career

“After 5 years as a teacher, I decided to change careers. Here are 3 things I want other women to know.”

Victoria University
Thanks to our brand partner, Victoria University

Earlier this year, I found myself smack bang in the middle of an existential crisis. I was doing anything to give myself a burst of energy and renew my broken spirit.

This led me to picking up Glennon Doyle’s Untamed.        

An amalgamation of a memoir and a self-help book, Doyle’s latest book struck a chord with me. She argues that we’re essentially snow globes, spending all our time trying to distract ourselves with the flurry of snowflakes in order to never really face the truth at our centre. 

This truth is often earth-shattering, terrifying and life changing. But everyone’s truth is different.  

And here was mine: after five years in my new career, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher anymore.

It was an odd reality to face. After all, those years – while challenging – were filled with some of my favourite memories.

In hopes to prove the inner voice wrong, I tried everything to shake myself out of my funk — I took up new responsibilities at school; I started freelancing on the side, and I started flexible postgraduate study, like Victoria University's Block Model.

Image: Supplied. 

But no matter how hard I tried to distract myself with the flurries of snowflakes, I couldn’t ignore the truth at my centre.

Here are 3 things I wish I knew then about changing careers I'd want other women to know.

Allow yourself temporary fulfillment while you build the courage to make the change.

When the thought of quitting teaching was just a small rumbling in the back of my mind not yet fully formed, I started searching for other things to fulfill me without making the dramatic move of changing careers.

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After five years of teaching, I suddenly found myself restless and lacking inspiration. 

In the midst of endless marking and administration, I tried desperately to plan engaging lessons to get students excited about learning, only for those efforts to go unnoticed. Which, considering the world they are growing up in with so many bigger and brighter things competing for their attention, who could blame them?

Yet, my audience rejecting almost everything I presented to them continuously spoke to the voice inside me that said I’m not good enough. And nothing I will ever do will be good enough.

Naturally, I lost my inspiration, so I turned to the other things I loved to reignite any spark that was still within me.

That’s when I enrolled in my postgraduate degree in Professional Writing. 

Studying part-time while still teaching enabled me to have the best of both worlds: teaching the students I was still wholeheartedly (and perhaps heartbreakingly) committed to, and pursuing my other dreams and ambitions.

Naturally, flexibility was so important to me. I was able to study entirely online while still managing my full-time workload.

This is where Victoria’s University Block Model is so appealing (which won them an Australian Financial Review Higher Education Award in 2021, which is nothing to sneeze at!). Instead of studying multiple units over one semester, the VU Block Model allows students to focus on one subject at a time over a four-week block, or eight-week block depending on your course. 

I truly can’t express enough how much my own studies online helped me during this time. I am so unbelievably thankful for universities like VU who are well-aware of the flexibility required in order to return to study. They welcome career changers, who, like me, wanted the option to try something new without compromising their existing career.

Studying again changed my entire outlook — it helped me become inspired again, and gave me the chance to find out who I was (other than being someone’s teacher) while I built the courage to take the next (terrifying) step of changing careers. 

You don’t need anyone else’s permission.

I am, and have always been, an innate people pleaser. I have spent most of my life terrified of making any decisions that would cause even the slightest inconvenience to others.

As a result, I desperately needed my feelings validated. I needed someone to tell me it was okay — okay to try something new; okay to throw in the towel.

The reality is: teaching is one of the most selfless professions. Every minute of your working day is spent putting others before yourself. The other reality is: this continues after the final bell, well into your afternoon and evening. 

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Teaching is an awesome career, and one I'd never discourage anyone from choosing – but just one I realised wasn't for me long-term. All the weeks and nights I spent anxiously stressing about kids who struggled with their studies, the parents, the my Year 12 students sitting their exams... I felt like I was reliving every moment of my own HSC multiplied by 10. 

(This usually resulted in a chorus of grumblings saying “Miss, chill.”)

When I even humoured the idea of changing my careers, I was met with hundreds of my own thoughts about how it wasn’t fair to my wonderful colleagues, or more importantly, my beautiful students.

As a teacher, I took Year 12's last day very seriously. Image: Supplied. 

It was only when someone told me, at one of my breaking points, that it actually didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. That no one can live or exist purely for the benefit of others. That ultimately, you don’t need anyone’s permission to change any parts of your life. 

The concept itself is so simplistic but somehow, it was the validation I was so desperately after.

Those deadlines you tell yourself exist actually... don’t. 

The more I’ve travelled down the slippery slope of adulthood, the more I’ve come to realise that no one really knows what they’re doing. Not really, anyway.

Yet, I refused to award myself the same courtesy.

At twenty-seven years old, I felt as if my uncertainty was a failure on my part and something that was way too late to fix.

After all, my partner and I were saving to buy a property (something that seems to be the unachievable in a major city) and it just didn’t feel like the right time to start over.

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I’m also a driven gal who gets a thrill of ticking things off a goal-list (I take my Goodreads yearly goal very seriously), so the thought of wiping all progress I had made set off massive alarm bells in my head.

But here’s the thing I had to come to terms with: life isn’t linear and there’s no simple line to follow nor is success found purely in a job title or description. 

It’s found in the personal fulfilment you receive when you find something you love doing.

A new sense of excitement for me came in the shape of a new job at Mamamia.

Image: Supplied. 

I would have never expected to end up here, but I know that by returning to the starting line, and taking a step back in the career I had started in, I could take a dozen more steps forward by finding something I am truly excited to do every single day.

And it took me some time to realise that taking that leap is something to be proud of, regardless of what I let go to achieve it.

I will always be proud of the work I did as a teacher. I’ll always be proud of my students. But I’ve learned it’s okay that it didn’t last forever. After all, some of the best things in life are fleeting. 

It's never too late to embark on a new career. Explore Victoria University's extensive range of Undergraduate & Postgraduate courses today. Find out more here.

Read Elyse's success story, and find more extraordinary achievements of VU’s diverse and talented community here.

Victoria University
WHAT IS THE VU BLOCK MODEL? With VU’s multi award-winning Block Model, you complete one unit at a time over four weeks, seven weeks or eight weeks, depending on your course. It’s a more focused and engaging way to study than the standard University model, where you juggle four units over a 12-week semester. You’ll benefit from smaller class sizes, more one-on-one time with your teachers, and get feedback more frequently to keep you on track. We’re the first Australian University to introduce the VU Block Model, and it’s proven to be driving student success, with after two years first-year pass rates grew to 87% (13% increase).