With the increase of teachers pivoting out of the classroom and into the corporate world, Matt Tokarz & Nicole Magats talk with some of our own former teachers about their own decisions to change careers. Two newer Hirewell recruiters, Kierra Kohlbeck & Margarita Stahl, and two old pros, Tully Dunn & Emily Goor, share their perspectives on pivoting, challenges that come up, and advice on how to be strategic when you’re figuring out where to begin.
Hey y’all, my name’s Nicole Magats.
I work as a senior recruiter on the OnDemand and Managed recruiting team at Hirewell. I’m joined here with a couple of and quite a few actually of wonderful Hirewell folks who actually used to be former teachers. So we’re actually going to spend some time today doing a bit of a round table introduction and conversation
just kind of sharing a bit more about the pivot from teaching. And I think even more generally, what are some of the insights and takeaways that we can have here from pivoting from one career to another. So I’ll spend some time letting all the folks introduce themselves here and then we’ll get going. Awesome.
Well thanks, Nicole. My name’s Matt Tokarz. I’m a director of our marketing practice here. I’ve probably out of all of us had the least amount of actual teaching experience. However, I went to school to be a social studies teacher. Got my degree in sixth through 12th grade. So I ended up student teaching eighth grade
US history and 12th grade advanced world history before realizing that it wasn’t the best time for me to get in education and kind of pivoting into recruiting and then eventually like staffing and recruiting over the last 10 years or so. So did have my license, did student teach, but comparatively probably the least qualified teacher out of the five of us.
You count Matt, you count. Dozens of us. No, I love it. I’m Emily Goor. I’m a director on our sales recruiting practice. I taught for four years on the south side of Chicago. Taught mostly sixth grade math and science but kind of had my hand in a lot of different things, started like a wellness and fitness elective at my school because we didn’t have PE. Like what?
Yeah and then pivoted into recruiting about four years ago. I’ve been at Hirewell for almost four years. So excited to chat with you all today. I’ll follow up. I’m Tully Dunn, I am a recruiter for our HR practice here at Hirewell.
I taught for three years. I went to school at Mississippi State- go dogs. Got my special education degree for severe and profound disabilities, for K through 12. And then got out of college and went straight into teaching seventh grade math and English. So was not exactly what I thought that was going to happen.
Moved to Chicago and started teaching ninth grade math and then 12th grade math. Again, not at all what I went to school for, but we made it work. We had fun. Post COVID I realized that it was time for me to do something else. And so I pivoted by happenstance into recruiting and got lucky with it being Hirewell. And I’m excited for all of us to kind of talk through how we got here and the struggles and the triumphs and all of the in between.
Awesome. I’m Margarita Stahl. I am a junior recruiter on the sales team and I taught for two years in the Chicago suburbs. I taught fourth grade and I just freshly made this transition.
I’m only two months into it, but I’m excited to see how it goes. And my aha moment of like why I kind of had to leave teaching was definitely because of COVID. I started my teaching career with 2020/2021 school year. So I knew my first year wasn’t going to be normal going into it, but then going into my second year, it still wasn’t really feeling like it was going to head in the direction that I wanted it to.
So I knew that I had to kind of find something else to pivot to and being that I really loved talking to people and I’m pretty outgoing, this was kind of where my search led me and yeah. I’m Kierra. I’ve been teaching for the past, well I taught for the past three years. I taught fifth grade math in Colorado.
Graduated in Wisconsin, moved to Colorado right after graduation and taught for the past three years. I kind of got to a point where I realized there wasn’t a whole lot of job growth and a lot of my goals, I just felt like I was kind of like at a standstill with those. So I wanted a career that kind of allowed me to grow and exceed my goals.
So that’s kind of why I made the switch to recruiting. And now I’m on the OnDemand and Managed team as well. I’ve been here over the past three months now. Well Nicole and I were talking earlier this year and a lot of us, and I’m sure you guys too have seen a lot of former educators or current educators that are looking to make a change, whether it’s because of COVID and virtual learning, whether it’s just because
educators in the US aren’t quite as valued as they are in other places in the world. There’s been a lot of transition that people are looking to make. So part of why I wanted everybody to get together was to kind of just share what the turning point was for them, what you wanted to pivot to, what you thought and like what some of the things you were scared of that you had to overcome as you guys decided, like
I like teaching, I like people, I like kids, but I need to do something a little bit different. So Emily, was there anything in particular for you? Like that was just like a, “Oh, I should do something else.” I think just to be honest for me, like I was not like a super- not that I was not a happy human because everybody knows I’m a very happy human. But like I just think like mentally, emotionally, I knew I could be in a way better spot.
So that’s kind of what triggered me being like, okay, maybe this is a school thing and I need to find another school to work at. For me, the way I got into education was a little bit different. So I did a program called Teach , for America which some of you watching might be familiar with. But I didn’t study education in my undergrad.
So kind of got like an expedited license, et cetera. And couldn’t- it’s, ‘ll save you guys the details. But couldn’t really switch schools without having to like go back and like take classes and get a different type of certification. So maybe it’s not a great answer that it was like super planned and whatever, but that’s what it was for me.
I was like, okay, do I either go back and make this effort, take these classes, get these different certifications to teach what I then discovered I loved teaching, which was math- middle school math. Or I try a different career now. I don’t want to say before it’s too late because it’s never too late, but I just felt it was easier to make the pivot in like my mid twenties.
And I told myself like, and guess what, like teaching is always going to be there. So if I try something else and I don’t like it, like that’s totally fine. Then you go back then and you take the classes and you get the new certificates. So yeah, hopefully that answered your question just kind of like how yeah, how I kind of decided to make the switch.
Yeah, absolutely. What about you, Tully? Mine is somewhat similar to yours Em but also very different at the same time. And I think that’s one thing- I mean I’ve heard other people talk about in the group that it could be career growth or that was kind of the plan. And that’s something that kind of stands out to me with all the people that have been reaching out is just how many different reasons there are for teachers trying to get out of the profession.
It’s not a one size fits all. Mine definitely was majorly focused on mental health. I just was not in a good place when I was teaching in Memphis and then I moved to Chicago and it was just overwhelming.
Not to say that it was not a very emotionally taxing decision to get out of it. I struggled with that choice a lot. Still gives me full body chills to think about it. And there are days that I wonder if I did the right thing, not because I don’t love my job, but because that’s the population of people that I dedicated my life to
and then I walked away. And so that I think is something that all teachers, to some extent kind of struggle with is leaving your people behind a little bit- like your little people. But I will say that my mental health just got to a point where it was, I was having to choose myself for that job.
And post COVID, once you kind of got a taste of what it would look like to kind of have time for yourself and focus inward, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go back and give it a hundred percent, anymore. So I hit the ground running. Awesome. Thanks for sharing that Tully. Sure. With that, like it sounds like there’s kind of two key decisions, right?
Like the first one is, am I going to pivot or not? Right. And the second one being what next? And I’d be curious from your guys’ perspective, did you know what was next or did it take a little bit of like- okay vibing, the vibe is no. But how did you guys kind of figure out like what? Right, because you’ve already made one big decision and then now you’re like okay, now what?
So I followed a lot of like teacher groups and pages on Facebook. And it was during a time that a lot of teachers were leaving the profession mid-year, beginning of the year. And I saw one teacher post about how she was going to be taking a recruiting job and leaving her job for that. And I was like, Hmm, I’ve never thought about recruiting.
One of my best friends is a recruiter so I started really looking into that and I was like, wow, a lot of my skills transfer into this career. It still allows me to talk to people, meet new people every day, help people. And I already had like the organization, management piece, like all of those things down.
So I kind of just started doing my research on like how to get my foot in the door. And then I just started following people that were in the profession and talking to people who had been doing it for a long time. And I think that for me was when I kind of knew exactly when I was like go into recruiting.
So I would say like two months into the past school year I was like, okay, this is what I’m going to transition into. I’m going to finish this year and while I’m finishing this year, I’m going to work on building those skills and making those connections. I think I’d guess that nobody else here has, was as organized kind of jumping into it as you were but- No, I got mad respect for you.
For me, I was going to jump into social studies as a white male. That’s a population dominated by white male teachers and like I wanted to be a coach and it was pretty stereotypical. So there wasn’t a lot when I graduated for me in my practice area. And I went to private college and had a lot of debt and didn’t want to deal with the whole substitute teaching thing.
So I kind of just took it upon myself to find something a little bit different. Always thinking I was going to get back into teaching a couple years down the road once I got a little bit more settled. And it just never ended up being a priority for me anymore. I went into working for my Alma mater as like a young alumni fundraiser, making the calls nobody wants to hear as a recent grad because everybody’s poor. And then eventually kind of just found my way into tech recruiting early on and found that I liked talking to people. I don’t really think that if you’re an educator or a good educator, you’re an introvert.
And I think pretty much the same with recruiters too. So most of us like talking to people or are okay talking to strangers and can kind of hold our own in any conversation. So I just kind of took recruiting and ran with it. And so like really haven’t looked back. And I think it was kind of interesting, I got out teaching right away without even ever really jumping into it fully. But seeing a lot of my friends over the last decade that have been a part of it and have gone through the ups and downs in teaching like
I think I’ll eventually be a coach, maybe a teacher once I settle in. But I think it was the right move for me considering what I’ve seen a lot of people kind of have to go through in the education system, across the US. I’ve got friends that are teaching, in the South, I’ve got some that are teaching in California,
some that are teaching in the inner city. It just like, it’s all very different. And I’m just kind of grateful that whether it was intentional or not that my student loan debt kind of pushed me in a different direction at times. Yeah, I’d love to say I was as organized as Kierra.
I mean, for me honestly- and I’m sure we’ll talk about advice later on. But the thing that worked best for me and the biggest piece of advice I have for others, which I know with part of your question Nicole is like, what was kind of scary. Like networking at first was kind of scary for me, but that is the very, very, very best thing that I did.
And the best thing that I think anyone could do because I had no idea. And I think part of that was really scary but part of not knowing was also kind of comforting because I was telling myself, like you’re going to be really good at anything. Like you have all these skills that are 100% transferable. Just stop trying to find like the right career for the rest of your life.
Like you could be good at many, many things. I think that was like the first thing for me and like piece one of advice, like don’t worry about finding like the right career that you are going to be stuck in forever. Like, you can be good at a lot of things. If you’re a teacher and you’re watching this, you have- you’ve done the hardest job literally that there is.
So you have so many transferable skills. So for me, it was then just like talking to literally everybody that I knew, because even my close friends, I swear I had no idea what they did. It was like my friends were teachers, doctors, nurses, or they were in corporate world or like, I just- I had no idea. So part of it for me was just like talking to people, learning, “Hey, what do you do?
Like what’s your day to day? What do you like about it? What do you dislike?” And from there honestly, it was a lot of like process of elimination like hearing what people did. I was like, well, no, I don’t want to do that. That does not sound fun at all. So yeah. It wasn’t like super planned or organized for me either.
I just think like through having conversations with people and starting to learn like, oh yeah, I could do that. And like learning about what recruiters did, I think it made sense to like continue to persue. Yeah. I definitely decided that I didn’t want to teach long before I knew what I wanted to do. I feel like moving into my classroom last August
I was like, this is the last time I’m going to be doing this. But I had no idea like what I wanted to do after that. So I just started kinda like Emily, I did not know what any of my business friends did. They were all just friends. Yeah. Business friends. And they worked for companies that I like, some had never heard of like did things that I didn’t even know.
So my first step was kind of just like asking my dad. I was like, what would I be good at? Like if you were to place me somewhere that wasn’t education because everyone always tells me a teacher, like you’re a teacher. And I was like no, like aside from education, like what would I be good at? And so we kinda like went through some
different types of careers. And I did some research and then it all started then talking to people who did these jobs that I was researching and seeing like okay, like this person’s kind of similar to me and they seem to love their job as a recruiter and things like that. So like talking to people after my initial research was super helpful.
No, absolutely. I mean, I find it interesting to talk to other recruiters and people, whether it’s at Hirewell or in general because nobody really goes to school to be a recruiter. Like at the end of the day, you can go school to be sales- all of us. But when I grow up, I want to be- not so much. You know?
So it’s the variety of folks that we have at Hirewell from various different career paths is awesome. But having five, six. I think there’s probably more of us that maybe just haven’t joined the conversation. But like having five or six former educators that have transitioned into recruiting, I think is kind of unique because it shows that
teachers really do have very transferrable skills and they can make that pivot. And it’s really all about how you position yourself to be successful in a different industry, how you can take your organization and planning skills from a lesson plan perspective and turn them into your calendar for working with candidates and working with clients and in different aspects like that.
I mean do you guys see particular skills you guys have had in education that you’d consider like super transferable across recruiting or across just other industries in general? I think teaching specifically, I mean to each their own. Everybody has their own teaching experience but I’m pretty sure we all have the same idea of like you walk into that day and have absolutely no freaking idea
what’s going to happen that day. You have this planned out, you have this lesson planned, these are the kids that are supposed to be in your class. If you teach that lesson, who knows, will you get all the way through it? Probably not. Are the kids that are supposed to be in there going to be in there? Maybe. Are there going to be extras or fewer? Who knows. There’s just you have- are they going to be in a good mood?
Like there’s no idea. There’s no way to know what to expect on any of a day as a teacher, you just hope for the best. And I think that recruiting is somewhat similar in that aspect of like you’re talking to complete strangers every single day. You can do research on their LinkedIn, you can stalk ’em on Facebook
if you have to, like whatever. You can find ways to like learn about them prior to speaking to them, but you just never know what to expect. Like you could have the greatest candidate that needs $300,000 a year because they’re just fantastic. And you might have somebody who you hope does not save your number and pray that they never reach out to you again, because they’re terrifying.
We’ve all- you look surprised. You’ve had at least one where you’re like, please never call me again. Please never call me. I just never say it out loud. I just assume it’s not a joke. You don’t. I know. I know, but we’re teachers talking about exiting. We’re pretty much already kind of breaking the teacher law here. But I think that’s probably the biggest one that I’ve noticed as far as just like day to day is you’re kind of always speaking of pivoting, always pivoting like left and right.
And having not taught, I think I would’ve maybe been a little bit more stressed about that, but it feels a little bit more normal. Like today was more stressful than usual, but it wasn’t as stressful as, seventh grade math. So we’re still doing good. I think that’s number one too. Like you’re talking about transferable skills, like I think just like grit and the ability to deal with anything like.
I always made, I mean, I don’t know if Jeff Smith will watch this. Hi, Jeff. But I always like practically make fun of what he said to me in my interview process at Hirewell. Like this job is hard. Like this is a roller coaster. Like you have to be like cut out for this. And I like laugh. I was just like, I’m sorry. Like no offense, I’m not saying this job’s easy. It has its own challenges, but again, teaching where we tie
and Tully and I taught kind of similar neighborhoods and just kind of the day to day things that we dealt with. And I’m like, you know, I never mind, I won’t share too many intense stories, but if you’d like to talk online, contact me. We all have our classroom stories but I’m just like, it’s nothing. Like you can do anything after you’re a teacher.
Like it’s just, nothing will ever compare. If you want to hire a good person, hire a teacher because they literally can handle anything that you throw at them sometimes physically, you know? Yeah. Yeah. So I think that’s like, firstly is just like the grit, determination, hard work of teachers, like that’s transferable anywhere.
And then I’d say something you kind of alluded to Tully is like relationship building. I think what’s really transferable for me. Like that was a really big thing in my classroom that you don’t just want kids walking in and out of your class, like just teaching them to teach like the area of a trapezoid, like great. But like really building relationships with them and like finding out what makes them tick and like the specific ways in which each person learns best.
And just things of that nature that I think is really, really transferable in recruiting too, is like building relationships with our clients, with our candidates. Of course like internally. So I think relationship building is a really big thing as well. If it makes you feel any better, I got that same speech from Bill Gates- our Bill Gates.
The yeah, this is hard. I’m like- yeah, this is hard. You ever caught a desk mid air? That’s hard. Yeah. Let’s define hard. Have you had things thrown at you? Yeah, right. Yeah. I think kind of piggybacking off Emily too, like the relationship building piece is important, but it’s just having like really strong communication skills.
Having it being in a classroom, you have to deliver bad news. You have to have parent teacher conferences and this kid might be terrible and you have to tell a parent that their kid sucks. Like it happens. Like you have to be able to have that conversation. You have to be able to be a therapist for children.
You have to be able to help people that are having bad days, that are having bad childhoods. Like there’s a lot of different aspects of that, that kind of get overlooked. And I think whether it’s recruiting or whether it’s just being in the business world too, like having the communication skills, the ability to empathize, the ability to deliver good news, to deliver bad news, like all of those things I think are like super important
and I think tend to be overlooked by teachers because they just think it’s part of what you do every day and they don’t realize how good they are at those skills. You just take it for granted, like, okay, I’m able to talk to Susie about the fact that she isn’t getting breakfast or lunch at home and we have to like figure out how to pivot to make sure that she’s comfortable and fed. Like
those are very difficult conversations. And when you’re in the business world it’s similar. It’s talking about down revenue, it’s talking about clients that have to make tough choices, especially in COVID times or in recessions. And I think that’s something that sometimes overlooked is teachers are fantastic at communicating and they’re able to do it in the positive ways, but they’re also able to do it in all the negative ways and have those relationships at the same time.
So for me, that was the most transferable skill is just being able to talk to other people, whether it’s a happy conversation or hard conversation. Yeah. I also think like piggybacking off of that, you’re also working with such a wide range of diverse needs and that happens in recruiting too.
Like you’re recruiting for different roles and there’s different needs for each role and it’s the same with students. Each student needs something different and it’s important that you’re making sure that they’re getting what they need. And if you have to change something up for them, you just have to. You’ve got to make sure that all of your students are being taken care of and they’re getting the extra support that they need or the accommodations that they need.
I’d like before we kinda wrap up, if everybody that was teaching can give one quick tidbit of advice for people that are out there looking for something new, whether it’s recruiting, whether it’s sales, whether it’s business, whether it’s just getting out of maybe a toxic education relationship and into something different, like what’s one thing you would do or give like your earlier self some advice. Like what would that be?
Maybe don’t be scared. I feel like it’s definitely scary, but you are going to have to make that transition sometime if you are really unhappy. So you might as well just go for it. To piggyback off of that, I was thinking something similar. I just remember how absolutely overwhelming it felt making that decision and then trying to figure out the what next, like you said Nicole. And
one thing that I found helpful towards the end of my transition period and I wish I had done sooner was just to take a second and allow yourself just to be absolutely mortified. Like you’re upgrading your life. You’re changing. You just spent however much money on a degree that you are getting out of.
Like there’s so many things that are going through your mind about getting out the teaching profession and allowing yourself the space to kind of recognize “This is scary. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where I’m going to go next “will then create more brain space for you to start doing the things like Emily did, or like Kierra did where you’re making lists and you’re doing research.
And at that point, like you can actually get into the nitty gritty business of, this is what I have to do for myself and here’s how I’m going to do it. But if you do what I did and just allow that anxiety and overwhelm and scariness to just linger throughout the entire process, you’re not creating enough for your transition for lack of a better description.
And so if you can get that out of the way to begin with like, yes, I’m scared. This is going to be hard. Let’s feel it for a couple of days. Even journal, go sit in the sunshine, write it all out. And then close the book and move on. Kinda like what you said, Margarita. Sorry. Yeah, I think for me it’s understanding that you can provide value
in other ways. I think a lot of us got into education because we wanted to help kids. We wanted to make an impact. We probably had somebody in our lives that was a teacher or a coach that we really resonated with. That doesn’t go away if you switch jobs. You just have to figure out how to find that value in other places.
And it’s certainly there, it’s just a matter of looking at it a little bit differently and realizing that, that impact can still be a part of your day to day even if it’s not literally impacting the lives of a classroom of 25 to 35 people at a time. 40. That’s what I was going to say.
I went low. No, I think you guys all hit on great things. Like I think I kind of said before, don’t be afraid to network, like that’s huge. And I’ve talked to people who are like, yeah, like I’m not super comfortable reaching out to people on LinkedIn or whatever it is. Like the worst that can happen is that they don’t respond or they say they can’t help you.
And then bam, you just move on to your- like these are people too. I’m sure they’re happy to help. So don’t be, don’t be afraid because that’s the best is just to network and to put yourself out there. You never know. This person you talk to might not be able to help, but they can connect you with someone else who can. So network, network, network.
I think the other thing too that you guys kind of mentioned is yes, don’t be afraid, but don’t be afraid to take a step back. I think that was really daunting for me that I was like, oh my gosh, I’m not fresh out of college. Like I’m mid to late twenties. It’s really scary for me and I don’t want to start my career over, you know?
So I was applying to jobs that like I probably what, you know, even my head I was “qualified” right. I was like I have these transferable skills, but it’s okay to take a step back. If you’re worried about that, then find a career and find a company that values growth and will help you to like grow quickly.
Because I know for me, like yes, I definitely took a step back. I like completely started over, but I’m like, took a step back to take like a bajillion miles of steps forward. So I think that’s a pretty big thing is don’t be, don’t be afraid about taking a step back. Yeah, I would say don’t rely so heavily on your resume getting you an interview.
Unfortunately when a lot of companies see teacher on resumes were automatically counted out. I don’t think I even really applied places. I just worked on making connections and reaching out because I felt that that was the most beneficial and I got the most traction by doing that. I wouldn’t just put in like a hundred applications.
I would find those companies that you’re actually excited about and start networking with the people that are at those companies to try to get your foot in a door that way, or even just get advice or get on a call and get an informational interview from somebody. But that would be my biggest piece of advice.
Yeah. I think lastly too, like it’s okay to be selfish. Yeah. I’m telling that -you asked what I would tell my younger self, like the decision to leave teaching like I cried for days. I like told my assistant principal. When I told her I was leaving, I was bawling. Like I was so upset to think like, wow, I’m in this important job where I’m in the classroom, on the frontline, doing something so impactful every single day.
I’m a terrible person if I leave this, right? And it’s like you have to remind yourself but you’re unhappy. So like you’re not even giving your best self to the kids every day. So I think that’s like just a huge reminder and something I tell, I think it it’s going to be an emotional decision anyway, like that’s why you’re in teaching or whatever you’re in, in the first place.
But I think just reminding yourself, like it’s okay to be selfish and to like be in a career that’s going to make you happy, that’s going to put you in a good situation, that as a result is going to impact the people in your lives more positively. Like it’s just- it’s okay. Like it’s okay. It’s okay to get out of something if that’s something is helping other people. Like it’s okay to be a little bit selfish. Agree. Anything else Margarita? I know we’ve all kinda shared something.
I mean I feel like my biggest thing that got in my way was anxiety. So I feel like looking back, knowing that it’s all possible to make that transition. My biggest piece of advice was to throw that anxiety away, because it is all going to work out. So I mean, if you guys are interested in making a pivot, I know a lot of people on LinkedIn right now are kind of looking at a lot of different things, you know, reach out to any of us.
We’re happy to provide some additional insight if there’s things you’re looking for. I know a lot of us have helped individuals that are looking to kind of make career transitions, whether it’s out of education, whether it’s out of marketing and out of tech or vice versa.
Like that’s a lot of the things that we do is try to help provide some of those transferable skills for our clients and for candidates to kind of understand their value. Whereas a lot of time, they may take some of their skills for granted. So feel free to reach out to any of us
if you guys have any questions or are looking to make a change. We may not be able to help you right away, but we can network and at least give you some advice and insight into what could be a possible next step.
All right. Y’all thanks so much for joining us for this great conversation. Thank you. Have a great one. Okay, bye.
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