Career Growth

How To Start Over After Leaving a Career You Hate

A client recently reached out to me wanting to change careers from teaching to… anything else. After finishing a graduate program in and working in teaching for several years, she found that teaching just wasn’t for her. She desperately wanted to change careers but had no idea how to do that. She had many interests but no idea where to start. What now?

When you know you want to leave, the first thing you need to do is – you guessed it – stay calm, carry on, and strategize like a boss.

Many professionals at all stages in their career have no idea what they actually want to do (or if they even like their career), so it’s a great thing to realize that you want a fresh start. It’s also good to know what you don’t want, i.e. teaching. When you know you want to leave, the first thing you need to do is – you guessed it – stay calm, carry on, and strategize like a boss.

You can always turn a job down that you don’t want, but you’ll never know what opportunities might be perfect for you until you look into them.

Go Back to the Source
If you recently graduated, you should still have access to your school’s career website. I would suggest scrolling through the jobs posted to both your undergraduate and graduate school’s career site, see what’s available and what might match your skills. Don’t be afraid to apply for anything that sounds remotely interesting to you. (You can always turn a job down that you don’t want, but you’ll never know what opportunities might be perfect for you until you look into them.)

Cross-Reference Your Skills
You can demonstrate your skills learned from teaching, or other jobs, to enhance other skills and interests in order to make you a better candidate for non-teaching jobs. Do a Google search for educational companies and start-ups. There are lots of companies, like Udemy, Coursera, and others, that would value someone with a background and high-level knowledge of teaching and education but won’t require you to teach. Additionally, teachers have strong skills that would be valuable to other positions, like patience, the ability to explain complex concepts, event planning, project management, and teamwork. This is easy to replicate for any industry.

Be Creative and Focused
Focus on your skills over your interests. Most people don’t actually have jobs doing things they love, but rather do the things they love in their free time. You can still find a rewarding and enjoyable job without it falling squarely into your interests. Doing something that interests you is great, but try instead to focus on the skills you have. For example, instead of noting that you like the outdoors or like computers, note that you’re detail-oriented, have strong typing skills, or whatever your specific skills are. From there, you can focus more on which jobs would cater best to those skills.

Be Fearless
If you’re stuck, you can always search for those skills on career sites or even Craigslist to figure out which job postings are looking for people with those skills. You can then narrow the results to entry-level positions. If you have a particular area of interest, like health care or agriculture, you can always search for job titles under those categories on the same job sites to see what sparks your interest. Don’t be afraid to explore!


With over 8 years of experience helping others improve their careers, I founded Unfold Careers to provide affordable career advice to students and professionals struggling to meet their career goals. Send your resumé to hayley@unfoldcareers.com for a complete resumé makeover.