“I came home from a bad day at work and a hideous journey on the tube, and I just knew I had to do something else.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was working as a marketing manager for a barristers' chambers. This mainly involved organising events and PR.
What are you doing now?
I'm a Spanish and French teacher at a girls' secondary school in Bristol.
Why did you change?
I was really unhappy in my job.
I felt bored, undervalued, lacking in confidence and generally fed up. I didn't feel as though I was using my brain and wasn't passionate about my job. Mostly, I missed using the languages I had spent years studying.
I found working in an office boring as I'm quite an active person; it was hard to sit at a desk all day.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I came home from a bad day at work and a hideous journey on the tube, and I just knew I had to do something else.
I kept seeing the trains travelling to Heathrow – I had an incredible urge to catch one, head to the airport and travel somewhere exciting. I decided I had to do something about it.
Are you happy with the change?
Yes, I am – very happy.
I'm passionate about and proud of my job. I love telling people I'm a Spanish teacher and love talking about it. This is a massive change from when I worked in marketing and assumed everyone would be bored listening to me talk about my job.
Every day is different and challenging; I'm constantly tested intellectually.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I sometimes miss the glamour of working in London, the events I used to go to, drinks after work, etc., as life is completely different now.
I miss being able to come home from work and switch off; now when I come home I have to do a few hours of marking and lesson planning. I don't miss the stress of organising events and waking up at 3 a.m. worrying about them.
How did you go about making the shift?
After several career coaching sessions, I decided to go to Barcelona to teach English for a year.
I didn't know I wanted to be a teacher at this point; I just wanted to do something different and I've always loved Barcelona.
I found I really loved teaching English and speaking Spanish again. Therefore, I decided to enrol on a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to teach, throughout the PGCE, but when I started working at the school I teach at now, I found my feet and started to love it. It's a private school and I've found the independence from the National Curriculum and the smaller class sizes suit me much better than what I'd experience in a state school.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I was lucky to get a grant to do the PGCE; they were trying to attract more language teachers at the time.
This was enough to live on for the year with my husband's salary. Plus, the PGCE was so intense that I had absolutely no social life for the year, which kept costs down!
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
The PGCE involves a lot of reflecting and constant observations by your mentor.
I found the 'constructive' criticism given by the PGCE mentors hard. You are constantly asked how you could have done things better, which is hard to take when you've been up until 2 a.m. planning your lessons and you thought it went really well! I also found it hard being a trainee teacher having been a marketing manager. As I looked quite young at the time, people thought I had just left university and so treated me as if the post were my first job. One mentor insisted on checking every email I wrote.
What help did you get?
My husband provided a lot of tissues and chocolate at 2 a.m. when I still hadn't finished planning my lessons.
I made some good friends on the PGCE who were really supportive; we still see each other regularly.
What have you learnt in the process?
It is so important to be happy in your job.
If I get bored of teaching, or stop loving it, I will do something else.
I need a job which challenges me. I like to learn new things constantly; that's why I like teaching.
You never know what a job will be like until you actually do it.
Teaching is a really creative job. There's so much more to being a teacher than standing in a classroom.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
I might have found a school to train in, rather than training through a university.
Also, it would have been helpful to have spent a bit of time in France before the PGCE, as I've ended up having to teach quite a bit of French.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Talk to as many people as possible about their jobs, but take everything they say with a pinch of salt; we are all different and what annoys them might not annoy you.
Do as much work experience as you can in as many different settings as you can. Don't let financial constraints get in the way as there's always a way around them. If you hate your job, do something about it!
What resources would you recommend to others?
The Prospects website was particularly useful.
What lessons could you take from Mary's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.