When I decided to leave teaching, I had a mix of emotions. What else could I really do? Teaching had been my life for seven years. I knew teaching like I knew how to take care of my children or like I knew how to drive. I could do it really well with minimal effort, and I loved it. I loved the excitement my students had for learning, and I loved creating lesson plans. Lesson plans gave me the opportunity to bring learning to life, whether I was teaching financial literacy or marketing concepts.
There came a time I became mentally exhausted. Professionals call it "teacher burnout," and it is real. Teacher burnout usually happens around year five, but I made it to year seven. So, wasn't that an accomplishment? I asked myself often to justify staying. But what I realized is once my heart wasn’t there anymore, I had to leave because I’d lost my passion. When you lose your passion, everyone suffers, from your family to your students, the community and the parents. I dedicated a lot of time to my students, my school, and my administration. But, the more time I gave them, the less time my family received. I learned that time is the one commodity you can't change. If you are not mindful, you can look back, and you wonder where the time has gone. I couldn’t change the time already spent, but I could change what has my attention going forward.
During daily chats with my mom, she would always say that “change is growth,” so if "you’re not changing, you’re not growing.” I realized that I needed a major change that would improve my quality of life and allow me to enjoy my family more. I have young children, and I didn't want to regret missing milestones in their life because of teaching. Believe it or not, teaching is not a family-friendly profession, and sometimes teaching expects more from the teachers than, they are willing to give.
When I decided to get serious about my career change, I did a one-on-one consultation with Holly from Jolly Holly Ed Services, who led me to Instructional Design Online Learning (IDOL) courses. Holly gave good insight into how career changers could achieve their end goals. She gave me A LOT of options. IDOL fit best with my plan. So I researched IDOL courses Academy, and I became convinced it would be a good fit for me. Robin also had a conversation with me, but she didn't sell me on IDOL courses. We talked about my goals. Robin is the founder of the IDOL course Academy, and she's very approachable. She guided me to go for what I wanted and to think of the end goal. What did I want to achieve and how? I pondered that question for a few days before I decided to enroll.
You never really complete IDOL courses Academy because there is such a wealth of information and resources are updated continuously. You will get to a point where you have created your portfolio, and you are ready to present your portfolio. When I shared my portfolio on LinkedIn, I was so nervous about the feedback and questioned what I wanted in my new career.
I am currently a freelance Instructional Designer (ID). I have to pause when I say that because freelancing was never my goal. However, I’ve learned that I enjoy the freedom of freelancing and the amazing people I have met on my journey.
I want to offer some tips on transitioning from teaching to freelance ID or just transitioning to a new career, in general:
Be prepared for the fast pace. When I had my first consultation with my client, and discussed needs analysis and identifying the learner, she listened to everything I said and felt she appreciated my expertise. Then she said, but how fast can you build this e-learning course? She didn't want to hear about learning methodologies or my design process. Rather, she wanted to know how many days it would take me to build these courses. Then she laughed and said,"I needed this done like yesterday." And as my words got stuck in my throat, I said, “Well, it usually takes about eight weeks for me to build an eLearning course.” She then said, "Let's see how fast you can build a course."Literally, 49 days later, I had delivered not one but two courses: one Rise 360 and one Storyline. While I was proud and humbled, my second thought was that this was a faster pace because time is money.
Be willing to monitor and adjust. When you have a paying client that requests your time and services, you have to monitor and adjust to their needs. You have to monitor the situation or request and adapt to their needs. In a corporate setting, deadlines and obligations change at a rapid rate. When the changes occur, you have to monitor and adjust your plan to fit the corporate needs. That can mean pushing up the deadline or adjusting your e-learning course. It’s the same concept as teaching when you have a fight at school or the fire alarm rings. You monitor the situation and adjust your students to what is happening.
Let your creativity shine. Instructional design is one of the most creative fields I have ever explored. I am a digital artist, and my e-learning courses are my canvas. You can take an idea and let that idea guide your creativity. I love seeing a course go from idea to implementation. I use different shapes and colors to tell a story. Letting your creativity shine is what sets you apart from other IDs. I was so stressed about whether the client would like my storyboard. Could she see my vision, and would she approve? The client was elated to see her "content come to life," as she would say.
Manage your attention. You can never adjust or control time, you get 24 hours in the day, and that's it. But, you can use attention management techniques to adjust what you focus on in those 24 hours. To complete two courses in 49 days, I had to manage my attention well. Each day I focused on three tasks, and those tasks had to be done that day, or it would throw my schedule for completion off. I also had weekly meetings with my client, and I was able to showcase what I was working on. It’s so interesting because she would sometimes say, "Put more attention on this." This was code for “I don’t like this.” I would appreciate the feedback and monitor and adjust accordingly.
Get organized. I have so many Google calendar alerts, notes on my Trello board, and good old-fashioned sticky notes EVERYWHERE. Put a system in place that helps organize your time effectively. You never want to over promise and under deliver, especially when someone is paying for your time. At the beginning of any project, I always set a schedule of completion. This schedule is a timeline of what gets done in a certain order, so that I can meet my client's deadline. Also, do not be afraid to negotiate that deadline because you want to set realistic goals.
Give yourself time to learn. Rome was not built in a day, and neither are your Instructional Design skills and methods for completing work. Give yourself time to make mistakes and grow. When you change careers, the learning curve is steep because you essentially have to be retaught some things you didn’t know. Sometimes people don't just want to know what you can do. They want to know how you can do it. In teaching, it took me three years before I was fully comfortable in my classroom. I needed time to learn to teach everything from lesson plans to dealing with parents and classroom management.
I never imagined I would be a freelancer, but I'm learning and growing. I made the transition, and I am grateful for the flexibility, challenges, and people that I met along the way. Instead of struggling with teacher burnout, I'm now excited, and growing in my new career.
Written by: Niya M. Jay, MBA
Niya is an Instructional Designer and former public educator. Combined, she has over seven years of experience in learning and development. She considers her niche designing dynamic courses that improve business functions and is always looking for opportunities to grow and develop her skills. Work-life balance is important to her career success. She enjoys HITT cardio, reading, cooking, traveling internationally, and family time when she is not working. Check out her portfolio.