Managing your career
The career climate
No longer can anyone assume they have a job for life. As a profession, teaching has been less affected, to date, by changes in the world of work, although the sector has experienced massive internal upheavals.
But teachers cannot afford to ignore the changes taking place in the labour market, as jobs disappear and new ones come into being, each requiring new skills. It matters on two levels: because it affects their pupils who will enter it, and because you may want to make a career change.
Don't play the lottery with your future
Serendipity rules for many of us, but sometimes trusting to chance can be an excuse to avoid taking action. Too often individuals drift along in their job and only confront change when it is imposed or problems arise.
There is a positive pay-off for professionals who recognise the value of personal career planning and use it to keep in control of their professional development. This approach does not equate with teacher appraisal, which remains for many a contentious issue.
The focus is upon an individual's personal and career achievements and future goals, rather than those of the institution. There is a relationship between planning and reviewing as a member of an organisation and more personal planning, but a teacher who has a clear picture of self and has identified their personal goals will feel more empowered when required to engage in institutional or professionally-determined processes.
The preparation for threshold pay has highlighted the need for teachers to review and evidence achievements and skills which is easier to do when a teacher has already got the 'review-record-plan-habit'.
It is important to feel in control and to be in a position to make decisions or manage change throughout your career. Developing and exercising planning skills will equip teachers at all stages of their career to deal with self-determined and externally imposed situations with more confidence.
Whether you are an enthusiastic new entrant to the profession, looking forward to a satisfying career, or a 'fortysomething-chalked-up-several-years-at-the- board' and feeling the need for change, you should check out your career management skills.
Check yourself out with the checklist
- Will you be satisfied to remain in your current job/position long term?
- Are you aware of the professional pathways you would be suited to?
- Do you feel that circumstances and others determine your future?
- Do you take time out to review your current situation, professional/personal and identify possible changes, either on your own or with others?
- Do you have an up-to-date CV (less than a year old)?
- Could you lay your hands on all your qualification certificates?
- Have you got the right balance between personal life and work?
- Could you draw up a list of significant experiences and achievements, which provide evidence of your skills and qualities?
- Are there other careers you could move into?
Career management tip
Do you have a dog-eared collection of papers in a manila wallet shoved in a cupboard - the sum total of your life so far? Or are you more organised with all you personal information, copies of job applications, certificates etc in a portfolio, perhaps in digital format?
There is a growing trend in education and industry to encourage students and employees to keep a personal development portfolio. This invariably evolves from a process of reviewing, planning and then recording. Ownership of the portfolio should rest with the individual, who might share some of the contents with others as appropriate.
Action planning and progress file
Crudely defined action planning is a means of making choices through a simple three-step approach. It can be applied to most decisions from buying a pair of trainers to moving house or changing jobs:
- Where am I now? assessment of current position, review of needs, achievements, skills
- Where am I going? identification of goals, things to change or work towards
- How will I get there? setting of SMART targets to help achieve goals
Developing a career management portfolio
We describe a hard copy version for those of you who prefer that method, but if you're a digital native, figure out your own version of this.
- Buy an A4 ring binder and set of dividers
- Think of the portfolio as a working file, helping you manage not just your professional development but other aspects of your life too
- Set aside one section for your certificates
- Update and file your CV it should include a brief personal profile
- Use one section for copies of job applications and letters, interesting job ads
- Put action plans, summaries of periodic reviews together (undertaken alone or with someone)
- Devise a simple Achievements record
- Log to record things as you do them.
- Acknowledge not only things you have done in your job but include achievements in your personal/family life, within the wider community
- Keep a list of courses you have been on with dates - not just those related to teaching
- Assess your skills, including Key Skills and log them.
- Acknowledging transferable skills is the key to career progression within or outside teaching
Getting help and support when you need it Developing a personal portfolio will go a long way to helping you manage your career better, but it is important to acknowledge that sometimes we all need help from outside. If you are in the habit of 'reviewing your situation and taking stock' you will recognise when it is timely to consider changes. Use your portfolio of evidence to help you assess the situation and if you cannot move forward on your own, seek help from a reliable/professional source. You will find your portfolio an invaluable prompt should you seek guidance from others.