A potential worry about leaving teaching is getting a job outside the closed world of education. So much of what we do as teachers is implied, or only has currency with other teachers. Try using the phrase, “75% Level 5 or above with 86% of targeted sub-groupings achieving TG” on any non-teaching friend and see their eyes glaze over. Only a teacher would understand the effort that those measures involve and only a Management Team in a school would understand the value that this could bring them.
This often makes writing a personal statement for a non-teaching job tricky. It makes tailoring your application an even more crucial skill.
The first thing to do is throw away your previous personal statement. Although this will have been honed over the years of applications it no longer matters. You are leaving teaching for a fresh start and for new challenges. So make the first challenge part of your first step and a fresh start. Write your personal statement from scratch.
Cut and paste all the essential criteria from the job specification in a word processing document. Treat these as your sub-headings. Under each one write one sentence how you can meet the criteria and one sentence with evidence of how you met that criteria.
You may have to ask an ex-colleague for help with this as it can be hard to either remember everything that you have done.
Each of the essential criteria is normally then broken down into more detail by giving desirable criteria. Now go back and write another sentence under each of the sub-headings about how you can meet the desirable criteria and evidence for them. You may not have something for all of them, but you may for more than you think!
Read this carefully. Then read it again. Then one more time. I have read many job specifications, both inside and outside of education where there is important information about the job in the Job Specification that is not in the Criteria. Make sure that there is nothing else you need to address. If there is focus it towards the essential or desirable criteria section that you think it belongs and add a sentence or two.
There are going to be lots of people applying for every job you go for. Many of them will already have experience in the field you are applying for. This is a given and you should get used to that feeling however unpleasant it sounds. The person specification is where you can raise your application above the pile the the recruiter is going to get. Make a bullet point list of all your hobbies, interests, clubs, volunteering and fun stuff that you do. Then go through it and match them up with the essential and desirable criteria. Even if your hobby is walking by yourself on Dartmoor, with no-one else, because you don’t like people and are essentially an anti-social person, this can easily become: I like walking in rugged terrain as I enjoy the challenge of being self-reliant and working through problems by myself.
Don’t use acronyms
Education loves acronyms. Or ELA is I like to call it. Outside of teaching you are going to sound like you are talking gobbledygook. Make sure to define and expand on education specific terminology. It would be better to avoid it altogether if you can, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you must use some, explain what it stands for, explain what it means and relate it to the essential and desirable criteria.
Draw out the general point
Teaching, and in particular, Secondary Teaching, can mean narrowing your focus over the years and becoming a specialist in one area. Despite that you have a huge range of transferable skills, but you will only find them by drawing out the general point from the specific. Writing a KS3 Computer Science Specification could easily become; writing a long term project that challenges and engages a wide variety of learners with different interests, backgrounds and educational level to bring about a successful conclusion. Anyone who has taught an exam class at GCSE level can’t be taught anything about good project management skills!
You have been a teacher for however long and by doing that you have done one of the most important and difficult jobs there is. You have already done something extraordinary with your career and your life and now you are going to do something else just as brilliant.
Be proud of yourself and what you have achieved already, and look forward to the future.
Good luck in your application and let me know how you get on, or if you think that I have missed something in the comments below.