I Quit My Job as a Teacher…Here’s What Happened Next
Even 5 years later, the words "I Quit" sound crazy
It seems that so many of us are on the same wavelength lately in that we’re in a season of change. While I’m not personally grappling with any major life changes at the current moment, I’ve chatted with so many of you over the past few weeks who are on the brink of a major move in your career.
Some of you ready to leave, others getting ready to make a major decision about what to do as you finish up college...and I wanted to take some time to talk about my experience in doing a total 180 in my career in today’s post.
Where I Came From & How I Landed Here...
During my sophomore year in high school, I took an early childhood ed elective, and that was the year I decided I wanted to pursue a career in education. When it came time for college, it was an easy decision. I attended Quinnipiac University, which had a great education program, and completed my first 4 years of undergrad with a major in Sociology and minors in Psychology and Criminal Justice.
Following graduation, I transitioned right into grad school to earn my Master’s in Elementary Education. Getting a job right out of grad school in a very competitive field and a very competitive state was not something I planned would come easy...or would even come at all. However, a teacher’s unexpected medical leave fell into my lap at one of the schools I had previously applied to, and within 2 weeks, I was thrown to the wolves (24 wide-eyed nine year olds) with a full-time teaching position right out of school.
The medical leave ended and I transitioned into another teacher’s maternity leave, which then transitioned into a full-time position with an opening in 3rd grade, where I spent the remainder of my teaching career. By year 3, I was going through the motions, but not loving my job. I had the organization, the lesson plans and the observations down, but something was missing. I still say to this day that the kids were the sole reason I kept pushing through something I knew my heart wasn’t set on every day.
I can confidently say that I was a great teacher. Leaving a very ‘safe’ career in which I was well-respected by my bosses & colleagues, seemed like an outlandish thought. But the burn out started to weigh heavier, the pile of work that came home with me and kept me busy most night’s until just before bedtime stacked higher, and my mental health started to deteriorate.
Teacher ‘burnout’ is something that’s often hard to explain to someone outside of the profession. Others see “spending time with kids”, “leaving work at 3pm each day”, “summer’s off”. What they don’t see is constant change within the education system; new curriculums and standards that weigh heavily on performance; the burdens of state testing and the strain that it has on children, which also greatly affects teachers; the need to be “on” at every given moment; and the many roles you step into all within the overarching title of “teacher”.
I was a math teacher, a reading teacher, a writing teacher, a science teacher, a social studies teacher, a health teacher, a surrogate parent (for some), an emotional support system, a behavioral counselor,
a social worker, an assessor, a planner, a developer...and so much more. What I was for others wasn’t allowing me to REALLY take care of myself.
In 2015, Joe and I got married. I remember having this discussion about our careers (he was working as a market research analyst at the time), and where we saw ourselves in five years' time. We both quickly realized that 5 or so years into our careers, neither of us could even picture the long-term.
We were young, no kids, no major responsibilities, no ties to Connecticut (I’m from New York and he’s from New Hampshire)...and so we said screw it, let’s take the risk, quit our jobs and move back to New York.
It was a really pivotal time for us because we had just gotten married and felt like the only way we were going to make it over the hurdle of our careers was to make a major change. Of course, the process was more thought out than a “screw it, let’s do it”, but we ultimately knew that if we didn’t just go for it, it’d never happen.
We made the decision around April, and so we decided that after I finished out the school year, we’d make the move. I’d give myself the summer (as I would’ve had anyway) to figure out my next chapter, and Joe would start studying for his commercial real estate license (my whole family is in the business and this is something he’d been talking about with them for a while).
Come September, Joe was getting ready to start a new job in Manhattan but I was still totally up in the air. I picked up teaching a few online college courses for some extra income, and started to do some marketing and design work on the side for a family member in the commercial real estate business. I had always had a knack for design, having taken courses on my own, and the marketing (although not professionally trained) came easy to me. The more projects I took on, the more I started to see the potential of this type of work being something I could really see myself loving.
That Spring, an opportunity came up to fill a marketing/design/client services position in a commercial real estate office on Long Island. I had a foot in the door thanks to my dad, but nonetheless still had to prove I was capable of taking on a position in which I had no true experience on paper for!
Fast forward to now, I’ve been in my current position for 4 years, and absolutely love what I do. I’m still learning everyday, but manage 10 brokers on a one-woman team, which is a testament to how with some hands-on experience, you can truly do anything you put your mind to.
Could you share more about your job outside of blogging and with so many other people doing this full time, why have you decided to stay in your career?
So as mentioned I work in marketing and design for a commercial real estate company here on Long Island. We’re a small (but growing) office for which I manage all marketing material, design of flyers, presentations, etc. I love my job because it affords me the time to work on my blog from time to time, but mostly because it allows me to leave my work at work (which was never an option during my time teaching).
I won’t lie; seeing other bloggers make the announcements that they’re going full time can definitely bring up some feelings of jealousy. Am I at a point in my ‘blogging career’ where I could quit my job? Yes. But that would also mean I would be abandoning a lot of financial stability, health insurance, and a double salary.
I always say to myself that when Joe and I are ready to have kids, that might be the right time to take this full time so I can stay at home, but I also worry that I’d go stir crazy. Having worked from home for about 6 months between leaving my career as a teaching and starting this one, I quickly learned how much I craved a routine where I have to get UP and OUT of the house.
Being in my 30s, I think I’m also more inclined to worry about things that a 25-year-old who is blogging full-time might not be thinking about like...what is this career going to look like 10 years from now? That unknown in itself is a bit too heavy of a gamble for me to take right now.
How do you manage to balance a full-time career and a successful business? I feel like you've totally got the hang of it.
Always remember that what you see from the outside often appears more managed and smoother flowing than what’s happening behind the scenes (as with any business)! Maintaining a balance is tough. I leave one job and start another, am up planning and working most days right up until bedtime, and I work 7 days a week. Yet somehow, I’ve made it work and am in a much better place mentally and stress-wise than I was when I was teaching.
I’m still actively working on work-life balance. Because my business is my passion, it’s easy for me to let it consume all of my free time, which often includes skipping out on dinners, time with Joe, etc. This is a daily work in progress for me.
I’ve found that making a daily to-do list and/or planning out time blocks for certain tasks helps immensely. As crazy as it sounds to schedule out dinner and downtime, I find that I’m more likely to stick to a schedule when it’s pre-planned or written out.
How did you get the courage to make the change?
The courage came largely from the inherent need to get my mental health in check. When my quality of life became impacted, I knew that the result of making the change would far outweigh the fear of “what happens next?”. The moment I gave my notice to my principal, it felt like a 20-ton brick was lifted off my shoulders. That moment, although I had no idea what was to come, was when I knew it was worth it.
What was the main factor that pushed you to want to leave?
Burnout and mental health. If I was struggling at year 3, how miserable was I going to be in year 20? I couldn't wrap my head around that possibility.
How did you get through the anxiety of the change?
First and foremost, being close to family. Moving back to New York meant home for me, and that greatly impacted how I felt about going through this change. Secondly, giving myself grace. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make a decision about which career path I wanted to go down overnight, and was smart about pockets of work I lined up for extra income, while still allowing myself to take the time I needed. Also, my low dose of anxiety medicine deffff didn’t hurt.
How did you know what career you wanted to switch to?
To be honest, I didn’t! My mom is a career counselor and helps people figure their ish out for a living; I remember we had started to talk about possible career paths, and nothing really stuck. It just so happened that something which fell into my lap in the ‘in between’ period ended up becoming something I saw myself doing; one of the many reasons I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason!
Did you have to go back to school for marketing?
I did not. I think in a more traditional setting, that may have been something I needed to consider. However, connections are key! My foot in the door helped me to land this position, which I realize is not an option for many people. More advice on that in the next Q!
How did you make yourself marketable to other jobs with only teaching experience?
Fake it til you make it (but hear me out first)! Chances are, if you’re doing a major career switch outside of your field with no prior experience, you’re going to come up short. That being said, if you have entry-level knowledge of your new field, there are certainly ways in which you can build up your resume with experience. You can look for a freelance job, or something that doesn’t require a lot of experience. You just need to find one person to trust in your abilities. Oftentimes, what you’ll learn from direct experience in a new job far outweighs what you learned in the books, and I think there are companies out there who believe in that too. It’s just a matter of finding the right one.
How can I market myself for design without a design background?
What’s cool about design is that it’s something that you can excel in even when it’s self-taught. My advice is to take a few design-based workshops or classes (Lynda.com is a great resource) that you can add to your resume. In addition, you’ll want to have a design portfolio that contains pieces of work catered towards the type of position you’re applying to.
What other fields can someone go into if they have a degree in education?
I think I’m a walking example that you can truly go into any field. But if you’re looking to go a more traditional route and stay within the general family of education, you can look for jobs in: children, family and community outreach, child development, non-profit or social service organizations, non-certification early childhood education, student affairs (I almost went the route of transitioning to a college admissions counselor), social and educational policy, development of educational programs, or even corporate careers like human resources, marketing, or public relations that tie into your skills.
Did you ever experience imposter syndrome at work because of not having a formal marketing background?
This is such a great question. Working at such a small firm on a one-woman team (as they only marketing head), I have not personally experienced this. My brokers have no idea how to use half of the programs that I use on a daily basis and I can confidently say that if given my job for a day, they wouldn't know where to begin. Confidence is key. If I'm ever in a situation where I don't know how to do something, I look it up and practice until I do.
If you're in a larger firm where you're new to the field, I think the best way to overcome imposter syndrome is to be open minded and eager to learn. Remember why you were hired in the first place and that in any field, with time, comes more experience and more confidence!
If you haven't quit teaching, do you think you still would have started your blog?
Definitely not (which is insane). Another little snippet of proof that everything happens for a reason, as I couldn’t imagine how different my life would be had I not started my business. Lindsey (@thefashionablybrokteacher) is one of my closest friends and one of a few bloggers I know who balance teaching and their blog. I, myself, couldn’t have done it, which also speaks to the stress I was under. It would have never been a thought in my mind or an option had I kept teaching.
I know that was a lot to take in! I'd love to hear your thoughts and where you're at. Hope this was helpful to those of you trying to embrace a new season of change! Xo