In essence, education is about preparing our youth for their lives beyond school and into the workforce as productive members of society. Equipping them with foundation skills that will put them in good stead for a range of careers, industries and roles.
How is it then that for many schools, career education is left till the final years of senior school? And why is it that we neglect the career planning of educators in their professional journey?
Working with educators and executives across a range of school systems, dynamics and positions, we find many are lacking both the time and knowledge to position themselves for their next step, or to even contemplate what that might look like.
With over 20 years in careers across many industries, below we highlight some critical areas of focus to support individuals, with specific examples for educators, to protect themselves professionally and equip themselves for the next turning point in their career.
Recognise your strengths
One of the most common stumbling blocks for all ages is identifying and articulating our strengths without feeling boastful or meek. Understanding what we offer through what comes naturally and how this is unique to us is critical in building self-esteem and confidence in our personal and professional value.
Educators, often by default, tend to look for others’ strengths and capabilities, seeking to develop and improve others. Reversing this to have a focus on self is an important building block to understanding not only what we offer but what we may want to do more of in the future.
Those who value developing others may aspire to leadership, those who wish to resolve issues and manage others challenges may wish for a focus on wellbeing and those who have natural organisation skills and the capacity to influence and impact a broad range of people may desire a year coordinator or head of department position.
Update your resume and profile
With a deeper sense of awareness, you are in a great position to create or update your profile. It is common that people update their resumes when they are unhappy in a position, need to relocate or change positions or have identified a position they are interested in. This immediacy leaves us without the headspace to focus or think deeply about who we are, what we have done and evidence of all aspects.
Your profile needs to share your story and experience through highlights in a crisp and clear fashion. Demonstrating the behaviours and capabilities you feel you offer through specific and tangible examples that offer the reader a glimpse into who you are and what you have done. This comprises of the following:
- ontact details – remember your online profile
- Stand out achievements – focus on numbers, dates and delivery on these
- Professional experience – noting your core responsibility and notable achievements in each of the recent roles at least
- Project involvement – over and above your core role include any activities where you have extended yourself professionally
- Volunteering – demonstrating your areas of passion and interest above your standard work and within your community
- Qualifications – your education, training and development log
- References – those who can speak of your qualities and deliverables in various settings
- Get involved in projects
You may find your resume lacks diversity as you have been busy in your role. If this is the case, it is the perfect time to create, identify or nominate for projects in your areas of interest, within your role, community or professional sphere.
These projects may include:
- New initiatives or programs at your school
- Working with an association or industry group
- Speaking at a conference, in blogs or network group
- Writing articles or blogs
- Leading or supporting sports, music, performance or interest groups
- Get active online
A lot of educators have resisted the online wave and so are missing out of professional knowledge, networking, information and opportunities. You do not have to share anything you do not wish to, but be involved in your world. This means having a professional profile on LinkedIn and using it! Following companies, associations, influencers and places of interest. Not only will this build your professional knowledge but it may help you improve your teaching practice through currency and connection with those you have little understanding of.
If LinkedIn feels too much, use Facebook or Instagram to connect and know what is happening. Social media is common practice for the generations coming out of university and in your classroom, seek to understand it and you could benefit in your consideration of those you struggle to connect with or recognise as feeling disconnected from their education. Again, you do not have to share or partake in anything you don’t want to. Start with the setting, feel confident in the information you are disclosing and watch before you engage. You may naturally find yourself draw to particular areas and groups. Equally you may disconnect or unfollow groups you find are not aligned to your values or interests. This is all acceptable social etiquette online.
Step out of your comfort zone – Network!
In the busyness of life, we can let opportunities pass, settle into comfort and fail to push ourselves into things we are not at peace with. Just as we tell our children and students, they need to be prepared to stretch themselves and stumble or fall, so do we. Some of the greatest opportunities can pass unknown if we sit in our norms. Find comfort in discomfort, work with others who will benefit from the experience and so have a support as you start to challenge yourself.
For many of us we rarely leave the school or workplace without a clear and direct mission. Careers are created by connections in today’s world. It is more about who you know and how well they know you as to what prospects may present to you. Some of us find speaking with others occurs with ease and informally, for others it takes a concerted effort to leave the staffroom and put ourselves out there. Setting a target of one networking event or activity a term that will push you outside your network whilst being attainable.
Take a risk – Go for an interview
Interviewing is a practiced skill. Investing time in your resume and profile will offer you insight into your past and themes to share. Undertaking an interview, at your school or externally, reminds you of natural nervousness, that we can survive and often surprise ourselves with what we share and that we have great in us.
Experiencing interviews or professional meetings:
- Develop our abilities to promote ourselves with confidence
- Help us to clarify what it is we are committed to
- Refine interpersonal skills in a more formalised setting
- Ensure we can be succinct and influential
- Have a vision of what could be
The timing is not always right for us to ‘jump ship’ or look to move. For personal or professional reasons, we may be bound or content in where we are. Career growth does not necessarily involve a move, it can be the next step in the place we are. Your career should encompass a number of unique steps and practices that have built your professional toolkit. Your next steps could be as simple as joining a professional association, proposing a new project, presenting on a topic of interest or as great as applying for a leadership role, moving locations or industries.
Avoiding complacency is critical to joy in life and professional satisfaction. Investing in yourself and your vision of what your world of work could look like is beneficial to all spheres of your life and wellbeing. Start with small actions and considerations, make time for research or document drafting and value the small steps.
As a professional you need to remember opportunities do not have to come to you, you need to seek them out. Your satisfaction in your work will only grow through the reflection and consideration of what your future could look like. Additionally, your competence in preparing youth for their future will improve and so your student engagement profits. There is never the perfect time so set a time, grab a coffee or friend and start thinking!
As published in Education Today, March 2020