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I’m a teacher who can’t find work. Where do I go from here?


I am an elementary school teacher who has recently relocated to another province. I am finding it extremely difficult to obtain a teaching position despite being experienced and gaining my new provincial certification because the market is saturated with applicants. I am now applying for all sorts of job positions and I am having no luck in gaining interviews because I am pigeon-holed as a teacher. What other sorts of careers complement teaching and how can I change my résumé to better suit non-teaching roles?


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As a teacher, you possess numerous skills that employers value. You must, however, know what you want and be able to sell yourself to employers. Create a flexible career plan to adapt to a continuously changing work world. You may have to modify career goals and plans.

Begin your transition process by taking stock of yourself, exploring options, clarifying a goal, and marketing yourself.

Know yourself

Clarify purpose. This gives life meaning and direction. Identify themes, such as absorbing childhood activities and energizing pursuits.

Prioritize job needs. These motivators could include independence, creativity, challenge, prestige and security.

Identify interests. These preferences include building, selling, managing, researching, helping and processing data.

Pinpoint transferable job skills. Note skills you acquired from teaching, other jobs, volunteer work, leisure activities and academic projects. These include communication (speaking, promoting); humanitarian (helping, training); creative (writing, inventing); organizational (leading, decision making); analytical (problem solving, critical thinking); and technical (building, computer programming).

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Clarify personal traits. These include qualities such as honesty, helpfulness, persistence, tolerance, optimism and confidence.

Identify accomplishments. Select three prized achievements. Note what gave you positive feelings, and list the skills used to accomplish these.

Explore options

Investigate jobs in education, another field or self employment. Elementary school teachers, for example, have transferred skills to varied occupations including adult educator, tutor, market researcher, corporate trainer, children's party planner, day care manager, coach, sales manager, home study consultant and children's textbook writer.

Consider self-employment. Increasingly, many educated people who work for organizations are contractors, part-timers and consultants. They manage their own careers.

Use varied resources. Check the federal government's National Occupational Classification website. Investigate company and job search websites. Read business literature, seek out informational interviews, shadow people at work, audit courses, network or volunteer. Internships and temp jobs offer experience and may lead to paid employment.

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Know job requirements. Include work environment, skills required, advancement opportunities and employee lifestyles. Be conversant with the occupation's products or services and recent developments. Assess how each job fits personal qualities.

Clarify goal

Specify a clear goal that expresses your purpose, meets your needs and enables you to use desired skills. Know the job title, preferred sector, skills and training required and organizational level. Indicate company size or type of self employment.

Market yourself

Take charge. Think of yourself as a product to be sold.

Prepare a functional or combination résumé. Functional résumés highlight skills. Combination résumés highlight relevant skills and accomplishments first and employment history next.

Target your résumé to the position. Include a clear objective, skills summary and focus on related skills. Use key words (requested in ads) and active verbs to describe significant accomplishments in teaching and other roles. Show employers what you can offer. Describe measurable accomplishments with numbers, percentages, evidence of quality and results.

Prepare an "elevator speech". A pitch (that you can make in the time it takes to ride an elevator) to introduce yourself, describe your experiences, accomplishments and skills, and demonstrates what you can do for the company. It can be given over the phone or in person.

Identify and contact hiring managers of desired companies. Introduce yourself, determine job availability and skills required. If appropriate, revise your résumé to fit their skill set. Follow up.

Network. Create opportunities to meet people in industries of interest. Attend professional meetings, read trade publications, volunteer, cold call companies and join social networking groups.

Explore all search avenues. Try executive recruiting firms, college placement offices, chambers of commerce, job search websites and company websites.

Maintain motivation. Develop a positive support system or seek assistance from a qualified professional. Take breaks. Reward yourself for accomplishing goal-directed activities. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

View the process of creating a position as an exciting adventure. You have much to offer. Believe in yourself.

Dr. Carole Kanchier is a registered psychologist, career coach and author of Dare to Change Your Job and Your Life.

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