Q: I’m looking to change occupations in a major way — from corporate IT to teaching high school math — and I want to edit my LinkedIn profile to reflect that new direction. But I’m worried it would be a dead giveaway to my current employer. What do I do?
A: The world needs great high school math teachers, and having corporate and IT experience will make you a valuable commodity. It’s understandable that you don’t want to give anything away to your current employer until you’re closer to your move. There are ways to signal your relevant educational experience without shouting your career transition plans from the rooftops.
A more important area of concern is whether you’ll enjoy teaching. Before you change your LinkedIn profile and resume, make sure that you understand what a career in teaching really entails. If you have any experience teaching, identify that in your LinkedIn profile — this won’t raise any red flags at work. What relevant teaching experience do you have in your corporate IT roles? Did you teach and mentor small groups? Did you have to write the corporate equivalent of a lesson plan? Was training part of any of your roles?
Incorporate this information in your entries about professional experience. You can also use your volunteer, interests, and education sections to signal your qualifications for teaching math. Are your degrees in math or education? Have you ever tutored students as a volunteer?
Filling out your LinkedIn profile with this information will demonstrate your abilities for future roles, without jeopardizing your current one.
Don’t put too much weight on your LinkedIn profile. The website is just one place where you can describe yourself, and many schools aren’t using it as a recruitment tool, at least not yet.
As in many job searches, networking is where you’re going to spend most of your time, specifically with other high school teachers, principals, or school board members. What other connections can you capitalize on? Consider going back to your college and contacting the education program to see what resources they offer alumni.
You should also research the Massachusetts Educational Recruiting Consortium, an organization that facilitates hiring in education by connecting institutions, graduating teachers, and hiring personnel nationwide at an annual recruiting event. These approaches are likely to yield better results for you than LinkedIn alone.
You should also take a step back to consider the groundwork involved in this kind of career shift. Have you tried to get certified? Do you need student teaching and classroom experience to be considered? Are you interested in public or private schools, and how do the requirements differ?
School systems don’t recruit the same way corporate organizations do. Prioritize your resume as your marketing document — and sell the benefits of your corporate IT background. Being able to demonstrate why you need math skills for employment is a huge boost in a high school setting, and it makes you a more attractive candidate.
So worry less about setting off alarms at your current employer and more about determining if you really want this career change — and how you can take a networking approach that goes beyond LinkedIn.Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.