After I enrolled in the sixth IDOL courses Academy cohort in January, 2021, I found it difficult to put all of the time and effort that I needed into developing my skills as an IDOL as I juggled my teacher responsibilities. I wondered when and how I would ever find the time to do a serious job search including answering recruiter contacts and interviewing. The thought of another short summer leading to yet another year in the classroom, and putting off my career change, just felt wrong, so I took a giant leap of faith and officially resigned from teaching at the end of May.
My last day working as a teacher was May 24, and on May 25, I woke up early, got myself dressed and ready as if I was going to work (but since I was now working for myself, it was sweats day. Everyday.), and began my new full-time job building my portfolio, revising my resume, and job searching. For me, “Job searching is a full-time job!” was not just a cliche.
As I embarked on the journey, every recruiter contact and every interview I landed felt like I was being shown a new and promising path, though I very soon found out that so many of those paths would lead to a dead end! But how short-sighted I would be to only see and experience the dead end, when the path that got me there had a beautiful view! Throughout the process, I made a conscious decision to always be on the lookout for learning opportunities. As I did this, I developed some personal practices that kept me moving in a forward direction, even when I felt defeated.
Practice #1 Research and Study Yourself
Transitioning from one career to another means you have homework! You have got to analyze the work experience you have and translate it into language that aligns to your desired role. As a transitioning teacher, I found this to be especially challenging, but IDOL courses Academy, being well aware of this challenge, provides a robust resource to set transitioning professionals up for success. The downloadable Resume Writing Guide is loaded with information including links to outside resources. This is a great place to begin to research and study your own experience.
My middle school students would sometimes ask me who my favorite YouTuber was. While I was a job seeker, my favorite YouTuber was Andrew LaCivita, an international career and leadership coach. On his YouTube channel and on his website, he is very generous with his executive advice for all things having to do with the job search.
One thing that Andy (he lets me call him that) said that made an impact in how I approached my journey was “The number 1 reason you don’t get hired is your inability to match your qualifications and skills to what they need at the moment.” This revelation taught me the importance of carefully studying the job description, thinking deeply about the questions I would need to ask in the interview. It also taught me to study my resume up against the job description and figure out how the two align. Then I made sure to speak to that alignment during the interview.
During one online interview I had with a recruiter, he quite bluntly told me that a teacher is not cut out for a corporate role. I was determined to prove this notion wrong, but at the same time, I realized that there was part of me that believed he could be right.
So I did a deeper dive into researching how teacher skills translate to corporate skills. Much has been written on this topic, but one of my favorite articles about this was shared in the IDOL Courses network by one of my fellow teacher-turned-IDOLs. 10 Instructional Designer Traits Teachers Already Have is a great read for a transitioning teacher, like me, who needs some help realizing how her skills transfer.
As I did this research, I realized I had skills I didn’t even know I had! So much of what we do everyday as teachers becomes so automatic, that we don’t ever stop to think about the skill that goes into it, or about how valuable certain skills are outside of the education world. I had a lot of homework to do to get to know myself professionally, and develop the vocabulary to speak about it.
Practice #2 Keep a Journal
I know. I know. As if you don’t already have enough to do! But writing all about my journey kept me from going out of my mind when the journey was all uphill, and I felt like I was sliding backwards on a rocky path. Writing helped me make sense of my experience and to reflect on my purpose and progress.
Remember the recruiter who was less than encouraging? Writing about the experience helped to pull me out of “the pit of discouragement” as I vented my frustration on paper. Then I realized I was still in the game. I really wasn’t seriously hurt and now I could reflect on what I could learn from that experience.
After one interview with a hiring manager, I realized that a couple of stories I shared about my experience were weak and I was actually feeling quite embarrassed about how I fumbled through the interview. It really bothered me to the point that I was losing sleep over it, so at 4:00 am, I sat up in bed, grabbed my journal and wrote it all out. Once it was down on paper, the whole experience didn’t seem as bad as I was imagining it was, and again, I could then reflect on what there was to learn from what happened. And I kept on walking that uphill path (after I got a little more sleep).
If starting and keeping a journal sounds like too big a task while you are job searching, you could combine some journaling with your documentation for tracking your job search. Try using this IDOL Job Hunt Trello board. As you make records of conversations and interviews on the Trello board, write about specific things that were said or that happened and how you felt about those things. Vent frustrations right on the card after you move it to the “declined” column. Create a card just for writing about different ways you could answer specific interview questions. Don’t just keep a record of jobs you have applied for and the results of the application. Also keep a record of your thoughts, feelings, and learning experiences along the way. In this way, you will truly own your job search!
Practice #3 Gather Support from Others
As this blog article from BJC EAP (employee assistance services) states, “Giving and receiving support from others is a basic human need.” While on my job search journey, I benefited from support from family and friends who were cheering me on, but sometimes it could feel like they were too far away. After several of us within the academy formed the IDOL Job Search Support & Accountability Group, I quickly realized that while trudging through a difficult journey, it’s best to seek out and reach out to others who are on the same journey.
One evening, at the end of a very long day of talking to recruiters, filling out job applications, and opening rejection emails, I felt beaten. I was worn out and feeling discouraged. The last thing I wanted to do was get on a Zoom call for our group meeting. I just didn’t want to talk to anyone. But somehow I managed to put a smile on my face and show up anyway (another skill I developed as a teacher!).
As I listened to others in the group share their experiences, I realized that I was feeling like my load was becoming lighter and the discouragement I felt before the meeting was being replaced with optimism and a resolve to keep moving on that uphill path. It was clear to me then, how much I needed to interact with others who were facing the same challenges as me.
So what exactly does a Job Search Support & Accountability Group do?
If you are a job-searching IDOL, find support in your journey, and if you are an Academy member make sure to join us.
I submitted my first 6 job applications on July 3, 2021. At that time I don’t think I really knew what lessons were in store for me. I didn’t start out thinking about what I would learn about myself during the time I spent job hunting, but what a difference it made when I discovered just a few weeks into the process, that there was so much to learn in the midst of the anxiety and uncertainty. In a way, my job search turned into a sort of “self search”.
My first job offer came on October 12, 2021, and I accepted it on October 13. You might say that was the end of my journey, but as you may recall from other books and movies which include a challenging journey, the end only marks the beginning!
Written by: Janette Wilcken
Janette is an active member of IDOL courses Academy who has recently landed her first corporate ID role as a Learning and Development Specialist for a pediatric urgent care company. She loves spending time with her family, reading good books, and spending time outdoors going on awesome journeys.