Tips for Transitioning Out of Teaching

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While teachers indisputably touch lives, it is just as indisputable that the unlivable aspects of teaching are driving many teachers to exit the career (the newest statistics is that 46% of new teachers leave teaching within the first five years).

And maybe you managed to get that job right out of college, but if you teach or know a teacher who is thinking about taking the leap from the non-profit industry to the corporate world, here are a few mind-blowing tips for transitioning out of teaching:

Emotional Changes When You Leave Teaching

You are now responsible for you. Not others.

Unless you’ve taken a job that includes a lot of similar responsibilities, not-teaching is a whole new world from teaching. Your job performance and reputation is now all about what you do — not what you get others to do, as in the case of tests and national averages.

You need to protect your job, your reputation, and your performance in a new way, and it is important to get a grip on that as soon as possible. Make sure you have processes and strategies to explain your decisions, and always (always) keep a paper trail.

Plan for your feelings because they will follow you.

Since teaching is a highly stressful job, chances are you will carry the emotional year with you even after you have left the classroom. Even without summer to look forward to, you’ll feel the excitement and high of May and June, but also the possible depression and anxiety of November and January. Plan to feel a little extra stress around old “teacher transition times,” especially if you’ve been teaching for a long time.

Talk with someone about failure.

Maybe the best audience for you is a counselor, or maybe it is your mom, spouse, or teacher friend, but find someone you can talk honestly with about feelings of failure. Otherwise these feelings can linger and negatively impact your new job and quality of life.

Environmental Changes When You Leave Teaching

Your time off is now for you.

While it was great to get a week or two off at each holiday and most of the summer off, the trade off was not being free to take leave when you needed to throughout the year. Now you can, and sometimes you are encouraged to. Give yourself time to reset your “me-time” clock and plan out some breaks in the year.

People like to be at work.

If you left teaching in a huff, chances are you got pretty resentful and negative towards the end. In your new environment, the majority of people actually like their jobs and — gasp — want to be there. Check your negative attitude and try to stay aware of how you talk about your work so that you can blend in seamlessly. And while you’re at it… allow yourself to love your job!

Your workday is also yours.

With some exceptions, your new job has a lot of perks over teaching (like being able to go to the bathroom whenever you need to). If you aren’t a teacher, I bet this sounds really weird, but getting out of teaching is kind of like being freed from jail. You are now a human adult with full rights to leave a room or meeting (within reason) and not have to worry about someone stabbing someone else and being fired for it. Holla!

Resources for Change

Perhaps you’re reading this and hoping for a new career. Here are a few resources that I found very helpful when I made the transition myself:

Do you have any teacher friends who are looking for a new career?

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  1. lc | says

    Me! Me! I will be bookmarking this and coming back to it as I resign in January and begin the search for something new. So glad to have found some inspiration.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’ve compiled all of this career and leaving-teaching info into the eBook Life After Teaching… Though of course by now I hope you’re well on your way to your dream job :-)

  2. ThinkingAhead says

    Sarah, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to make the transition out of teaching/K12 school building and into either another capacity of education or the corporate world! I recognize the importance of creating a strong online social media presence (such
    as what you’ve created with your LinkedIn account and your overall online
    success), but like you said, “Everyone knows you need smart website content,
    a blog, and a dynamic social media presence, but few have the expertise,
    experience, and confidence to pull it off.” I want to learn how to pull it

    I’ve put in the effort to further my education in to learn new skills and become more
    desirable to the corporate world. I recently completed a graduate certificate in Project Management and I’ve also taken coursework in business administration. I have a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts, and I too earned a Master of Arts in Teaching degree. FYI- I am a middle school English teacher.I still have a true passion for education, but I am now more interested in working in education policy/education research. I just started an education policy fellowship program (a ten month program). Needless to say, I’m exhausted! I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels at trying to make a career change with no success! I need to figure out how to make the change that I’ve been working so hard to accomplish for the past several years. I would love the opportunity to speak with you!

  3. Phillip says

    Sarah, I have been trying to figure out ways to transition as well. I have been teaching for 4 years, I am currently working on getting an MBA in the evenings, I have a linkedIn account but I don’t know exactly how to “get started” or what positions out of education that I would be qualified to do. Any help would be greatly appreciated

  4. Paula says

    I actually just quit my teaching job!! I couldn’t take it anymore. Long hours and so much put into the job with absolutely no recognition for doing so. Only negative things they could say about how not EVERY student was on grade level. If you are a teacher I know you have experienced these things. Seems that you are working for nothing because nothing is ever good enough!! After teaching for 9 years I have no idea what I am experienced enough to do besides teach, ha! I too am currently enrolling in grad school for my MBA. I have got to find another career. Any suggestions or ideas?

    • says

      Congratulations, Paula! That’s such a big step!

      Please feel free to join the Life After Teaching LinkedIn group (– I think you can get some great ideas and examples for possible careers! There’s also a whole chapter devoted to brainstorming new job ideas for teachers… the trick is to identify the parts of teaching you LOVED and find careers that focus on that, rather than just your instructional topic. Please feel free to email me with any questions!

  5. Lindsay says

    I am looking to transition out of teaching and am looking for ways to market myself in the corporate world. If anyone has any resume tips or suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated!

    • says

      Hi Lindsay… welcome! Like I offered to everyone else, please feel free to join the Life After Teaching LinkedIn group (– the more people we have, the more great ideas and examples for possible careers!

      When it comes to marketing yourself, your first step should be to flesh out your LinkedIn profile and establish professional social media profiles (Twitter, Google+). You don’t have to start posting just yet, but the point is to be “findable” when the right people come looking. There’s a whole chapter in the eBook about preparing for the online job hunt. Please feel free to email me with any questions!

  6. Angela says

    Ugh. I feel so overwhelmed by the whole process of leaving education. Especially at my age (no spring chicken, but youthful at heart!)…. My first degree was accounting, which I never really liked. I do have strong analytic skills though! Later, I returned to school for a master’s in teaching with an English major. I have been teaching middle/h.s. English for over 10 years now. I absolutely am ready for “Act 3.” But I feel a little out of place amongst young, savvy job-seekers. Not sure how to proceed, but it is definitely time!

    • says

      It can definitely be hard to work up the energy and motivation to “start all over again.” But all it takes is one well-placed resume and interview, and it might be easier than you think! I recommend working on piece of the equation at a time. First brainstorm job opportunities, then revamp the resume, then start looking at interviewing resources. Trying to do it all at once is what’s killer!

  7. says

    This is a great article and it’s these things that we tend to overlook in our rush to get out. I am trying to move on from being a teacher but I’m feeling stifled because I don’t have any other real credentials. I majored in music, so most of my classes and experience is not financial or business oriented. I recently earned an endorsement in mathematics so I can do something different.

    I am interested in transitioning out of teaching because it just doesn’t pay well and I feel that if I’m working hard, I should be able to earn decent money. I got a teaching job outside of the US, and am now able to live tax-free, so that’s the equivalent of 15-20% pay increase. I’m interested in business, but I’m not sure how to get into it with out having to go back and take expensive undergraduate classes

    I’m hoping to take some free online courses to catch me up academically and help me talk the talk to show I’m qualified.

    Do you have any other suggestions?

    • says

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for your comment! I am very much a fan of making incremental, low-cost changes over time, so your plan sounds perfect to me. I highly recommend, where you can take classes at prestigious universities totally free.

      In my time as a digital entrepreneur, I’ve learned that credentials don’t have to matter unless you intend to lean on them entirely. Start something, be it a club or a blog or a book, and write about your experience. Your “credentials” should be your experience and prove to the future employer what you’re passionate about. A degree could help, sure, but nothing is as impressive as grit and determination, especially in the business world.

      Feel free to email me sometime to talk business ideas! I think there are a number of holes in the market when it comes to music, and there might be something big right under your nose!


  8. Blanka Fuzvolgyi says


    I am another one of the lost souls you seem to guide through this process of transitioning out of the classroom. :)
    I am three years in to teaching, and I would love some change.
    What I would like to do ideally, is travel, write, and teach at the same time.
    I’m applying to JET and a few other teach abroad programs in a few months (I’m mainly focusing on JET though). I would love to do travel journalism/blogging while being there.

    Do you think there is a a niche for this sort of thing? I’d love to dissect cultural differences between the west and east both in general, but also within education itself. Would I be able to build up an audience for this?

    If I get into this program, I won’t be leaving for another year and therefore I will definitely be staying in teaching for at least that long simply because I cannot find any job that offers pay even close to what I earn with teaching (not that it’s that much). During that time, how do you suggest that I build myself up as a freelance writer, so that by the time I go to Japan, I get actually write about what I want to write about?

    Thank you for your help!


    • says

      Hi Blanka,

      It’s great to meet you! I’ve been writing as a freelancer for 2 years and I believe very strongly that there is a niche there for you. If you want to get started, sign up at for my email newsletter when the website launches. You should also check out and her freelancing group — there is a great gang of supportive writers and educators there who are trying to make the leap you’re trying to make right now!

      To get started writing now, definitely start a free blog! Writing a lot (and reading other blogger’s blogs) will give you so much background information and help you find your voice very quickly. I also recommend and to start learning how to write online — both of those websites are invaluable!

      I wish you all the best!

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