My last two articles dealt with career transition from teaching to a myriad of other interesting opportunities. Assuming that you have been motivated to push yourself from your comfort zone to pursue your leap of faith, this article would like to address the bigger questions that you will face in your new job interview.
So you have finally landed with your first post – teaching interview after diligently working for weeks or even more to customize your resume, proofreading it in a fine tooth manner and last but not the least chanting God’s name each time you click the submit button while applying for jobs. Well congratulations for clearing your first hurdle but the actual race is still not over because one fundamental question still lingers in your mind which is how to prepare for the D – day?
Apart from dusting your formal attire that you used to wear in your teaching interviews, you also need to prepare yourself for fresh responses to questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Walk me through your resume.” Most important you should brace yourself for one of the most critical question ‘Why do you want to quit teaching?’ Whether you like it or not it is important for employers to figure out why you want to change your career. It is their way of asking the following questions –
- Are you leaving for the right reasons? If you are leaving then are you stable and reliable or are you defensive, whimsical and impulsive person? Are you leaving because you feel underutilized, unappreciated and de motivated? Is it because you have a huge chip of ego or because you felt that you reached your true potential and this would be the maximum platform that your school could offer you. So you need to identify whether you have outgrown your current role professionally because of your ever increasing quest to learn something new or did you allow your self- importance to outgrow the role?
- Are you leaving on your own or have you been asked to leave? If you were asked to leave, was it because of non – performance or integrity issues, or is it due to other problems like dissolution of post, cost- cutting etc ? If it has been due to downsizing then what was your action plan to be ahead of time to prevent you from seeing such a day?
- Are you leaving as a professional? Are you going to leave your current organization on good terms or are you expecting to be escorted by the security guards as unofficially you have become persona non grata? Do you have any personal issues that make you difficult to work with?
- Are you genuinely interested in the job and if hired, will you commit to the job, or you might quit returning back to teaching?
Preparing beforehand and staying focused while addressing this question will keep you on the right track.
Tips on how to answer the “Why quit teaching?” question
- Criticize your current job, colleagues and even your boss. No one is bothered whether your current school principal or line manager is as good as Ms.Trunchbull. Complaining about them would not only reflect the negative energy stored in you but also sound extremely unprofessional of you. So even though from the bottom of your heart you want them to burn in sulfur pits of hell, steer away from being a pessimist. Prudence says that exercising control would prevent the interviewer to consider you as the real problem. Save your horror stories for your future autobiography but definitely not for the interview as in real life no one likes to deal with an emotional havoc.
- Crib about the fact that you are being paid peanuts. Well everyone wants to be paid well and teaching is one of the professions in India where most schools do not offer a very competitive remuneration package. Even though it is completely normal to have such expectation, but quoting this as the reason to call quits won’t be the best thing to bring up during an interview. Wait till you get the pulse that your recruiting manager is interested in you or when they negotiate about your salary expectations.
- Rant about your hatred towards teaching profession. Yes you are overwhelmed by the number of standardized papers that you have to prepare and grade them apart from some of the students who can test your patience level. This does not mean that your interview should be considered as the right opportunity to vent out your frustration. This can boomerang back at you as you can be stereotyped as the lazy teacher who is self centric and has no iota of growth mindset. It would be more positive if you focus on what you can offer to your prospective employer rather than what has been taken away from you.
- Underestimate yourself. Just because you intend to take up a new role in maybe a new industry, this does not mean that you undermine yourself with statements like, “I know I don’t have the right experience, but…” or, “I know I probably won’t get this job, but…” Remember how Andy convinced Miranda Priestly in the movie ‘The devil wears Prada’, that she was the best choice for her assistant even though she had no interest in fashion industry and was a complete misfit in her publishing house. Taking a cue from this scene you need to keep your insecurities aside and be confident to help the interviewer see you in the job and not eliminate you from the competition. Still not convinced then this quote might make you rethink:
“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘them ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
- Use this question to highlight your strong points. You can use this question to your advantage by showcasing how changing your career could add value to your learning experience and support your career advancement. Looking for better opportunities is not a sin and every employer appreciates a mature response to this question which shows a candidate’s desire to learn new things, acquire new skills, and set ambitious goals for one’s life.
- Elaborate as to how teaching has prepared you for this job. As a teacher you have already acquired a good range of soft skills which can act as a launch pad for contributing it to other new avenues. So take this question as an opportunity to elucidate how your education experience can be useful to the new position. You can narrate personal anecdotes like motivating a difficult student or managing a difficult parent to show how well you can collaborate in teams and influence others.
Also tailor a different answer to this question in every interview rather than elaborating the same soft skills that you learnt in different job interviews. For example if you are being interviewed for writing and editorial jobs then you can talk about the skills that you had to apply to publish your school magazine. If you are applying in business firms then showcasing your team working skills that you execute in classrooms can help more than talking about your writing skills.
- Emphasize on results. Companies like individuals who are goal oriented and driven and can perform with limited resources. Hence this can act as a potential question to focus and highlight your results that you achieved in your teaching career. Use examples like how your work helped high school students to secure placements in good universities or helped them qualify in competitive exams, Olympiads etc. Quote figures like percentage of students who did well. If you are an English teacher then you can show the percent change in students who were able to read or comprehend a higher grade level text from an elementary level in a time period of one year or even less. Same applies to other subjects.
In a nutshell a bit of practice and preparation can go a long way to answer the tricky ‘Why quit’ question. When you face your interviewer, have that ‘bring it on’ attitude and maintain your ground. Above all show your enthusiasm about the new job and your willpower to do whatever it takes to succeed because:
“Opportunities don’t often come along. So, when they do, you have to grab them.”