Employers Value Skills More Than Type of Degree

Article excerpt

Dear Joan: I have always enjoyed reading your articles in the paper. Recently, I have decided to leave teaching (elementary) after 20 years. I do not have any specific direction I want to go in, but know that it is time for a change.

I do not know if this is in your area, but are there any suggestions you can give me? Are there areas of the job market that teachers tend to go into, or whose skills are sought after by certain types of employers? How would I market my skills and experiences?

I realize the business world is very different from education. Do you know of any other sources of help or suggestions that I could turn to (books, agencies, companies, individuals, etc.) that would be especially helpful for a teacher leaving the profession? Thank you for any help, advice or suggestions.

Years ago, I made a career change from education to business. I had taught elementary school for five years and was a middle-school counselor for four years. As much as I loved working with young people, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at working in the private sector. Perhaps my journey will provide you with some insight into your next steps.

I didn't know a thing about the business world when I started my search. In fact, I thought I needed a business degree to get a job in business. I soon learned that the specific degree I had wasn't as important as the kind of transferable skills I had. In certain jobs, such as accounting, you need an accounting degree, but for many jobs the requirements aren't that strict.

The next thing I discovered was that there wasn't an agency or a special book that would give teachers a list of careers they could step into. Instead, I learned that career changers are expected to create their own journey.

The first step was self-discovery. I decided that I needed to figure out what field I wanted first, and then figure out which job I would be qualified for within that field. The problem was that I had been so isolated in education, I didn't know what was out there. I started by asking relatives, friends and neighbors what they did in their jobs.

The next step was critical. I needed to figure out what I was good at, what I was interested in and what skills I already had. Without this information, no one could help me get to the next step. A number of contacts I met were very helpful at this point. They helped me to break down the things I did every day into transferable skills.

For example, as a counselor I had developed skills in conflict resolution; I had facilitation skills; I had organized a number of large events; and I understood group dynamics and organizational behavior. In addition, as a teacher I was skilled at designing curriculum and presentation skills.

People asked me to consider what I did in my volunteer work, to give me clues about what my deepest interests were. …