How I Got My Post-Teaching Job: By the Numbers

If you’ve been thinking about quitting teaching, you already know that the mental energy needed to explore the question, “Well, what else could I do with my life?” is often depleted by the time you get home from school. It’s hard enough to change careers with a normal job, but after a long day of delivering lessons, grading, planning, dealing with conflicts and attending meetings? Fuggedaboutit.

For me, it took almost three years of work (and a whole lot of luck) to make the jump.

OK, so I didn’t apply to jobs every day (not even every week), but I was teaching full time and finishing a master’s degree. I also moved twice, changed schools and got married during that time.

I hope sharing how I found a fresh start will help you figure out whether leaving teaching (or taking a break from it) is right for you. If it is, I hope to help you transition faster than I did — or at least be patient with yourself if it takes you a year (or three) to begin your own Life After Teaching.

For now, here’s a tally of the results of those three years:

  • 94 job applications
  • 5 job leads from contacts
  • 6 job interviews
  • 3 months unemployed
  • 2 weeks between my last teaching paycheck and my first non-teaching paycheck (Yess.)
  • 1 job offer 

Next time, I’ll explain why informational interviews were, hands down, the most valuable tool in my job search.

Fellow former teachers — what has Life After Teaching been like for you, and how did you get there? Has it been worth it?

30 thoughts on “How I Got My Post-Teaching Job: By the Numbers

  1. I admire how much time you put toward figuring out what to do. A lot of people would have given in to that exhaustion at the end of a school day, and might have been poor teachers for it. I kind of wish you could have told me about some of this stuff while we were teaching together, but I understand why you didn’t. 🙂 I’m not saying that I would have tried to convince you to stay in teaching; it must have been difficult at times to keep everything going. But, I’m sure you had good people to talk it all out with. I look forward to reading more of your story!

    • Hi Lauren,
      It wasn’t easy to admit publicly that I wanted to quit teaching, and it still makes me uncomfortable to do it…So I really appreciate your support — from the very beginning of this blog, in fact! Thanks for reading, commenting and understanding. 🙂

  2. Pingback: How Informational Interviews Helped Me Find a Job After Teaching | Those Who Teach

  3. I earned my masters degree in music technology. This made it easy to move into a software design career after 9 years of being a music teacher. The new job is the greatest blessing i could have found. Less time at work and more money for it, it’s a great combination!

    The key is to find your skill set and then identify areas that you can apply this skill set. For example, as a high school band director i was responsible for budgeting, scheduling, hiring adjunct staff, motivation, etc… – oh, yes… and teaching a full load of classes. As such I was able to market myself as a project manager. The skill set is strikingly similar. The biggest challenge was overcoming the “industry experience” requirement that so many jobs require. That is where luck and a personal contact came into play,

    If you are thinking about moving on from teaching, be patient, be persistent, and be on the look it for an unexpected opportunity. Once you are out, so many things will become easier.



    • Hi Bryan,

      Congrats on finding a post-teaching job that allows you to do less work for more money! That’s awesome.

      Your story helped me gain a new appreciation for all the “real-world” skills that band directors need in addition to knowing how to teach music. It’s easy to see how your strong sense of your marketable skills helped you transition.

      Thanks for sharing! I know your example will help inspire others.

      • I have read and re-read your post about leaving the teaching field. I have taught high school social studies for ten years in an urban setting. Like most, I came into this profession gung-ho–volunteering for this committee, running this student organization, helping out with anything and everything, and not understanding why so many veterans were so negative. Without sounding arrogant I was and still am considered (by many but I’m sure not all) a “good teacher.”

        Over the last couple of years, my negativity and complacency has grown tremendously. In my district, I have made it through three district superintendents, two building principals, and outstayed half of my department. I have served as department chair for six years (just resigned that post) and on several district advisory committees and I don’t think I can take it anymore. In short, I always had faith things would get better, for the pendulum to swing the other way, but things continue to get worse–worse with state policy, worse with district policy, and worse with building and student culture.

        I have earned my Masters in Educational Leadership and have achieved Tenure but I’m honestly thinking that I need to start over. I have considered applying in other districts (though I’m too expensive for most cash-strapped districts) or taking the few extra hours and exam for my assistant principal licensure, but the very thought of staying in education makes me somewhat ill.

        I had a question about how best to modify a teaching resume for positions in the corporate or “outside” world. I would like your advice or anyone else who has left education’s advice.


      • Your new resume(s) should emphasize the leadership and teamwork skills you’ve developed — your master’s, years as department chair, and the committees you’ve served on are all valuable experiences that will help you succeed in other jobs. But you’ll also need to figure out what areas interest you in order to tailor your resume effectively. Take a look at my posts on transferable skills from teaching and informational interviewing — I hope they’ll help you get started!

  4. I trained to be a classroom teacher as a mature student and have now been teaching full time for 2.5 years. I’ve had to learn the state system and then the private system in that time. I was given the worst classes in the state system and no support.

    I really loath the thought of having to seek a new job/career after such a short time in this one, everyone says it will get better in then second year at my school, familiarity etc and I would like to get the benefit of all my hard work – but I’m so badly burnt out – that despite the fact I want to continue I’m not sure I can. Before I began teaching I was a very healthy person, not any more..

    • Anna, It did get better for me as I worked in the same district beyond my first year. I accumulated enough material that I just began tweaking my lessons versus writing/creating new lessons. This gave me much needed time at home in the off hours. It also gave me more energy to spend thinking of strategies to deal with my tough classes. That said…I’m in my now eleventh year of teaching and I too am really burnt out. Personally, this has been a great year, but professionally I have had my toughest classes yet, a really bad top-heavy administration, and the realization that it isn’t getting any better. I’m at a tough place and somewhat stuck. You may try moving districts before you accumulate too many years experience to become too expensive.

      • I agree that things generally get easier after the first year, especially if you are able to teach most or all of the same courses. That said, I began to see troubling aspects of the job (e.g. school politics) by my third year that I had been oblivious to as a first-year teacher.

        Anna, whatever you decide to do, please remember to take care of yourself as best you can. Eat a real lunch. See friends on the weekend. Stop checking school e-mail at home (it took me a few years to learn this one).

        Scott, I’m glad you had a great year overall though you are wrestling with burnout. This summer, I hope you get to recharge — and work on your non-teaching resume!

  5. Anna,
    I may very well be leaving the profession after 26 years. My God, that’s a long time. Originally I had wanted to continue until I hit social security age or even 70, but I don’t see that happening (I’m 50 years old) either.

    I recently led a seminar at a local university about teaching, and one question I got was “How have you stayed in teaching so long?” My reply: “I took summers OFF, and I stopped taking things home after my 15th year of teaching.” I also pointed out the differences in beginning teaching in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and now. As a history teacher I was responsible for:
    A. Keeping a grade book, and filling out my own report cards
    B. Writing my own lesson plans, projects, and grading.
    C. Classroom management

    And that’s about it. I didn’t have to worry about getting 60 hours of professional development, we didn’t have “department meetings.” I didn’t have to contact parents 5 times before sending kids to the office, nor did I have to fill out forms explaining my interventions for the student before they were sent. We didn’t have state mandated exams that put too much pressure on students and teachers to worry about and I didn’t have to provide a 3 ring binder of PTAS documentation to prove that I was teaching the whole year. I could go on and on.

    What I’m pointing out is that new teachers are doing 4 or 5 times the workload now in comparison to what I was doing when I first started. And you’re making the equivalent of the same salary I made adjusted for inflation. So you’re working harder for a low pay. The bad thing is, unless a veteran teacher points that out, new teachers will never know. I told someone a while back that I didn’t want more money, I wanted a lighter workload. And that my job had gotten to a point that if I was paid $150,000.00 a year I STILL couldn’t do each and every little thing that administration, parents, students, and the state want me to do. It’s simply impossible for one person! So I skip over things here and there just to survive and so do others…

    I’m still fired up about teaching. I love it. And if I can land another job in a better district then I hope to keep going till I’m 70…but I can’t let it destroy my health either.

    • Thank you for this. When I was teaching, the veteran teachers I asked also talked about how hard the job has gotten in the last 10 years or so compared to when they started. Hearing this helped me feel less terrible about how much I was struggling to stay afloat with all the paperwork and other responsibilities you mentioned.

      It’s great that you are still passionate about teaching, despite the added workload. Whatever you decide to do, you can feel proud that you made a positive impact on thousands of students.

    • Hi!

      Six years later and just replying now!
      But thank-you so much.
      I found your comment extremely on point.
      I spent one more year in teaching and left.

      In retrospect what was asked of me, in both my jobs, was not physically possible.

      I did not understand then, that no one was really doing what they claimed, as the demands on us were so unreasonable. And my role was particularly bad, because my Head of Department was trying to get rid of my subject (politics in existence before I arrived)

      I was working from early morning til late in the evening, and I’m a very efficient person, so that was purely workload at play.

      I chose health and it was the best decision I ever made. The injustice, the bullying, the low pay, the stress. I’d sooner be homeless than experience any of that again.

      There’s a big wide world out there, don’t be bullied by the idea employers will look down on you for leaving at any point of being in a job that is making you unhappy.

      Some employers might call that healthy initiative.

  6. I hate my teaching job too. Seems i’m doing more clerical work than teaching. Thts the reality of teaching in Malaysia. I want to leave badly

    • Hi Nana,
      Clerical work was also one of my least favorite teaching responsibilities. But you can ask your fellow teachers for tips on managing it better. Sometimes this involves ignoring paperwork that’s less important…You can also make a complete list of the pros and cons of teaching to help you decide whether to move on, and what kinds of post-teaching jobs you might want.

  7. hello – fellow teacher..first grade. I feel so drained, depleted, and can’t even begin to imagine another field in which I could enjoy life. I feel EXTREME guilty and pressure to not work on school stuff on weekends and weeknights. But I literally push it off until Sunday nights…then stay up for HOURS…maybe get a few hours of sleep.. maybe… I have my masters…went to school and graduated in 5 years with it.. this is only my 4th yr in the classroom..I cannot see myself making it much longer..I Want to start a family and now the clock is ticking, I can’t imagine the balance of a kid and this job. I come home and practically deflate and become one with the couch. Behavior problems aside, the pressure to do everything on time and have it done well….is too much. I can’t even clear my desk because I am afraid I will forget that important meeting or piece of paper. Parents email me and expect answers that very day. Conformity to be doing what my other grade partners are doing is VERY strongly suggested, if we want to supplement something – like oh a pumpkin day where we count seeds and learn all about pumpkins because you know it is fall and we live in America and that’s what most of us do, I need prior approval weeks in advance… (now I know).

    I can’t believe I am here. I never thought it would happen. I thought I would die being the sweet loving happy teacher. There are kids in my room that have changed me, I do not like who I have to be with them. I do not even have the energy to think: what now? I like taking pictures, I enjoy writing (mainly for myself, when I write comments, etc. I am not concerned with grammar because I have to be so careful all day long at school it all goes out the window at home)…sorry if that’s a pet peeve, i like being around people and apparently I am very good at diffusing otherwise tense situations with adults (grade level observation where there was a disagreement I was able to calmly steer it into friendly discussions). But I literally have had daycare jobs, one retail job, I temped as a secretary while going to school and subbing, and then moved to NC for a teaching job. I made it 3 years in one school and loved the people there, sure it had its flaws, it was a tough title 1 school with little parent involvement.. Bottom line, not enough pay, so I tried to find a better paying teaching job closer to home, low and behold I happened to draw the lucky card and got what I wanted. I have never wanted to stop teaching more than ever. I am at a better school I should be happy right? I have only told my husband, and a close friend…who wants to “quit” teaching? What kind of person am i? Especially just getting the job in August…what employer wants to hear that you only made less than 3 months? I don’t think I could quit mid-year…so here I am dreading every day….knowing I can’t change it. I almost want some crazy circumstance that would “Allow” me the sweet freedom of saying I can’t do this anymore…bow out gracefully.. how insane is that????????

    Can’t take it much more and no idea what do next. -said (most) teachers I know. Phew. It was emotionally exhausting writing that….

    • Hi Laura,
      The self-defeating cycle of procrastination is one I know too well from my teaching days. I can also remember wondering how I would make it through the next day, let alone the whole school year. That you teach in North Carolina, a state known for treating its teachers poorly, is another factor that is probably adding to your sense of defeat.

      I agree that quitting three months into the school year is probably not the best for your resume, but you have to do what’s best for your physical and emotional health. That said, there are steps you can take to feel better that might help you make it through the school year. Force yourself to make doctor’s appointments, including seeing a mental health counselor. Force yourself to see family and friends more. Get support from other teachers at your school — they could share resources that can help make your job a lot easier. It also sounds like writing could be a helpful outlet for you. And, even though you are exhausted when you get home, you might find that researching potential new careers energizes you. Check out my post on informational interviews — hope it will get you started!

  8. I taught 6 years of 8th grade science and 2 years of high school chemistry. Now I’m an iPhone app developer (iOS software engineer) for an amazing retail brand.

    Here’s what I did:

    As a teacher I was fascinated with finding ways to leverage technology in the classroom – IR clickers, web based software, smart boards, iPads, netbooks, I used a lot of tech over eight years. But I found the district level enterprise software for grading and attendance to be extremely lacking.

    So to tackle those problems I decided to make my own grading and attendance app on my favorite device, my iPhone. It’s still on the Apple app store today.

    I did a lot of things to learn how to make iPhone apps, from computer science 101 online courses to reading programming books to going to MeetUps about programming.

    But by far the most valuable experiences came from just making apps on my own with little to no cookbook recipes to follow. Identify a problem then start hacking a solution. I enjoyed the experience so much I decided to change careers.

    Throughout my last school year I participated in hackathons, met professionals in the industry, told them my story, showed them what I’d made, and asked them how to become a professional software developer. I was told to just start applying.

    So during standardized testing season, with about a month of school left, I updated my LinkedIn profile and started looking for jobs.

    Getting a software developer job made me feel like I was auditioning as a musician or artist. What really matters is your ability to produce good code, not what degrees you have or even what kind of experience you might list. You need to have a publicly available portfolio of work to point to. Any company worth working for is going to tell you to write a piece of audition software for them to evaluate. This audition piece is the most important part of the interview.

    I did 4-5 technical “phase one” interviews on the phone.

    As soon as school let out, I did 2 audition apps for two very different companies, both of which resulted in on site interviews. I was offered both positions. All of this happened in the space of about 2.5 weeks. I resigned my teaching position and started my new job before the new school year began.

    The most agonizing part was having to choose between the two offers because I like both companies, the people, and the cities they are in.

    Now all of this may sound straightforward and “easy” – it was not. Learning to program is hard – but if you love coding, like I do, those long hours solving problems won’t feel long at all.

    To sum up:

    If you’re a teacher and you want to change careers, simply not liking teaching anymore is not enough. I know how you feel, I’ve been there. Find something you’re passionate about and go after it with all your heart the same way you did with teaching (you were that kind of teacher, weren’t you?). What will get you through is passion for what you want to do. Sounds like the kind of thing you should be telling your students. Best lead by example.

    • TK,
      Thank you for this detailed explanation of each step toward your post-teaching career, and your kind words of encouragement to other readers.

      Though we’ve all heard the advice to “follow your passion,” you show how it can be done with a willingness to learn new skills, meet new people and share your work with others.

      I agree that going after what we want certainly isn’t “easy” — but is made much easier if we are willing to keep at it — and follow our own advice to students.

      Great advice overall — in fact, I’d like to feature your comment in my next post!

  9. Pingback: What It Takes to Find Life After Teaching: Advice from a Former Science Teacher | Those Who Teach

  10. Pingback: “So Why Are You Leaving Teaching?”: How to Answer the Question You’ll Get Asked at Every Post-Teaching Interview | Those Who Teach

  11. I’m a high school teacher looking at transitioning to a new career. I’m starting to identify my interests and tailor my resume to the business world. I’ve even started researching jobs and saving ones that I think would fit me skill set. My question is, when do I start applying and sending in my resume to these jobs? I know I can’t really leave mid-year but I also want to make sure I have time to interview, find a job, and resign from my current position. Please provide suggestions as to what point in the school year I should begin interviewing for a post-teaching job. Thanks!

  12. I am in my first year of teaching at a private high school, and after only 2 weeks in, I am getting up the courage to say “This is not me. This does not feel like the pursuit of happiness. I am already emotionally and physically and mentally drained, and 8 more months of this will not help that situation.” Each day has felt like a week. Coming into this job, you think, “Wow. Private school. The kids will listen, follow directions, be motivated.” I mean, they have to be right? Their parents are paying big money for them to keep their mouth shut when the teacher is talking, right? Boy was I wrong.

    I know what you might be thinking–two weeks. That’s not long enough to really know. But I do. I really, really know that I want a life outside of education–at the very least, K-12 education. As a graduate student, I worked for three semesters in my university’s Writing Center. I have other skills. I love to proofread and edit; I am the family member and the friend you would bring your English paper to and ask if it “sounds good” or “flows.” I can write well, and I like helping other people write well. Just not teenagers. I am also an introvert, so the dream would be to telecommute–to help people from afar and in the comfort of my home. Nothing about teaching makes me happy, fulfills me, gives me any kind of buzz. I have been in a classroom before–I taught college composition while I was getting my Master’s. Having to juggle teaching with being a student was crazy in its own right. Teaching in a classroom where 50% of the kids do not care/do not want to learn is blunting my own skills and talents that I can use. Instead of just being hired to discipline rowdy children.

    So I am planning on speaking with my supervisor this week and putting in my notice. And I know what my colleagues and students and parents and everyone will say and think. But I do not care. I am still very young. I can work any job while I am pursuing proofreading and copyediting opportunities. I would rather have less money than less sanity.

    What I really want to say is — thank you. This blog has been a godsend for me and has already helped me so much.

    • Hi Rachel – well done on being so clear & aware of your emotions and level of happiness. Most people get too busy and over-ride their deep discontent – by staying in teaching because it’s a ‘practical choice’ What I’d say is Run!!!! There’s a big world out there and lots of better careers 😊 if you have the faith to navigate a bit of insecurity you can do it.

      Also there is something weird about the teaching profession in the way it’s incredibly insular & a strange number are proud that they ‘never considered anything else’. I was fortunate to work outside of education before and after my teaching career. Despite having had lots of menial jobs before, I never felt like such a slave, I never felt so abused, as during the five years I was a classroom teacher.

  13. Thank you for all of your posts on transitioning out of teaching! Like you, I’ve been thinking about leaving the teaching profession for a few years now. I’ve submitted my teaching resume to many companies just on the mere chance they would respond, but, not surprisingly, I have gotten little feedback. Now, I’m ready to make serious moves. I’m currently updating my resume for non-teaching professions (I saw your posts on that – thank you!) and am just hoping to get something going soon! Any tips or coaching you would provide in the process is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi I’m Anna, who posted above in 2014 about leaving teaching. Looking back I think the time I started teaching was one of the worst times to start. That said, I’m almost glad, as it gave me the impetus to leave sooner rather than later. In the choices I made career wise, I now make a lot less money, but the money I earned teaching was absolutely not worth it. It was total misery, My transition took a while, but it’s been exciting, fun and life is worth living again.

      If you haven’t your heart set on something already, a session or two with a life coach could be good to help you get in touch with your values and dreams and the type of life you would love to live.

      A recruitment agency may be able to help direct you towards career options you mightn’t have considered yet.

      Doing short courses, night courses, etc can be great for meeting other people who are looking to reinspire and redirect themselves too.

      I think anyone who has taught, has really really solid skills and they could really be applied anywhere. The question is more what interests you?

      Best of luck! 🙂

  14. I only taught for 3 years in charter school in mostly Latino and Black communities. I left in November due to the toxicity of my work environment and the work load. I think leaving sooner than later was the best thing I could’ve done. My goal was to at least make it to 5 years in the field but the stressors we far to much for me. I am now in the second month of applying to jobs and trying really hard not to be discouraged. I have had about 5 interviews since applying and I’ve applied to at least 50 different positions. I earned my Masters degree during my 3 years in the classroom. But now I am feeling the pain of communicating how my skills within the classroom transfer to the non-profit world. This post helped with showing the benefits of informational interviews which is something I plan to start doing interviews this month as I approach 3rd month of unemployment.

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