Careers Beyond School Teaching

Educators who feel burnt out, unappreciated or who are considering retirement or raising a family may be thinking about restructuring their career. What opportunities await them in the world outside teaching? How can they make the transition to a new career? This article is a summary of a presentation given by Dr Linda Vining at the School Education Expo in Adelaide.

In South Australia the name Wundersitz is associated with real estate, but scratch the surface and you’ll find that Janet Wundersitz is a former teacher. At the age of 48 she left the education profession, retrained as a real estate agent and joined her husband in his real estate business. Today she runs a multi-million dollar operation in property management.

In the Northern Territory, Diane Wilkowski is leaving education to become a marriage celebrant. It’s no surprise that after 30 years in schools her first customers will be former students who are getting married.

Parenting magazine Sydney’s Child was started by Gillian Hund, a former special education teacher who set up an independent publishing business in her home when her children were young. She went out and bought a phone/fax machine and a filing cabinet and did the layout work on her kitchen table. As things expanded she moved into her garage, then as the business flourished her husband left his job to join the successful company. Today there are 6 Child magazines (in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney) with an annual turnover of $6 million dollars.

Teachers are creative creatures. I run into former teachers everywhere I go and hear stories of how they have converted their school-fired talents into satisfying post-school careers.

Last time I talked with Colin Murray, a retired principal, he was on his way to Dubai to run a training course in leadership. He travels the world as a senior consultant to the mining industry, designing and delivering courses on leadership, change management, team building and conflict resolution. He says he has transferred the skills he used as an educational leader to his post-school life, including an understanding of the importance of preparation and forethought.

By 2040 the over 60s will make up 25 percent of the national population, but many retiring baby boomers are still feeling effective, motivated and ready to go - they are a human capital resource that is just waiting to re-engage.

But, not all baby boomers want to carry on at full speed. Alan Peucher, founding principal of Mawson Lakes Primary School, is an example of what the social commentator Bernard Salt labels “portfolio retirement” - a lifestyle that combines work, golf, volunteering and family time.

When Alan announced his retirement last year, Delfin Lend Lease quickly seized the chance to add him to their team of urban developers. They were particularly impressed by the way he can synthesize information, undertake community audits and write a jolly good report. “The skills I applied to building infrastructure and community relations for schools are valued in business. And I also come with a huge range of contacts,” said Alan.

As the director of the School Education Expo, I am a former teacher who was always involved in community relations at school. When I left to raise a family, I established the Centre for Marketing Schools so I could work at home. Today CMS is an international business that runs courses, expos and conferences. My sensitivity to educational culture, coupled with postgraduate study on marketing, catapulted me into a career in school marketing that I love.

Marketable skills of educators

Educators are a highly educated and highly skilled demographic who often underestimate their value to the workforce.

After a few years on the job, most educators are equipped with good organisational skills, communication know-how, time management awareness, leadership experience and research skills. They are used to problem solving, teamwork and conflict management. Many are competent report writers.

Generally, teachers are patient, good at solving problems, able goal setters and willing team players. These skills are all highly sought in the business world.

Making the transition

The range of jobs for former teachers is enormously diverse and there are many opportunities to explore. You can:
Look for jobs advertised in career lift outs in newspapers and online.

Become a consultant. See my online article Becoming a Home Based Consultant at
Create a job for yourself by setting up your own small business.

Join another person in their business.
Buy into a franchise where a business model is already established.

The best way to start a new job is from a position of employment, so while you have a job, take time to research the employment scene and dip your toe in the water.

Start by identifying ways to align your interests with your work. For example, Tegan Whalan is a trained teacher and a dog lover. As the coordinator of the Delta Dog Safety Program she goes into schools and teaches children how to relate to dogs. She says it’s a very fulfilling combination of profession and passion for her.

A new career structure may need new qualifications, so explore extensively the options open to you. Mary Dover was a teacher deeply committed to the pastoral care of her students, but the stress of dealing with troubled teenagers wore her down, so she decided to study for a certificate in aged care at TAFE. She says her new career in aged care suits her perfectly. “Older people have their own set of problems but they are not as arrogant or insolent as young people and much more appreciative of kindness,” says Mary.

Think about a careers coach to help you prepare for a new job by assisting with resume writing and interview skills. An investment in a careers search company can be of benefit also.

Above all, develop a sense of confidence that you as a teacher have a lot of valuable skills to build upon. Don’t be afraid to try something new and don’t feel guilty about deserting the teaching profession. Typically, educators tend to stay in their profession for decades. In the corporate world, people change jobs every 3 to 4 years. No matter what your age it is never too late to try something new.

About the author

Dr Linda Vining was the founder of the Centre for Marketing Schools
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