Last week I wrote to you about signs you may need to think about a career change (Read that article, here). As I already mentioned, changing careers is a process. As entertaining as those social media posts about quitting may be, quitting one’s career shouldn’t be an impulsive act but rather a well-considered plan executed carefully and thoughtfully.
The seeds of my career change were planted when I lost a job because the regional school system I was working for was breaking up and they excessed teachers. I discovered I was pregnant in the chaos of losing my job. I stayed home and had my second child and I also thought strategically about what I needed professional development-wise to make my resume stand out for when I returned to teaching. At that time, digital media was becoming more integrated into schools and I decided to take a couple of classes to become competent in digital art by learning Photoshop and Illustrator. The second class I took that year was an introductory graphic design class, and I was intrigued! It was a prerequisite class for a graphic design certificate program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I loved the class so much I earmarked it as a possibility for when my children were older. My husband and I were already maxed out balancing our two careers and two children at that time.
So, I returned to teaching after two years of being home with my youngest child, and that eventually led to a combined art teacher and department chairperson position the following year. I really enjoyed the diversity of the classes and responsibilities. I initially felt rejuvenated at my new school and my new position. I was happy for several years but that began eroding as the administration made too many decisions that reflected a lack of value for the arts. The economy struggled and enrollment dipped. The school expanded to include a middle school and added additional open school events to attract potential students and the role and responsibilities of teachers and department chairs began to expand rapidly. Over time I became increasingly drained with administration combined with the increase in time I was spending at the school for so many new events.
I began thinking about the certificate program and decided I would take another class in the program that I had earmarked for later. My kids were older, my husband’s job was flourishing and change was in the air. Again, I loved the classwork and began considering the feasibility of a career change. After all, the days when people stayed in one job or even one career all their lives were over. I enrolled officially in the program. At MassArt, the certificate programs are geared toward working adults who already have an undergraduate degree. Most of the students in the program were in their late 20s or early 30s. I was, by far, the oldest in the class, closer in age to the professor than my classmates. God bless my classmates though, they always made me feel welcome and part of the class. The program back then was about thirty credits and could be taken in as little as three years.
It took me closer to five years to complete the program, most of those years I was still working as a teacher. It took a lot of time management and organization to juggle the program, homework, teaching, and family. I can not stress enough there were many long nights, difficult and humbling critiques, and lots of homework. Before I enrolled in the program, I took the advice of a professor and did some informational interviews with graphic designers to ask about the realities of the career. That was very helpful! I also was able to start working in the field part-time prior to finishing the program, also very helpful.
When you are serious about changing careers, here are some possible steps:
Identify transferable skills As a creative person, I steered towards a creative industry that built on my creative skillset. There certainly might have been jobs that are closer to art teaching, like working at a community art center, or a museum education department. Other teachers I know have created businesses like a clay studio, an art portfolio consulting business, developing an Etsy business, etc. There are surprising amounts of jobs that use skills developed in teaching.
Determine the skills you need You may need to further your education or enroll in a specialized training program like I did. Check out your closest art schools and universities to see what specialized programs exist. Other colleges have similar programs to the Graphic Design Certificate Program I did at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. My college also offers certificates in Fashion, Furniture, and Industrial Design. Even come local community colleges offer certificate programs. I was just noting that my local community college has a Social Media Certificate Program.
Consider all the angles Look at how changing careers impacts your life. Some of that will be financial. Are you vested in your retirement funds? Can you afford any needed retraining? What are the starting salaries in your potential field? Some of it might be time and timing. What does it mean for you and your family if you need to work summers? I considered a career change at the point I was laid off and decided it didn’t make sense at that time with my children still very young.
Get ready for change Change only happens if you go looking for it. Look through the want ads to see what is out there. This means having your resume is written and references are at ready when something catches your eye. This is a stumbling block for many people who underestimate how long it takes to craft a resume and finetuning it for the job you are applying to. You will also need to craft your story. Future employers will want to know why you are changing careers. Prepare a strong, positive, and confident response. Don’t knock your teaching career or get caught up in negative aspects. There is much about teaching that is transferable to other careers including public speaking, preparation, management skills, etc.
It takes time These career changes don’t typically happen quickly. Once I committed to the program, it still took me about five years to climb through the program. I recently met a woman who had a successful quilting business that she runs full time. It took her two years of working at an old job part-time before her quilting business was launched and she was making enough to drop her old job. Patience and fortitude are necessary elements to a good career change.
Have you made or are making a career change from education? Share your story! Write us and tell us about your career change and how you made it by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org