Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

Beyond the Classroom: Navigating Career Satisfaction with Liz Taplin

Liz Taplin

Liz Taplin

Career Coach for Educators

Key Takeaways

  • Face your fears: It’s okay to feel stuck; recognizing your feelings is the first step towards change.
  • Find the right mix: Too much regulation can drown out the joy of teaching. Look for ways to keep the connection with your students alive.
  • Embrace the new: Teaching is changing, especially with tech on the rise. Be open to where it’s heading.
  • Dream, then do: Think about what you really want from your career, then lay down the steps to get there.
  • Ready for a switch? Start by looking inward to understand what you bring to the table, then explore where those skills could shine elsewhere.
  • Your skills matter: Remember, what you’ve learned as a teacher has immense value beyond the classroom.

Navigating Career Satisfaction in Teaching


In the teaching profession, it’s not uncommon to hit a crossroads where passion clashes with reality, leaving many educators feeling stuck and contemplating a drastic change. This internal conflict is often fueled by a mix of fear, guilt, and self-doubt, coupled with the relentless demands of the job. However, amidst these challenges lies a silver lining. The educational landscape is evolving, and with it, the roles and opportunities available to those in the teaching field. Recognizing and overcoming these emotional hurdles, while strategically harnessing one’s inherent skills, can open the door to renewed purpose and career paths previously unconsidered. Drawing from Liz Taplin’s wealth of experience and insights, let’s explore the avenues through which educators can rediscover their passion, adapt to the changing face of education, and potentially pivot to fulfilling roles beyond the traditional classroom setting.

  • Fear – of the unknown / of managing on a reduced salary.
  • Guilt – about letting the pupils down if they leave / about being seen as not having coped / about leaving their ‘calling’.
  • Lack of self-worth – Thoughts such as “I can’t do anything other than teaching” / I have no skills than are worth anything outside of teaching / “I’m not good enough”.

“As government and regulators strive for better results more pressure is placed on schools to spend more time on regulation and less time working with the pupils. Regulation is important to keep standards high, but the balance is way off kilter.  

Some senior leaders are fast tracked and get into position of authority too quickly. They’ve not experienced enough to be a good school leader. The pressure on them to achieve is high and some respond by passing the pressure on to their team. 

Pupil behaviour has deteriorated in recent years. Some teachers say it is out of control. Many say the lockdown/pandemic was the turning point. In some schools, budget cuts mean support staff have been removed, leaving children with SEND unsupported and the teacher trying to manage four or five children with SEND within a class of thirty.

Many teachers do not feel valued – they report that the senior leadership never acknowledges their contribution and hard work, but merely find fault.

AI will change the face of education and I’m not sure schools are ready for it. The extreme view is that teachers won’t be needed – all pupils will learn from individual AI-generated programmes. What will be needed are mentors, coaches and counsellors to ensure the hidden curriculum is not lost.”

  • “Shift the position they are coming from.
  • Take on board Victor Frankl’s observation that the ‘one thing people can’t take from you is your choice of how you respond’.
  • Say ‘no’ (very hard to do)”.

“Three things…

  • Identify what they want from life in general and their work specifically.
  • Create a plan / set goals / identify opportunities.
  • Take one step at a time.”

Exploring Career Transition Options


  • Commit to Personal Development – recognizing their strengths, finding their confidence, strengthening their belief.
  • Decide the Financial Parameters – can they afford to take a temporary drop in salary whilst they re-train.
  • Identify their Purpose – get clear on the direction they want to head in.”

Three key steps:

  • Personal Audit – take time to identify values, purpose, talents, skills, passions, achievements, financials, wellbeing.
  • Research – what other teachers have done, what is the world of work ‘out there’ really like, speak to people in the sectors you are interested in.
  • Talk to Coaches, National Career Service, HR departments, Talent ID departments, get to know the language.

One teacher I worked with initially ruled out project management because they said they ‘couldn’t do that’ – we spent time recording what they did as an early years teacher and she realized she was the ultimate project manager and secured a junior role without specific qualifications.”

  • Lack of Self-Worth: Most teachers have never worked outside of education, going from their own schooling, to university, back into school. School is not only their zone of genius, it’s their comfort zone. The world of work outside of education looks confusing and ‘I’m not good enough / I’m just a teacher’ has a firm grip.
  • Setting Heights Too High or Too Low: Being new to the job market, and maybe a little naïve (and certainly time-poor) teachers have a tendency to fire off lots of ‘click and send CV’ applications. The occasional click may reap reward but often the job spec does not sync with their talents and skills – the job is in the right salary range but the gap in experience is unrealistic. The opposite happens too – desperate to get out of a toxic workplace, they make compromises and take short cuts. The results here might be taking huge salary cuts and ignoring the skills they have accrued.
  • Overcoming the Challenges: Preparation! Treating the career change in the way it deserves to be treated. I often compare it to undertaking a Masters. It is a process and isn’t going to happen overnight. It could get messy before everything falls into place.

    I often say looking for alternative careers is like a round peg (the teacher) looking for its round hole (the perfect job). To find the right fit, you need to know all about the peg and the hole! And I love the phrase ‘slow down to speed up’.

    These two ideas create the strategy I advocate – working on the self, noticing who they are being and recognising they can shift their being. Alongside this, is the need to uncover their ‘element’ – the place where their talents and passion meet.

    Researching careers and the world of work that match their element comes next. Having conversations, work experience, and taking courses all play their part.”

Josie* was desperate to leave teaching. She dreaded going into school each day and was close to complete burn out. Teaching was Josie’s second career, having left the world of television and film when her son was a few years old, thinking it would be more suited to her new single-parent life. Her high standards of professionalism and her total dedication to doing the job well meant that teaching became all-consuming. On top of this came increased workload, increasing bad behaviour amongst pupils and less support in the classroom – a recipe for personal disaster. She knew she had to ‘get out’ but realised that she was caught in the hamster wheel and needed help. She decided to work with me on my core career-change programme. At first progress seemed slow – the focus was on personal development (building confidence, identifying core values, appreciating strengths) as opposed to finding jobs. Gradually, it all began to make sense as I was pointing the way for her to find work that she would love to do rather than just any job. Money was a stumbling block but working out her bottom-line enabled Josie to see that taking a pay cut initially to make the jump was feasible. Several job applications came and went, but none seemed the right fit so being unsuccessful was in a strange way quite a relief. But all the time she was getting to know herself better. She came to realise she needed to be working directly in-service with people, she needed to be active, and she needed to know there was a chance to progress. The end result? Josie secured work with the NHS as an activity coordinator for residents of a mental-health facility. With overtime, the drop in salary was manageable, but the real success is that Josie loves her new role and looks forward to going to work every day. The icing on the cake is that it is clear opportunities exist for progression, with Josie currently shadowing an occupational therapist with a view to being paid whilst training in this field.

Beth* is a mother of two boys and was an early years’ teacher with leadership responsibilities. She worked part-time (three days a week) but found the constant pressures of the classroom combined with the never-ending paperwork increasingly unbearable. She recognised that her low moods and having to say ‘no’ to her boys because of working at the weekends meant it was time to make changes. It was at this point she began working with me on my career-change programme. Time spent on helping Beth recognise her personal and professional strengths and what was important to her was life changing. It showed that teaching had been the right choice for her all those years ago but that the changes in policy and procedures were suffocating her and causing her anxiety. Beth saw her purpose was ensuring that all young children received the very best start in life; in particular she was passionate about advocating for vulnerable children. The role she secured was as a portage worker with a local authority. Portage is a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with SEND and their families. Each week Beth usually works one day from home and spends two days a week on home and school visits alongside reporting into the office. Beth sailed through her probationary period and feels valued by her leadership and the families she represents. She feels happy and contented and just a little bit annoyed she didn’t do this earlier!”

* Not real names


Personal Development and Support Systems


“Every single day, teachers leave the classroom and find work they love. Some work with a coach, some go it alone. You can achieve success on either path.

For those who are totally lost or stuck, for those who are paralyzed by fear, or for those who know their worth but just can’t seem to find a way of unlocking their potential, then working with a coach is priceless. The value in having someone who draws out that potential and creates the space for the insights which then have you travelling in the right direction is immense.”

What resources (books, websites, networks) do you recommend for teachers seeking to grow professionally or pivot to new careers?

Books:

  • John Lees (2022) How to get a job you love. Open University Press
  • Po Bronson (2003) What should I do with my life? Vintage
  • Amy Hardison (2021) The Ultimate Coach. Zeebroff Books

Support Groups

  • Life after Teaching – Exit the Classroom and Thrive. Facebook
  • Life after Teaching – Educator Options Beyond the Classroom. Facebook”

What advice can you offer teachers to foster resilience and maintain a positive state of well-being during times of change or uncertainty in their career paths?

Three ideas for starters:

  • Take time to get to know yourself – identify your values, your gifts, your purpose – before getting distracted with applications for jobs that may not be a good fit.
  • Be ready to shift the position you are coming from – to shift who you are Being – when you do, opportunities will start showing up.
  • Know and believe that you have some incredible transferable skills learned in the world of teaching that will impress potential employers in other sectors.”

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