Why More Employers Are Recruiting Teachers

By Kylie Ora Lobell March 24, 2022
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Why More Employers Are Recruiting Teachers

​Since the start of the pandemic, teachers' roles have shifted significantly. During the hardest days of remote learning, most teachers had to work completely online, giving up their classrooms to teach and counsel students on screens from early morning until late at night. They were then tasked with enforcing COVID-19 policies once students started returning to classrooms, and they often had to cover for other teachers and staff due to illnesses and shortages.

These changes have taken quite a toll, as 55 percent of all U.S. educators say they're considering leaving their profession earlier than they originally planned, reports the National Education Association (NEA). More than 600,000 public education teachers have already left the profession since January 2020, according to the NEA.

However, one industry's loss is another's gain. Many recruiters are now specifically targeting teachers to fill a wide variety of private-sector roles and are reaping the benefits of having former educators on staff. 

Why Companies Are Hiring Teachers 

As the engagement officer for an e-commerce company, Jeff Neal of The Critter Depot in Lancaster, Pa., knew he needed to create content to attract customers. So, he hired a retired biology teacher to assist him.

"We wanted to bring on an expert who could put together quality information," Neal said. "We also interviewed a zoologist and an animal scientist, but ultimately hired the biologist with teaching experience because she understood how to build a presentation for an audience."

The former teacher was soon delivering well-written content and was easy to manage. "In our experience, teachers are very detail-oriented and operate on structured schedules," he said.

The Diversity Movement in Raleigh, N.C., which provides diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) consulting, hires teachers because they "bring a level of experiential skills and natural instincts to our industry that clearly helps our clients as they deal with incredibly important, and sometimes incredibly difficult, DE&I work," said Kristie Davis, vice president of operations. "They are great communicators with strong written, verbal and presentation skills, which is essential."

When Cliff Carlson Sr., manager of talent acquisition and talent management at CompanyCam in Lincoln, Neb., is hiring, he said he looks for teachers to fill marketing, inside sales, business development and customer success positions because they typically have above-average verbal communication and presentation skills.

"[They're also] usually technically savvy and comfortable with workplace tech," he said.

And at Punkpost, a San Francisco-based greeting card company with 140 employees, co-founder Alexis Monson said she seeks teachers because they're "hardworking, no-nonsense, scrappy, great communicators who are able to complete assignments in a timely manner."

In addition, teachers are used to working in environments where resources are scarce, "so they are very good at working with what they have," Monson said. "The teachers we work with are incredible, and I am always blown away by their kind and gentle yet get-it-done attitude."

How Teachers Are Helping Companies

One teacher joined The Diversity Movement "to follow the path her heart and mind drew her toward" in the wake of George Floyd's murder, Davis said. The company hired her as a senior consultant and innovation strategist because she had a combination of skills, characteristics and temperament that translated well to corporate education and client services.

"Often, we've found former teachers and educators have that innate ability to relate to clients and other stakeholders because they've spent time educating students from all ages, backgrounds and diversities," Davis said.

At CompanyCam, former teachers often take on "customer-facing roles with high degrees of comfort and success," Carlson said.

As the co-founder and chief strategy officer at SeedX, a marketing agency in Austin, Texas, with 40 employees, Justin Rashidi recently hired the first teacher on staff and said the results have been phenomenal.

"This person is diligent, hardworking, flexible, an amazing communicator and coachable," he said. "They were able to become a project lead in a matter of months."

Rashidi thought this might have been an anomaly, but when looking for new hires, he asked the teacher for referrals, which led to two more excellent hires. "Both of these referrals were amazing, and now we are actively working with Teach for America to try and place more teachers who want to switch careers into marketing and business," he said.

Best Practices for Hiring Teachers

When interviewing former teachers, Davis said, staff at The Diversity Movement explain how what the new hires will do in the job will specifically help clients and the company.

"Teachers are used to teaching and learning in progression, like making sure today's lesson connects to the semester's learning objectives," she said. "In translating this to business, leaders need to link actions to outcomes so that former teachers understand and see how their work connects to larger goals."

Another best practice Davis employs is creating an onboarding program that teaches former educators about the specifics of the industry and the organization from a business standpoint.

"This kind of training would be like a business bootcamp and is effective because teachers are used to learning new ideas and concepts from seminars, daylong workshops and other educational opportunities that enable them to update their certifications and skills," she said.

Neal had a positive experience hiring a teacher, but he found that the new hire worked best when the instructions were well-defined.

"We needed to have a clear scope of work in place for our teacher," he said. "This meant that we had to predetermine which guidelines we wanted and give each one a deadline. This allowed her to build her schedule around our expectations, which included research and rough drafts."

Monson had a similar experience with former teachers. Most are able to develop their own schedules, work well independently and don't need handholding. However, "they do need clear deadlines and clear goals," she said. "From there, they like space to do their thing and get it done on their terms and their own time, which has been great for us as a small but growing company. In short, if you're not hiring teachers, you should be."

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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