I didn’t leave the newsroom because the journalism business was in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty. (Although it was and still is.) I didn’t leave because my job was in danger. I didn’t leave because I had grown tired of my chosen profession. (There is still nothing I love quite as much as the thrill of a good story.) I left because I wanted to strike out into new territory. After several years of volunteering as a mentor and teacher on college journalism projects, I wanted to try teaching in a classroom full-time.
As I made the shift from journalist to teacher, I learned lessons that anyone considering a career change should weigh:
- Think about it. I mulled the notion over for more than a year before taking the first step. I talked it over with friends and family and other people who had changed careers.
- Do your homework. I looked into teacher training programs, spent time as a classroom observer, talked with teacher friends about their jobs, and studied my finances carefully.
- Think about it (and your pocketbook) some more. For me, changing jobs would mean a substantial pay cut (first-year teachers in Texas earn about half of what I was making as a journalist) and a complete change in lifestyle at an age when security is often more tempting than adventure. It would also require completing an alternative teacher certification program, passing two state certification exams and finding a teaching job.
Yet, I was still luckier than thousands of other people across the country who were forced to start new careers out of necessity, not choice.
Between 5.3 and 8.4 million Americans have started so-called “encore careers,” according to a 2008 survey conducted by the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures, a think tank that promotes community and social contributions by mid-career and older workers. Of workers ages 44-70, half said they were interested in encore careers in education, health care and the nonprofit sector, the survey found.
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