Life Outside of the Classroom: Part 3

The following blog is written by Leena Saleh.

For those of you who frequent CodeMonkey’s Blog, you may have read about what life is like after leaving the classroom. For those who are new, Leena’s story on switching sides tells a first-hand account on the difficulties she faced throughout her teaching experience as it became clear that many schools were stuck in outdated teaching methods, when she realized she needed to leave teaching and now in Part 3, what the application process was like for her.

“Making the decision to leave the classroom was what I thought was going to be the most challenging part of the process. That was until I started the actual most dreaded part of the transition – the application process. It was until this moment that I had it figure out. I knew where I was heading. I had honed on the job that I wanted. But what I quickly realized was that I was going to face daily rejection.

I thought prior to this process that my resume was awesome. One that always seemed to get administrators from most schools to take a look. What I mistakenly thought was going to be an easy process was anything but. I now needed to take what I had been learning for the last few years and apply those skills to my resume in a way that would provide a value to companies and the teams I would hope to join.

So a fun fact about me is that over the past ten years…well let’s face it, much longer than ten years, I had worked in the service industry. I worked in this market because it would allow me to contribute to my students and the families and community expectations of what as a teacher, I was supposed to provide. I remember my first year teaching…I was in a Title One school and my students were starving. They couldn’t even focus on the task at hand when they were starving, not only for attention, but for food. That year was the first year in my life that I not only felt the demand of a teacher, but the also the financial investment involved. I quickly realized that I would probably not be able to sustain this social expectation that was thrown in my lap. I went in to teaching to change lives and I had to work to support those expectations placed upon me. I also wanted to provide my students with a safe environment. One in which I they would have a least something in their belly to make them survive the day. It was also during this first year that I proposed to my principal that we needed to offer breakfast to our students as the financial strain was too great. There is no way I could be productive when I didn’t even have the funds to feed myself in the way that I was providing my students.

But the point of that share was that when I would tell my guests what I would do during the day they were always so thankful for all that we do as teachers. The truth is that we are doing so many in things in the day. We are parents, counselors, problem solvers, teachers, decision makers, comedians, performers, data trackers, innovators and those are just a few of the many things that a teacher is in a day. A teacher doesn’t have down time in the day to eat, let alone take a bathroom break. You become an expert, and quite honestly the king of multitasking.

It WAS quick, and I mean quick, that I realized that as a teacher we do so many things that even now not being in classroom I sometimes am in awe of all that we do. That we do it so well with the restrictions put against us. However, that seemed to hold no merit in the world of business. You are easily replaced and what a business needs to know is what type of “value” will you add. Because at the end of the day, you are an investment meant to add value to their company.

After more than 30 rejections, I knew I had to rework my resume. The roles I held in the classroom needed to become one of numbers, data, and metrics. It was hard. The resume that I was once so proud of had changed and transformed. Our schools having been turning our students into numbers. Now, it was what was happening to me and it all seemed to click. I was looking at my perspective of a teacher in the wrong way. At the end of the day, my students need to have a certain amount of skills. Can you communicate? Work well with others? Think on your feet? Innovate? Fail forward? The skills that I was committed to teaching my students, those 21st century skills, were now needed to be transcribed into one single 8×11 piece of paper.

It is hard to tell your story. So what did I do? I poured my heart into the cover letter. After those rejections I was heart broken. It was daunting. You can’t figure out why you can’t even get in the door. You know in your heart that you just need someone to take a risk and when you do that you are going to rock it. But getting to the point and looking past all the days of rejection is heartbreak. It’s like your first love. You love them so hard that you overlook all the signs that it is time to move on and try a new approach until you finally find the one.

I can honestly say that within the last few months I have shared my story and expertise with others and they have in fact moved into new roles and career changes. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible.

Did you know that with the computerized world we live in, most humans don’t even screen your resume. A computer does. They look for keywords and phrases that match the application. So each and every resume and cover letter will have to vary.

I would wake up every morning and start the applications. I applied to 10–20 (if I am being honest it would be more) jobs a day and each and every resume I submitted had to be “modified for the language” of the role. I also started obsessively listening to podcasts. Business-centered ones. I realized that Linkedin was going to be my saving grace. I also joined facebooks groups designed for job seekers based on what field you are looking at. I would apply through the standard job portal then reach out via these social networks. I would send these people my resume and cover letter and ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing my resume or if they had perspective and insight into the company, they wouldn’t mind sharing it over an awesome local brew (coffee or beer).

It started working. I started to get calls and interviews. I want to dispel something here – it takes the average job seeker anywhere from 3–9 months to actually land a job. So as you can imagine it took sometime to even get noticed. My one piece of advice is to not take the rejection personally and let it bring you down, take a deep breath, maybe release a few tears. And MOVE on. I have one more piece of advice, make sure you are keeping a file of the resumes and a list of where you applied. You never know when one of those companies from 9 months ago will reach out.

Next up, the interview process and the JOB!!!

Stay tuned…


Leena Saleh, Former STEM Teacher; Professional Development Manager at CodeMonkey; Leena is passionate about STEM and preparing our students for the world we live in and beyond. The original article can be found here.

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