Is career change worth the investment of retraining?

I have lost my drive & motivation to keep improving & changing the way I teach so I'm fairly definite that I now want a career change. I also have 2 young children so I don't feel I can put sufficient time & energy into teaching anymore.

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I have taught psychology A level for 12 years, with 2 years out for maternity & I'm currently Head of Psychology & Sociology at a school in Manchester. This year has been a particularly difficult one for me due to a number of changes within the school & the wider education system. Whilst I think my students are doing fine & enjoying lessons, I have had so much negative feedback & criticism about my lessons & the way I am managing the department that I now feel completely demotivated & inadequate as both a teacher & manager. I have lost my drive & motivation to keep improving & changing the way I teach so I'm fairly definite that I now want a career change. I also have 2 young children so I don't feel I can put sufficient time & energy into teaching anymore.

My plan is to become an Educational Psychologist but this would mean completing a one year conversion course (costing approx £5000-£9000) followed by a 3 year doctorate (currently funded by government). I'm struggling to justify the expense & loss of earnings to my partner!

Do you have any advice about changing route & is it worth the expense incurred by completing further qualifications? Can you recommend any other psychology-related pathways that might not be so expensive?

Sounds like a time of real change for you. Working in a demanding job and being a parent is tough going for anyone. And to be managing difficult feedback along the way would certainly drain the last energy and enthusiasm you have.

There are two issues here:

You want something new and different; plus you've lost confidence as a result of the feedback you received in your present role - and one may well be influencing the other. In order to make the right choice for the future, you need to process the feedback thoroughly so you can be sure you're moving towards something positive, rather than away from something unpleasant.

Given you teach psychology, I’m sure you’ve already given this a lot of thought. However, when it applies to yourself, I know how easy it is to lose perspective and get caught up either in blaming the other or a thorough personal assassination. Neither will help. If you blame the messenger, you become a victim and therefore helpless to act; if you blame yourself, you undermine your own power.

This may well be the perfect time for a new career, but it’s important not to jump just to get away from the pain you’ve been experiencing. So focus first on the feedback:

  • Consider how the feedback is accurate – this is a tough one. Making an honest assessment of criticism can be very painful, but it will bring you back into your own power. If the kids were enjoying the lessons and doing well, what was not working? Maybe, you have gone beyond your comfort zone? Maybe you are a great teacher and a less than perfect manager - or vice versa? Maybe you are resisting the changes in education? Whatever it is, be honest about it.
  • Then look at what you don't agree with in the feedback. What you’ve been told is just another person’s perspective, so some of it will be really helpful and some won’t fit at all. Be honest about where you did a good job and worked well. Just one word of warning - if you have a Doubting Twin this is the point where she will wade in behind the criticism to confirm that you’re really not OK. But remember that she is trying to help you, in her own misguided way. Read about her in my blog

I understand just how tough all this is. It always takes me a while to manage challenging feedback, but I know the turning point is when I own up to where I wasn’t good / didn’t do my best. Once I get this, I can do something about it and that always feels better.

You will find this is a two fold review:

  1. You need to take the learning from what happened in your teaching role for future reference, because whatever you decide to do next, this will always add value. You will either learn how good you are or you’ll be clearer were you can improve – and probably a bit of both.
  2. Facing the challenge head on in this way will also make clear whether you really have had enough of teaching or just of this particular teaching job.

Go exploring

If the answer is that you really are ready for a change, I would suggest further exploration before making such a big financial outlay. It may also reassure your partner to know that you’ve looked into the whole idea thoroughly. Talk with an Educational Psychologist. See if it's possible to spend a couple of days job shadowing to find out what the work is like first hand. Talk with your partner about time and how you could organise study time and family life. Work out finances together so you both know how the money can be managed.

One of the problems in career change is that we get stuck in tunnel vision, assuming there is only one way forward, so you could also challenge your mindset by looking into other psychological options. Find out about art therapy, drama therapy. Look into the Humanistic Psychotherapies. Explore how Neuroscience is changing our understanding of mental health and trauma. Maybe go to a group session of something that catches your interest – see what it’s like on the receiving end. There is no right or wrong, just be open to possibilities.

One final thought is to get yourself a coach who can help you think through the different elements of your present situation. Having someone who isn’t a friend or family member makes it easier for you to speak freely and for them to challenge your thinking. They will be on your side, as honest counsel, focused on helping you find the right way forward. Find out about a Deep Dive Day or look up other coaches who write here on Life Labs.

These challenges can be so important in our lives - but generally it takes hindsight to recognise how. So hang on in. Go exploring and be open to what this has to teach you. I'm quite sure you'll learn how brilliant you are and where you can grow and develop further. The perfect life lesson!

Let me know how you get on


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Judith Leary Joyce

Great Companies Consulting

In 1996 I made the shift into business, taking my knowledge of Gestalt Psychology into the realm of Executive Coaching, Facilitation and Leadership/ Management Development. In 2001 I worked on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, then went on to write my first book Becoming an Employer of Choice which was followed by Inspirational Manager and The Psychology of Success. Since then I have worked with organisations across the sectors from large corporates through to young start ups, public sector and charities. Now it’s time to help you have a love affair with your work and get exactly what you want from your career. To find out more about my work and coaching go to