it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

The last few years I was teaching, even before the pandemic, I was thinking I should look outside the profession. I put it off and put it off, and then taught the first year of the pandemic. We had to teach in person and online simultaneously, which was … difficult. The writing was on the wall that forces outside my classroom would make continuing teaching in my state almost impossible, which has come to pass. So in my mid-50s, after decades in the classroom, I made the jump. I researched what I wanted to do and was lucky enough that I could take a year off working to go back to school.

I got an MPS degree online in my chosen field and started job hunting. I’ve never before had trouble getting a job, but it turns out that being both entry-level and not at the same time makes it hard for employers to figure out what to do with you. And ageism is real. And algorithms cannot see how abilities in one career might crossover to another. So while I did have some phone screenings and a few interviews beyond that, three months in I wasn’t making much headway.

I originally had the goal of not making less money than I had teaching. I then decided that I would take less, get some experience, and then look for something new. I interviewed with a nonprofit and was finally hired a year ago! And I love the job! They almost didn’t interview me because of my background, and now tell me how valuable I am. (Note: former teachers have a lot of skills, prospective employers!) The flexibility I have (I work at the office some, at home some, and have sites I visit) is amazing after so many years of no flexibility. My work-life balance is awesome. People will ask if I’m stressed, and while everything isn’t rosy all of the time, having survived the last day of school lunch duty at a middle school, I’m fine.

My only concern was the low salary, but I could live with it. Then a month or so ago, they hired a new employee, doing the same job as I have only remotely, for almost 20% more. We knew because the salary was posted. I was livid. And while I was professional about it, I made it clear I was livid. I was told a few excuses as to why this was done, but I let my boss know it was still a slap in the face. I had made myself valuable well beyond my regular duties, taking on special projects, teaching others new processes. I calmly told my boss that this would make me leave. She told me that she was working on making it right, and to please give her some time. I said okay and gave it a deadline, at least in my mind. I figured that after a year, I would have a much easier time getting interviews.

This week, she actually did make it right! They rewrote the job description to make it more accurate to what we actually do and sent it out for a market survey. They then changed our salary band and gave all of us that 20%! On top of it, I received an 8% merit increase. I am now after just a year making more than I did as a teacher, knowing that I will continue to receive the type of merit increase that never happens in education. And I get to stay in a job I really do love. As well, my boss wants me to increase my knowledge and grow professionally. To actually feel valued and have someone fight to get you that compensation is such a positive. If you want to make a change in your career, don’t let inertia, or your age, stop you. Do some research, and take the plunge! It’s worth it.

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. SpiderLadyCEO*

    You ROCK, OP! So glad you let them know how mad you were, and even more glad it paid off, not just for you but for everyone!

    I am also so happy to hear about your midlife career change! I’m much younger than you but doing something similar right now, and about to go back to school for it. It’s so nice to hear that it’s never too late to try something new, and that we can start again as many times as we need and have it work out. This is such an awesome story, thank you for sharing!

  2. Exhausted*

    Congratulations! Good for you for standing up for yourself when it came to the salary issue. While there can sometimes be legitimate reasons to pay people differently, this is a very obvious exception. I hope you buy yourself something special, much better than any end of the year teacher gift you could receive :)

  3. Throwaway Account*

    Congrats all around – on getting out, on finding a job you love, and on negotiating the salary!

    I also did a career change in my 50s (kind of twice!) and encourage others to go for it!

    You are spot on when you said: “it turns out that being both entry-level and not at the same time makes it hard for employers to figure out what to do with you”

    1. Beth*

      Hardest job hunt of my life was when I was switching careers. I even had obvious adjacent experience and clearly relevant skills! I spent so much time revising it to make it as tailored and obvious as possible. It worked on humans–if I made it to an HR screening, I usually made it to final round interviews. But getting to that HR screening stage was really hard when my most recent title was neither a role in my target industry nor an internship or student part-time job. I’m happy with where I ended up, but it took endurance to get here.

  4. Cheap Ass Rolls*

    Congratulations! Fellow former teacher here – I left the field 10 years ago and most teachers desperately undercut their transferable skills. There are SO MANY skills you use in teaching that apply to other positions/roles/fields! More hiring managers need to know that as well.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Agreed! Former teachers have soooo many marketable skills! Don’t sell yourself short! I was a private music teacher for a few years so while I don’t have classroom mgmt skills (am legit terrible at group mgmt) I still have skills I learned while teaching that I use in my job now.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolls*

        Definitely! There are project management skills (tracking deliverables, aligning to standards/guideposts, communication), people management skills from classroom management (I know some will disagree but there is a lot similar between managing minors and managing adults – keeping your cool under pressure, effective and positive communication, coaching, documentation), a lot of writing/communication skills…I’ve actually mentored people wanting to get out of teaching and lot of them find success in HR and recruiting roles, business analyst roles, and project management roles.

  5. Csethiro Ceredin*

    Congratulations!! That sounds like a great change for you.

    It boggles my mind that a company would hire someone new without noticing (or caring about?) a salary disparity with someone already int he role, though.

    1. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

      It’s super common though. There’s a fancy term for it (which I can’t come up with right now) but I was complaining about my (terrible) retail job advertising better pay for new workers than current workers were getting, and my dad (who works in academia) just shrugged his shoulders and said it happens all the time because schools have to advertise at market value even if they aren’t paying their tenured faculty at market value. I said, “That isn’t fair.” He said, “No, it isn’t.”

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        I think you’re referring to wage compression. Very, very common, especially over the last several years as there have been bigger pushes to make a minimum wage actually a living wage.

    2. Beth*

      That’s one reason that employers resist salary transparency. You have to hire at around market rate or you don’t find good candidates. If you’re being cheap with your current employees and giving them low enough raises that they’re now under market value…you don’t want them to find out, because if they do, they’ll react like OP did.

  6. In the middle*

    “Having survived the last day of school lunch duty at a middle school, I’m fine.”

    Laughs in middle school teacher of 15 years.

    1. Ginny Weasley*

      As a teacher of 12 years, oh boy, did I understand that sentiment. Lunch duty (any time of year) is THE WORST.

  7. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Speaking as a former teacher now working outside of education–if you are thinking about making a career change, DO IT! There are many resources out there specifically for teachers making career changes (lots of accounts on TikTok).

    The grass is, in fact, greener, has less cell phone rules that get ignored, no parent teacher conferences, and someone buys you the supplies you need. ;)

  8. Goldenrod*

    Aaaaand this is why it’s so important that salary be transparent! I’m so glad that laws around this are changing, and moving in the right direction.

    Well done, LW!!! :)

  9. Bookworm*

    Thank you for sharing, OP! I felt a lot of your letter (although not quite in the same boat!) and hope to make a similar move, too. Glad it worked out so well for you!

  10. Former Burnt Out Teacher*

    I just celebrated my one year of leaving teaching for environmental consulting and I’ve never been happier. I cannot thank AAM enough for helping to save so much of myself with this career change.

  11. PivotTime*

    As someone who’s trying to change careers with a degree I’m in the middle of, this was a story I needed to hear. I’m late-4o’s and in a state where I’m already going to make a lot less money and entering a new field at entry-level is intimidating. It’s nice to hear that it can work out.

  12. Properlike*

    Late 40s looking to get out of teaching and would love ALL the resources if Alison permits.

    OP, your situation (minus the initial crappy salary) is what I hope for. But it all feels So Much.

  13. Your favorite cat meme*

    Huzzah! Kudos to you for standing up for yourself, and glad your boss listened.

    P.S. lunch duty on the last day should be like Thunderdome– lock the doors & let them have at it.

  14. Ms. Frizzle*

    This was an inspiring update! Thanks, OP – as a current teacher considering leaving the field, it’s encouraging to see people do it successfully, and I especially applaud you for standing up for yourself with salary parity. Wishing you continued fulfillment!

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