public relations resume.

If you find the field you know is right for you but are repeatedly told, "You don't have any job experience," you will have to be creative about getting that needed experience. Perhaps you can do a summer project on a consulting basis for a small-business owner you know.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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