Dear Career Doctor:
I have been employed as a teacher for 35 years in South Central Los Angeles, an area which is “challenged” by extreme poverty, street gangs, very low test scores, low academic achievement and a very high drop out rate. The superintendent of schools has decided to ”fire” all of the teachers in my school and require them to re-apply for their positions.
I suffered a serious back injury, and, as a result, have been on a medical leave. I had intended to return to my teaching position soon, but now I am considering retirement.
My wife, however, is extremely “anxious” about this possible course of action, pointing out to me repeatedly that I would lose a great deal of money each month were I to retire right now. Regardless of my wife’s misgivings, I believe that we could survive on my pension, but in order to live more comfortably, I would need an additional source of income.
I am now 61 years of age and I have a number of skills. I also have a good deal of musical talent. I have been playing the guitar, harmonica and singing many types of songs for a very long time. Up to this point, however, I have explored music as only a hobby, and as an additional method of communicating with my students.
I was wondering whether or not you have information concerning career opportunities for former teachers.
You gave me so much information that I had to shorten your letter, but you didn’t give me the most pertinent information: what are your skills and do you like working with your students? I don’t even know what subject you teach. Finding a satisfying second career for anyone — teachers, physicians or business people — involves analyzing a person’s skills and interests.
The easiest transition would involve continuing to work with kids. If you like working with troubled, impoverished teens, you could transition into working with one of the many organizations that try to help such kids — foster care programs, after school programs, etc. If you are burned out with that population, but like teaching, you could try to get a job in a private school or do tutoring. The fact that you have worked successfully with difficult students will be seen as an asset by many employers.
If you want to do something completely different, I advise you to invest in some career counseling that will test your skills and interests and give you a new direction. But here is some free advice that most career counselors give anyone who wants to pursue a career in music: don’t quit your day job.