Ask The Work Buzz! I’ve got a degree in education, but no job

helpCourtney writes to us with a concern I’m sure many of you can relate to: I graduated college three years ago with a degree in elementary education. There are not very many teaching positions out there, so I’m looking to other avenues. I’d like something that would pay more than minimum wage but I am unsure of what I can do with a degree that doesn’t specialize in anything but education.

Well, there are other options!
When you’re looking to switch industries, you need to look beyond just the title of your degree or current profession. Switching industries can include switching from your educational background or from your work experience.  In most cases, employers will overlook those differences if you prove you’re a right match for the responsibilities of the new job. The best way to do that is to break down what experience and strengths you have. And if you don’t yet have a job on the horizon, it’s also a good way to discover what jobs you could be suited for.

Ask yourself these questions.
  • What are my strengths in communication–verbal or written?
  • Am I a leader?
  • What’s my customer service experience? (Do I normally deal with them one-on-one or am I behind the scenes?)
  • What about my last job/training did I like?
  • What career goals did I initially have and can I achieve them in another field?
  • On my resume, if I covered up my industry’s name (in this case “education”), what sort of jobs do I look prepared for?
Some of those questions might sound obvious or even silly, but they’ll get your mind thinking about your future beyond simply what you were trained for.
In the case of education, specifically elementary education, you probably have the following:
  • Excellent verbal communication skills
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Experience thinking on your feet
  • Creativity (seeing as you’re constantly thinking of new ways to engage the students)
  • Conflict resolution skills (education courses often involve various classroom re-creations)
Some jobs that encompass these qualities and are often good for educators:
  • Instructor for a business
    Businesses often hold in-house training sessions on a topic related to that industry or on continuing education. An education background makes you an ideal candidate for these positions.
  • Textbook editors and advisers
    Seeing as you are an educator, your brain is ripe for the picking when it comes to creating course texts. You know what works, what doesn’t work, what’s lacking, etc.
  • Admissions directors
    Your education experience also makes you a prime candidate for working with incoming students and aligning the admissions department with the school’s goals. (This could be at a variety of schools, including post-secondary.)
  • Sales in education-related jobs
    Working in any school, you’re aware that businesses are constantly approaching educators and institution about new products, tools and resources.  Many educators are able to tap into their experience and realize what teachers need and how they want to be communicated with in order to sell these products.
Depending on the specific organization, you might need more training for these jobs, or maybe just an additional certification. Or maybe not. Workers constantly switch industries and employers know that expertise doesn’t just come from a certification or degree title. You can’t count yourself out of any job because you think you’re only trained to teach elementary school and nothing else. Look at your qualifications and then look at the qualifications in job postings and you’ll be surprised.
Have you been in Courtney’s situation and made an industry switch? We’d love to hear how you did it.

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