Making it Through the Messy Middle of Teacher Career Change

Top tips to help you overcome self-doubt and imposter syndrome whilst navigating the 'messy middle' of career change ...

Most people agree that the most difficult part of teacher career change is taking that initial leap. Realising you don’t choose this anymore and that it’s time to go. Stepping out boldly into the unknown. 

That point, that realisation, is scary. It’s the point where so much of what we believed to be true is challenged.

But often once that decision is made, there’s a period of relief… excitement… motivation. You can’t wait to get started on your next adventure, you’re feeling empowered, hopeful, and you can see the endless possibilities that are out there beyond the world of teaching. 

And after that … 

You find yourself in the middle of it all. 

Here you’re trying to make changes; trying to make time to look and apply for jobs, perhaps still trying to teach alongside all that. 

Maybe you experience some disappointment at this stage, a dash of imposter syndrome and find yourself wondering if you can really do this. 

This stage can be tough too… they don’t call it the ‘messy middle’ for nothing! 

This idea that ‘in the middle, everything looks like a failure’ is known as Kanter’s Law. Rosabeth Kanter herself describes it as “the miserable middles of change.” According to her “everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work.”

It is normal for even the most optimistic and confident among us to feel some anxiety and self-doubt in the middle. But, how can you make it through the middle to find your happy ending? 

Here are my top tips to help you navigate the messy middle:

1. Embrace The Feelings

    The middle can be challenging - try to accept that all the feelings you experience at this stage are perfectly normal and valid. Setbacks are a natural part of the process of career change … but this doesn’t mean they don’t hurt! Hold on tight to your reasons for leaving teaching, stay open to the process and to exploring your options.

    2. Challenge Negative Thoughts

    Accept and allow all the feelings, but question those negative thought patterns. As teachers, we often have a tendency to be overly self-critical so try to gently challenge any negative self-talk. For example, maybe your internal voice is saying ‘I don’t have any skills outside of teaching’ … question the accuracy of these thoughts and try to reframe them more constructively. Imagine you are approaching and advising a friend who is sharing their negative self-talk. What would you say to support them?

    3. Set Realistic Expectations… which can be especially hard to muster if you are

      Recognise that career transitions take time and effort still working in the classroom or experiencing that burnout hangover! Set realistic goals and timelines for yourself, understanding that progress may be gradual. If it’s too much, slow down the pace until you find something that feels manageable and maintains your motivation. Celebrate all the wins - big and small!

      4. Build a Support Network

        Who you surround yourself with makes a difference! Surround yourself with supportive people who provide encouragement, advice and perspective during the tough times. This could include friends and family, ex-colleagues who have already moved on from teaching or community and support groups that are facing similar challenges.

        5. Stay Flexible and Adaptable

          Remain flexible in your approach to career change. Be willing to pivot, adjust your strategies and explore alternative paths. Keep an open mind to unexpected opportunities and embrace uncertainty as part of your journey as much as you can.

          6. Take Care of Yourself

            Above all else, you need to take care of yourself. Prioritise your physical and mental well-being by ensuring you get adequate sleep, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly in a way that suits you and spend time outdoors. Make time for activities that bring you joy and take the time to see loved ones. Approach yourself with self-compassion… you’re taking a big step here and any progress is worth celebrating. 

            The messy middle is a tricky place to be … but get through it and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic new adventure. This month inside the Academy we’re exploring imposter syndrome and practical tools to manage it. We understand that supporting your mindset in this messy middle is as important as honing your ability to write an interview-winning CV!

            If you need help navigating through your teacher career change journey - from start to finish and beyond - the Adventures After Teaching Academy has all the layers of support you need including step-by-step proven pathways, motivational coaching and an inspiring community. We’d love for you to join us …