Stepping into the Unknown: A Guide to Quitting Without a Plan B

This guide is packed full of tips and things to consider if you need to hand your notice in but don't have a new role lined up.


As a growing online community of educators, I’ve seen a movement over the past few years to recognise the valuable transferable skills that teachers and education leaders have. I remember the day I decided to start challenging the “just a teacher” narrative and began sharing success stories from teachers who had found new adventures - to showcase the rollercoaster of emotions they had when deciding to leave, the exploration of their skills and the unbelievable balance they found in other sectors. 


This past year I have seen another significant shift in our community…


Not only do teachers in their 1000s now have a growing understanding of their skills, more confidence to apply for non-teaching roles and to speak openly about wanting change… a significant number are leaving without jobs to go to.


Be it down to the unrealistic demand of workload, anxiety-inducing behaviour or any of the many other burnout-related reasons, the pain of staying has finally outweighed the fear of leaving.


This is a HUGE shift and I’m proud if I have contributed to the numbers of teachers out there choosing themselves and their families.


I do want to say however, if you are feeling unwell - you feel anxious, have a persistent low mood, aren’t sleeping well, have recurrent headaches/digestive issues - please do go and see your GP.


I wouldn’t want anyone who is suffering with work-related stress to feel handing in their notice is the “simplest” option to not be a bother to their school. If this is you, you are in a vulnerable position and your GP, union (and most often your school) are there to support you.


You have worked hard and are entitled to take paid leave to get some help. Ask the GP for advice - they may give you the permission you need to take some time to recover before making any decisions.


If for you, you need to hand in your notice BUT you don’t have a new role lined up, these are some things to consider which might help ease the uncertainty:


Financial Planning

In an ideal world, it’s a good idea to try to save a financial buffer for career transition. Although not always possible, reducing outgoings for a few months to “practise” living on less and putting money aside can help. Be mindful of upcoming annual expenses like insurances when working out your monthly baseline. For a tool to help work out your monthly household expenses and a link to a salary calculator we use, head over to my Financially Planning Your Exit free resource, which will give you practical help mapping this out. Finding out how much you need to be comfortable is the first step to understanding the types of roles you can afford to explore.


Re-evaluating Your Values

If you’re going to make such a seismic move of leaving teaching, giving yourself the time to really explore who you are now and what you want going forward is really important. Re-evaluating your values and your must-haves is a foundational part of cultivating a career change. How do you want your day to look? What must it include? What are you not willing to compromise on anymore? That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to walk into the perfect job but if you want to do the school run, look for hybrid or remote working. If you know you need to be around people, look for roles as part of a team. You get to choose!


Finding a Lifeboat Job

While we all want to have a fabulous answer to the question: “So what are you going to do next?”, we mustn’t be trapped by the potential discomfort of this, or feel forced to make a quick decision on what we’re going to do next. If you can afford to, taking time to decompress in a temporary role might be just what your confidence needs. Not only might this provide an opportunity to explore your transferable skills, but it may give you much-needed time to recover from burnout. Taking a “job for now” might also open interesting doors, allowing you to network in new sectors. Volunteering can also be a positive step for many, helping to develop self-esteem and add extra skills to your CV. Your next job doesn’t have to be your “forever job”.


To Supply or Not to Supply…?

The idea of supply teaching for some can feel too stressful and I completely get it. As someone who has suffered with anxiety, not knowing where I was going, the students etc used to make me very uncomfortable. There are two things I’d say to myself if I need to supply tomorrow. Firstly, I’d contact local schools, introduce myself to the office manager, head, deputy or whoever manages cover. I’d share my CV and ask if they’d consider me for “planned” supply initially. This is a good way of knowing what year group, subject and expectations for planning there are ahead of time. Once you get to know a couple of schools, you’ll find yourself with regular work. Secondly, although uncomfortable, showing yourself that you are safe and can cope is important. There is every chance you’ll go to a new school and find that you’re welcomed, the class is great and you can leave at 4pm. Even if there are challenges you will cope AND you can leave! And not return! There is going to be a lot of supply needed come September and it’ll be likely you’ll be able to choose work even if with an agency.


Risk Assessing Your Next Steps

While we’re programmed in schools to overwork and over prepare to manage the anxiety of the “unknown”, when making a career change there are inevitably going to be factors outside of your control. Knowing this going in, accepting that you will feel discomfort is really important to recognise and accept. Saying that, there are ways to risk assess your next steps. Perhaps it’s about agreeing a timescale for looking for a new role. Maybe it’s about making sure you’re networking and speaking to connections about job opportunities. Perhaps it’s about getting some structured career change guidance. Working through your “If… then…”s is a good idea. For example, “If after 5 job applications I haven’t received an interview invitation, then I’ll seek some guidance”. Or, “If after 8 weeks of looking I haven’t secured a new role, then I will sign up with a supply agency”.


After supporting literally 100s of teachers inside the Adventures After Teaching Academy, and 1000s more with our free resource, I would always recommend getting help from the outset, as I know how much time, energy and confidence it will save you! In the next couple of months we’ll be announcing some exciting changes as we expand, and we’ll be revealing our most accessible and comprehensive career change support ever! All ready for kick-starting your Summer career change journey. Watch this space or, if you want to be one of the first to know, head to our homepage and pop your name on the waitlist.