BUILDING CAREER PATHWAYS
|By Tiffany Hamlett
To develop these pathways, one must be mindful of opportunities and strategies that can provide continued professional growth and development in areas of interest. In order to pick the best route, the first step is to identify current and future goals. Even if these goals are small, having something to work towards can create the motivation to step outside of one’s current role, which can bring huge rewards.
AS EDUCATORS, WE OFTEN FOCUS ON THE DAY-TO-DAY TASK OF TEACHING OR MONITORING ADMINISTRATION IN OUR CURRENT SCHOOL SETTING. ALTHOUGH ONE MAY BE VERY CONTENT WITH THEIR CURRENT POSITION, KEEPING ONE'S OPTIONS OPEN FOR FUTURE GROWTH CAN OFTEN LEAD TO A MORE REWARDING ROLE.
To begin, start with identifying what would bring career satisfaction on a short-term or long-term basis. If your plan is to become the lead teacher for your grade level you will need to consider what steps are necessary to reach this goal. Next, identify what you will need to do to work through each step. You may need additional training or years of experience, which can require a specific time commitment. You may also need to make your goals known to other professionals, allowing them to support your growth and career development.
The support piece is often related to networking, which many may struggle with. Building relationships with others in a professional setting takes time and effort. One cannot continue to grow without support from others. To begin, connect with others in the school who have similar goals or who are in a position you would like to achieve. You can use these relationships to learn important skills that will be valuable in your desired position.
It can also be beneficial to reach out to other individuals outside of your current educational setting. For example, maybe there is a teacher in another school who just won an award for an innovative classroom project. If this is something that you would like to model in your own setting, sending an email to congratulate the teacher is a great way to establish an initial relationship. You may then want to follow up, asking if you can meet or chat by phone to discuss the project further. You should also consider reaching out to individuals in higher positions to see if they would be open to meet to discuss their own personal career path. Many individuals are very willing to serve as a mentor figure to others with specific professional goals. It can be intimidating to make the initial contact, but this step can be a crucial building block for your career path.
A second major piece of building your career pathway is to remain current in the professional field. This means staying up to date on best practices, trends, innovative strategies, research and policies that can impact your current and future role. There are many different methods one may explore to keep up to date on what is impacting your profession. Some individuals attend professional conferences or meetings related to their area of expertise. Other individuals follow current policies through education briefs. Others may test out new methods or strategies found in current research literature on best practices. Whatever method you use, the overall focus should be to understand what is changing and look at how you can use future trends to guide your next steps.
For example, does your state report a large influx of second language learners enrolling in the schools in the next few years? If so, now could be a great time to seek certification in ESL instruction. Keeping ahead of trends and seeking out additional training and skills to support what is needed in the field can allow you to stand out among your peers. This can then provide you with different opportunities you might not have had before.
Finally, make sure your professional documents are current and available. Many individuals use social media outlets to highlight their professional accomplishments and connect to others in the field. It is important to present yourself in a professional manner in all online forums if you are seeking advancement in your career. Take time to review all online profiles and research others with profiles you admire. Many individuals make great contacts through online connections, which can lead to opportunities that might be overlooked.
Building professional career pathways does take time and effort, but in order to grow as a professional it is a required step. As you reflect on your goals for the future, consider how you can establish connections and relationships to support your plans. As you move into more advanced positions you may also find that sharing your experience is a great way to give back to others while continuing to support the field of education.
Tiffany Hamlet is chair of teaching and learning for the American College of Education.
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