Stressful school day.
Every month, over 13,000 people visit my education magazine for one article only, entitled “Alternatives To Teaching.”
In 2012, I wrote this article with no other reason than to help other teachers. This piece has been on page one of Google for the past five years, which tells me teachers are looking for work outside of the classroom more than ever. Also, I used this opportunity to create a teacher support group, as new teachers arrive daily to join our conversations, look for help, and need career guidance.
Teaching is one of the most critical and humane professions in our country. If teachers are not happy, students are not happy. We have a run into a serious and complicated issue.
A recent analysis, run by Center of American Progress, shows that teacher preparation programs have demonstrated an incredible enrollment decline over the last eight years in almost every State. Teachers and students are facing mental health challenges in record numbers, and if we don’t do something different soon, it’s quite possible our education system is only going to face more serious challenges.
I’m sure you’ve noticed some of these headlines over 2019, including but not limited to:
- “Teacher shortage: State education officials, citing lack of data, don’t know true teaching vacancy numbers.” — Mississippi Today
- “Hawaii Board of Education approves pay incentives to address teacher shortage.” — Business Pacific News
- “Anyone surprised at declining interest in teaching profession?” — Atlanta. News. Now.
- “Classrooms in Crisis: Teachers retiring, resigning over disruptive learning.” — KGW8
Teachers are either looking for new schools, different opportunities, and ways to utilize their skills in different settings. Whether they want to start their own business, join an education organization, or even jump into the corporate world, they need a positive, unique digital footprint as well as an effective and unique personal brand.
It is only fair to help unhappy educators find different work because the feelings and attitude toward teaching begin with one special person in the classroom: the teacher.
As a teacher myself, I can understand the problems teachers are facing today. However, today, their concerns are even more more challenging due to technology, perceived expectations in society, and student pressure and stress. The demands of a teacher’s role keep growing. They are not making enough money to survive without a second job, many claim administrators don’t support them, and various students and teachers face a host of obstacles that seem impossible to overcome.
In the meantime, a strong lack of leadership and mentor support programs for new teachers are just some of the other reasons educators are trying to move out of classroom.
Also, parents are changing, and they realize they have other choices rather than the public or private education system. In fact, there are about 2.5 million homeschool students in grades K-12 in the United States right now, according to The National Home Education Research Institute.
All of these red flags are critical signals.
I had the chance to chat with my colleague, Marietta Gentles Crawford. Crawford is a writer, and a personal brand strategist. She is also the author of From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career. Crawford also runs her company, MariBrandsFORYOU, where anyone can read and learn about her unique branding tips.
In this interview, which has been edited and condensed for reading purposes, we discuss strategies for teachers who want to learn about personal branding, what it is and how it works.
We also chat about about how educators can make their way toward a possible new career pivot using these tips.
Robyn Shulman: What is a personal brand?
Marietta Gentles Crawford: A personal brand is the sum of your strengths and characteristics that are unique to you as an expert in your field.
Shulman: Can you elaborate?
Crawford: Sure. A personal brand can make you stand out from other people who have similar skills because it consists of your personality and life experiences that have shaped a certain point of view. The act of personal branding is about reputation management. Reputation management means consistently showing unique attributes in everything you do, in-person and online.
Shulman: What can a personal brand do for educators in the real-world?
Crawford: A personal brand can help teachers establish authority, build powerful relationships, and add value to the people they help.
Shulman: Why do you think teachers need a personal brand today now more than ever?
Crawford: Teachers need a personal brand now more than ever because it’s easy to put themselves in a box.
Shulman: Can you elaborate?
Crawford: While there is a range of professions, being a teacher is something many people are familiar with because most youth went to school. For example, you can probably remember being a student, or if you’re a parent, you have a child who is in school.
Shulman: Basically, the view of a teacher from the outside is that of only a teacher, correct?
Crawford: Yes, the general consensus is that a teacher is someone who works in a classroom and teaches a particular subject or subjects to a specific range of school-aged students.
If you work within the profession, you know that teachers do more than teach—preparation, planning, and work happen outside of the classroom. Since various skills go into being a teacher, teachers must have a clear idea of their strengths to stand out for opportunities.
This mindset can apply to any profession, but for teachers it can be even more challenging.
Not an easy job.
Shulman: Can you give me an example regarding how teachers can change their thought-process in order to pivot their careers?
Crawford: Yes, for example, if you’re a middle-school math teacher, it’s not enough to focus solely on teaching strong mathematical skills, and the various topics you may you teach.
Shulman: How can a teacher make more out of who they are, and what they can offer?
Crawford: Regarding personal branding, it’s crucial to stress other skills such as creativity, patience, use of advanced learning methods, and quantifying student success.
Shulman: What if teachers want to pivot outside of the four classroom walls?
Crawford: For teachers who are looking to transition outside of the classroom, in addition to knowing their strengths, they need to clearly communicate how these strengths are transferrable in other areas, whether in education management, or corporate training and development.
Shulman: How can they go about sharing their skills outside of the classroom?
Crawford: Instead of focusing on specific tasks as a teacher, they can focus more on skills that tie to results. It’s about connecting the dots between how the educator’s unique experience and personality traits can lead to the success of an organization—whether it’s within a school or a private company.
Shulman: What is the first step for teachers to begin building their brands?
Crawford: The first step is to always begin with a self-assessment. This means that teachers should take the time to evaluate their skills. They need to be honest about their strengths and their weaknesses—even skills that are useful, but can burn them out—which is known as your burnout attribute.
Start in small steps
Shulman: What’s a good way to self-reflect and progress?
Crawford: A good way to get a gauge of this information is to get feedback from people teaches know in different capacities. Then, they should assess if there’s a discrepancy with how they see themselves versus how they believe others see them. Once they have a clear idea of their potential brand, they can begin to define their overall message.
Shulman: What are some questions teachers should ask themselves?
Crawford: Some questions can include: What am I passionate about? What are my core beliefs as a professional?
These questions can also help teachers shape their message. For example, a branding message might be: “Students should be free to learn in a creative environment that best supports their needs,” or “An innovative work environment encourages employees to deliver their best and grow professionally.”
Shulman: Most people say that creating a personal brand takes a great deal of time. What are your thoughts?
Crawford: The misconception is that personal branding is time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s more important to be consistent.
The great thing about teachers is that it’s natural for them to know how to teach, and a big part of personal branding is teaching what you know. Teachers are the ultimate leaders when it comes to having a positive impact, so it shouldn’t stop in the classroom. Also, they know how to chunk their limited-time.
Shulman: What are some places you recommend for teachers to build their brands?
Crawford: They can use social media platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, and Medium to share their expertise to market their skills and be of service to others.
They can use industry trends in education or another industry of interest such as writing prompts or talking points to start a conversation.
And, they can build their brand in as little as thirty minutes a day.
Shulman: How can teachers build their audience?
Crawford: Teachers should build their audience in a way that makes them feel the most comfortable—using methods that best highlight their skills.
Shulman: Can you provide an example?
Crawford: Sure. For example, video is a highly recommended personal branding platform, but if teachers not comfortable doing video or they couldn’t commit, they can begin writing.
Shulman: How can they best implement this new practice?
Crawford: To save time, teachers can start small, and pick one method and one social media platform to focus on as they begin to share their knowledge.
Shulman: How can teachers use their brands to find new opportunities?
Crawford: They can start using their brand to create new opportunities when they are intentional and consistent about communicating their message and expertise.
Teachers should make sure they are marketing themselves online. They can create things such as a LinkedIn profile or a website that highlights their unique traits—what makes them different from others, not the same.
Again, focus on unique skills and personality traits, and strip away the title of being a teacher. They can use stories as examples that highlight how they have managed critical situations with their skills.
Shulman: What’s your best piece of advice for our readers?
Crawford: Educators have great personal branding potential because their natural skill is teaching. Remember, personal branding is not only about self-promotion; it’s about being of service.
And, teachers can do this by showing what they know, and helping others learn— because that’s what they do best, inside and outside of the classroom. Once they present themselves as brands outside of a specific school or position, the opportunities can be limitless.