“I am thinking about moving  into HR. Any thoughts?”

I spent 22 years teaching English. Kids, university students, business people, senior citizens, high schoolers, 1-1 courses, group courses, online, offline– from total beginner to near native levels. I did my CELTA, Cert IBET, FTBE, 1-1 Business Training certificate, masters in English Language Teaching and much more. I freelanced, worked as a full-time trainer at a language school, and even founded and operated my own language school for 17 years before bowing out in 2017. I sold my school, packed up my home, and my husband and I set off on our next adventure.

What next?

When I formally left teaching, I was at a crossroads in life and seriously considered going into teacher training full-time and even applied at several institutions. However, in the end it was not meant to be and I was left with a hard decision: What’s next? I had spent nearly my entire adult life in this one industry. Luckily, having owned my own language school, with about 25-40 trainers and staff at any one time, I gathered a whole different set of skills to draw upon. After much thought and long conversations with my husband it finally became clear where I was headed: Human Resources, specifically Recruiting. It was a no-brainer for me. Out of all the business aspects I dealt with: finance, legal, HR, customer service – recruiting was the one I found truly exciting. And having spent over a decade training HR professionals and recruiters I was able to get a glimpse of what such a job could look like for me.

Getting ‘qualified’

However, I live in Germany. The land of the Zeugniss and the Zertifikat and Ausbildung and Studium in the field you plan to work in and I didn’t have anything on paper stating that I knew the first thing about recruiting. Just some self-proclaimed success and experience doing some very scrappy recruiting (with no budget at all) for my own language school. So, I did what I am good at– I taught myself about the topic. I ordered over 20 books on recruiting in German and English, I met with recruiters and HR professionals and picked their brains, I signed up for various online training courses on recruiting topics. I got educated and started applying. Five years on, I’m still an in-house corporate recruiter and loving it! Other skills that I found have helped me in my current role are: being able to speak in front of groups of colleagues, lead meetings and presentations and even training sessions on specific topics, understanding the art of diplomacy especially in a multicultural environment, using my language and editing skills to their fullest, being able to clearly and simply communicate complex ideas and processes to stakeholders, and much more. Where I struggled was working closely within a team again, being held accountable for timely reports, and getting on board with all of the company culture and jargon.

Still a teacher at heart

And yet, in my chest beats a second heart. I couldn’t completely shut teaching out and have continuously taught 1-4 courses a week. I’ve found this is the perfect balance for me, just enough to keep up my teaching skills and allow me to develop quality lessons for my customers, but not too much to get overwhelmed or burnt out.

Lessons learned

Overall, I do not regret the path I have taken. We all know that we don’t become English language trainers to become rich and famous– but rather out of passion for language, a desire to help others, and maybe also to see the world while doing it. While I didn’t love every step of the journey, teaching was something that I completely identified with and I loved diving deep into the topics around teaching and interacting with my peers. Changing careers in my forties is less about getting away from teaching and more about evolving into a new role– that I never could have taken on without the decades of experience I gathered as a language trainer. My advice for those considering a career change out of training– think about how you can use what you have learned, your network you have built, the areas you have touched on while teaching as a springboard to the next place you want to go.

Justin Ehresman grew up in Minnesota and Washington State, and completed university in Arizona and later in England.  He lived and worked in six countries on three continents before permanently making Germany his home.  Justin has been teaching English as a foreign language for more than two decades at all levels: children to adults, general to business English. He is currently an in-house recruiter in the refrigeration industry, but still keeping his hand in with a few classes on the side! 

Categories: Careers