Across the country, teachers are looking for new career opportunities. A survey conducted by the National Education Association revealed that a staggering 55% of educators are considering leaving the field as the profession continues to face unprecedented challenges and demands. These issues, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19, have left many teachers burnt out and with no other choice but to seek other career opportunities.
Leaving a stressful job situation doesn’t mean instant relief, however. Finding a new passion can be daunting in its own right— but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Today, we’re sharing the story of Josh Hostetler, a former teacher who used what he learned as a teacher and applied it to a career creating content in tech. Though he made his career transition nearly a decade ago, many of the lessons are still applicable to today’s teachers hoping to carve a new path.
Experiencing the world of teaching
Before Josh Hostetler was writing content for tech companies, he was a teacher.
As a college student, Hostetler knew that he wanted to make a difference in the world. He didn’t know much about other career options out there, but wanted a career that would enable him to travel and utilized his love of learning. He had always enjoyed being a student and found joy in creating environments where others could enjoy learning. Becoming a teacher was simply the path that made the most sense.
After college, he taught English in Guatemala and Mexico at language schools. When he came back to the US, he continued teaching in Austin, Texas for four years.
During his fourth year of teaching, Hostetler realized that he needed to try something different. While the job was rewarding, there were several aspects to teaching that left him feeling burnt out and yearning for something new.
“I struggled with classroom management,” he explains. “I loved seeing my students learn but disliked and struggled with the classroom management component.”
On top of this, he discovered that multitasking wasn’t his strong suit.
“I’m pretty decent at focusing on one task, but I am terrible at multitasking,” he says. “Teaching requires a lot of multitasking. You need to follow your lesson plan while keeping an eye on Johnny in the back and remembering that Suzy is about to lose it if you don’t finish the story on time. Teaching first grade often felt like it wasn’t taking advantage of my strengths, which was very frustrating.”
Hostetler also felt that if stayed in teaching, administration would be the likely path for advancement, which didn’t excite him.
So, during his last year of teaching, he met with a career coach. Those sessions confirmed what he suspected: he needed to find a new path. He decided to quit in the spring and gave himself the summer to enjoy a carefree summer filled with relaxation filled with numerous Barton Springs visits. When fall came around, he got to work planning his next career move.
Finding a new career after teaching
Deciding to leave your job without having an idea of what’s next can be intimidating. But sometimes, not knowing is what allows you to be open to opportunities and trying new things. For Hostetler, not having his next job lined up meant that he could take the time to develop new skills. He got a job as a deckhand at the Texas Rowing Center to pay the bills and focused his free time doing two things.
First, he worked as an unpaid marketing intern at a marketing agency. He didn’t know much about marketing and thought that it would be a good way to find out.
Second, he worked on honing his writing skills by creating a blog called Amish Hipster. He knew that he wanted to write and assumed that he would be competing with candidates who had writing degrees and experience. To further bolster his future applications, he created a writing sample to share alongside his resume.
Those things prepared him for when he applied to a copywriter position at Aceable, a defensive driving course app where he ended up working for eight years.
“I learned there isn’t a set path for many jobs,” Hostetler says. “Education seemed more straightforward: get this degree, fulfill these job requirements, and here are the prescribed roles that you can grow into. Tech careers are constantly evolving and changing (especially early-stage startups) in response to an evolving and changing tech world, so career pathing can be much more fluid.”
Applying teaching skills to a new career
If you’re leaving the education field, you are probably thinking about how your experiences as a teacher can be used to transition into a new career. Luckily, any other place you go will need the skills that you’ve developed in some shape or form.
Hostetler identified four skills in particular that teachers master in their craft that can be applied elsewhere.
- Leading meetings. “It amazes me how many meetings in the corporate world do not have an agenda. Do you know what teachers do for their lessons? They have objectives—an agenda. This skill can translate to a great project manager or management in general.”
- Teaching things so everyone understands. “Educators are great at recognizing what everyone needs to know and what the learning gaps are. This skill can translate to being a great onboarding specialist, L&D leader, or a helpful teammate when others join your team.”
- Being able to manage conflict. “In my opinion, if you can face a room full of seven-year-olds crying about recess, you can face a room of adults wanting to ‘circle back’. This skill can lead to being a great HR leader or just a good teammate.”
- Getting stuff done. “I have so much respect for teachers. For the most part, they are left on their own to survive for long periods of the day. This skill translates to just having grit to make things happen.”
The moral of the story: Don’t count yourself out of other careers because you think that teaching is a niche job. There are so many transferable skills that can be applied to dozens of other career paths.
Advice for teachers wanting to transition to a different career
If he could go back and change anything about his career change, Hostetler says he wouldn’t.
“I’m happy with how it happened. I probably should have planned it out better, but it all worked out. And I worry that if I had made having a plan a requirement that I would have never taken the leap.”
He did, however, have a few pieces of advice that he’d give teachers— or anyone— looking to make a big career change.
First, try it.
“There’s likely freelance opportunities in roles that you are interested in. That’s an opportunity to get your proverbial toes wet before you make the full switch.”
Next, learn from others.
“Reach out and talk to people in the space to find out more about their work,” he says. “Some people will say no, but some people will say yes.”
Lastly, know that other jobs will have their own problems.
“There is no such thing as a problem-free job,” he notes. “Seek to identify those problems beforehand, and decide if those problems are manageable for you.”
Looking for more inspiring career change stories?
Visit our blog to learn more from people who have taken the leap into a new career.