One of the most difficult things for a teacher, who is thinking about leaving the classroom, is starting a resume that isn’t too “teachery.” It can be hard to think about the type of skills you possess that aren’t related to teaching because you’ve been in education since graduating college. But you actually have a TON of teacher transferable skills that make you the perfect candidate for your dream job!
So today we’re going to look at…
- The 10 most impressive transferable skills you already have that make you the ideal candidate for your dream job
- Which resume buzzwords you want to use (and which resume cliches to avoid) in order to get the job
- Where to find more resources to help you on this resume-building journey
10 Teacher Transferable Skills
Being excited about your job is super-important, yet fairly uncommon these days. In fact, it seems like most people spend a good portion of their work day simply counting down the hours and minutes until they can clock out.
If you’ve lost your enthusiasm for teaching, reflect back to how excited you were when you graduated from college and started seeking out your first teaching job. That’s the kind of passion you should have for your job because you want to be excited about making a difference!
And even though you’re pursuing a different career path at this point in your life, you can carry that enthusiasm of helping others be successful with you into your dream career.
Quick Tip: According to a study conducted by Linked In in 2018, the word “passionate” can be a bit of a resume cliche. So consider providing examples of how your passion for a project (or your job in general) resulted in a specific outcome. This is what recruiters are looking for in potential new hires.
If you still want to refer to your passion as something unique you bring to the table, consider using these alternative synonyms…
They still indicate that you’re excited about your potential new position and can’t wait to begin, but it isn’t the same overused word every other applicant has highlighted on their application!
One of the most important teacher transferable skills we have is preparation. And as teachers, we’re always prepared. Whether we’re talking about bathroom breaks, classroom management or lesson plans, we have Plans A-D ready to go and usually Plan E is waiting in the wings.
My husband is an Environmental Health Manager with the Virginia Department of Health, and he regularly conducts interviews to fill open positions. Since he is quite familiar with interviews and what recruiters are looking for in applicants, I asked him to share some of his thoughts and observations.
Without hesitation, he stated, “It blows my mind how many people come into an interview completely unprepared!” He continued this thought by indicating that many individuals can’t answer even the most basic questions. This is a big “no no” when it comes to landing your dream job.
And the saddest part of all is these interviewees had all the potential in the world but their lack of preparation kept them from getting the job.
So as you’re thinking about what you need to add to your resume for a job outside of the classroom, preparation is key. In fact, that skill alone will put you leaps and bounds ahead of the competition…even if just in the interview.
Quick Tip: Study the position posting and then spend time acquainting yourself with the company’s mission statement and goals. Using some of the same language in your interview as they include in these important documents & statements will show the recruiters that you are prepared and want the position.
3. Effective Communication Skills
As teachers, we have effective communication down to a science. On any given day, we communicate verbally (and in written form) with students, other teachers, various faculty members, principals, administrators, and parents. It’s also quite common for teachers to be communicating with members of the community at large.
The ability to effectively communicate is the number one skill (out of all the teacher transferable skills) that my husband says he and his fellow interviewers are seeking in a potential employee. If someone cannot communicate well on their resume or in the interview, it sends up a red flag.
This includes HOW you answer questions on the application, WHAT language you use in your cover letter, and HOW you tailor your resume for the job you’re trying to land. You want to include proper resume buzzwords and targeted language throughout so that recruiters are confident you know what you’re talking about.
But being able to communicate effectively doesn’t end with just your words; it extends into your ability to diffuse potentially volatile situations. And I know, as a teacher, you’ve been involved in situations where not wanting to share escalated into gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.
So your ability to stay calm (in moments of intense emotion) and to ultimately diffuse the situation as needed are qualities that recruiters want to hear about. In fact, my husband told me that in every interview he asks applicants to discuss a time they had a conflict with someone in the workplace and how the conflict was resolved.
Employers of all kinds are looking to hire individuals with the ability to communicate effectively and diffuse situations as needed.
Quick Tip: Be mindful of the questions on the application and in the interview, and try to answer them as specifically & eloquently as possible with relevant examples as needed. Being a well-spoken individual will automatically give you the upper hand!
Another one of the most meaningful transferable skills is a willingness to learn. Whether you’re applying for a position in a new teaching role outside of the classroom or jumping headfirst into something completely different, you have to learn new skills.
Even if you just want to dip your toe into the water and start a teacher side hustle, you have to be teachable. In other words, you must be able to grasp the power of the word “yet.” It’s essential that you can say, “While I may not know everything there is to know about this specific topic yet, I can absolutely learn this new skill.”
If you find yourself seeking alternative careers for teachers, you may discover lots of interesting options. But with these awesome opportunities comes the need to learn a variety of new skills.
But don’t let fear of failure hold you back! You have the ability; you just need to learn some things first in order to tap into your potential.
Quick Tip: Explain to recruiters that while you don’t know everything there is to know about this new job, you are willing to learn. Then give an example of something you learned on your own while in the classroom that wasn’t required. This might just give you an edge over someone who comes into the interview with more experience.
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5. Motivation and the Ability to Motivate Others
Being internally motivated is severely lacking in our current society, but the ability to take initiative is almost extinct. Very few adults see something that needs to be done and do it. They’re so caught up in doing the bare minimum that they miss out on the opportunity to go “over and above.”
As a teacher, you’ve not only had to be personally motivated, you’ve had to take initiative and incite motivation in your students. Of all the teacher transferable skills you possess, this one is unique in that only a handful of other applicants can claim this ability.
Therefore you want to highlight this in your resume and cover letter and showcase this ability in the interview to stand out from the competition.
But don’t just say it…provide an example. How did you motivate your students to give their best each day? What did you do to inspire your students to take charge of their own learning?
The answers to these types of questions will give you the fuel you need to confidently proclaim that you’re motivated and have the ability to motivate others with your words and actions.
Quick Tip: The word “motivated” can be another resume cliche. So think about using these resume buzzwords that are synonymous with “motivated” that will set you apart from the other applicants:
- Takes Initiative
6. Problem-Solving Skills
In every professional situation, you have to solve problems and teachers are the world’s best problem-solvers. We’re creative in how we approach the problem, address the problem, and amend the problem.
Solving problems is one part “know how” and two parts “thinking outside the box.” So the key to being successful at problem-solving is knowing what to do in a given situation and being willing to pivot as needed to meet the needs of those you serve.
Quick Tip: Be sure you feature this skill in your application and interview by giving a specific example that’s relevant to the position for which you want to be considered. Don’t waste the interviewer’s time by sharing a story of how you helped Susie share her toy with Tommy.
Explain the connection you made by explaining how you helped someone see a different perspective that resulted in a desired outcome (aka Susie shared the toy). This is specifically what makes you an effective problem-solver!
7. Community Builder
The word “community” is greatly desired by many, yet rarely fought for by most.
Any CEO will tell you the last thing they need in the workplace is more gossip and division. These problems seem to work their way into even the best companies.
But as a teacher who took 20-30 individuals of different ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, personality types, and ability levels and established a community, you are a true star!
Very few people can say they built community among even a small group of people, yet you have done this year after year. Hiring an employee who can help the company unite with “one mind and one heart” is the holy grail for any CEO.
Therefore, your competence at facilitating this type of environment is one that should be celebrated and confidently declared to the interviewers.
Quick Tip: As with all of the other skills we’re discussing, make sure you can provide concrete examples of how you created a community, cultivated that atmosphere, and how you plan to do it again.
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8. Skilled at Breaking Down Complex Information
Obviously, the role of a teacher is to teach. But the best teachers know how to take complex information, break it down into its most essential parts, and explain how each of those parts works together to create the whole.
This is a gift and truly one of the best teacher transferable skills you have to offer.
So think of a time you were teaching a specific skill to your students, but you could just tell the content was not connecting. How did you break down the information into more digestible pieces? What made you choose to take that position when explaining the content?
These are the kinds of things recruiters are looking for in potential employees. They want to see how well you can take complex information and effectively communicate it with someone else whether that be another employee, a client, or a board member.
My husband said this is the one area where teachers truly shine. Because regardless of the content you’re communicating, most individuals don’t have the ability to “teach” others or help them connect with the information the way you do.
Quick Tip: Because this is a rare skill, you want to confidently express how well you were able to break down complex information and make it understandable to even the simplest of minds. Because the truth is every company needs people who are able to share essential information in a way that effectively makes the necessary point.
If the pandemic of 2020 taught us anything, it’s the undeniable resilience of teachers. Teachers were given an impossible task to complete with NO guidance on how to make it happen…and they did it.
No other group was asked to change everything they’d ever done in their career overnight except teachers. And that resilience was what made you effective whether you were doing school online, in person, or some form of hybrid model.
While I think it’s safe to say that most teachers prefer being in person, the fact that you were able to figure it out and accomplish the impossible online is a testament to how resilient you truly are!
Quick Tip: Make a point of discussing what you were required to do as a teacher during the pandemic, but don’t focus on the negative (no potential employer wants a Debbie Downer). Simply recount the events and how your resilience got you out of bed each day…even when you knew you were going to face immense difficulties.
Resourcefulness goes hand-in-hand with resilience. When you were given little (or no) notice that you were leaving the classroom, you got scrappy. Many teachers have shared how they were given one hour to collect anything (and everything) they would need to conduct school online through a virtual format for an unknown period of time.
Most teachers were only able to gather a handful of essentials and ultimately had to get really creative with how they kept students engaged during this time.
So how resourceful were you with the limited time and supplies you had at your disposal? Did you just do what had to be done because it was in the best interest of your students?
If you hadn’t taught through the pandemic, you would have never known just how resourceful you can be (and you certainly wouldn’t have know just how many teacher transferable skills you actually possess).
Most people wouldn’t have had a clue about what to do…and maybe you didn’t either. But the fact remains that you just did what had to be done because your students were counting on you.
Quick Tip: Talk about how you were resourceful during a time when no one knew what tomorrow help and how you accomplished the impossible because others were counting on you.
Want more Helpful Resume Building Resources?
I found these resources to be extremely helpful to me as I was creating this podcast episode and researching ways to help you create a more powerful resume.
You have so many qualities and teacher transferable skills that will set you “head and shoulders” above the competition as you seek your dream job. Just remember to confidently share the well-rounded set of skills you’ve gained as a classroom teacher and how those abilities translate into an employee companies are fighting over.