Frustrated from ‘death by PowerPoint’ and learning programs that were more like grit-your-teeth torture, propelled Maria Doyle to start her own business. As a teacher and trainer, Maria helps professionals create quality learning experiences that engage, inspire and motivate their clients to create real change.
Here, Maria shares how she has made the most of her education qualifications and broad teaching and training experiences to build her business.
This post is part of a series of posts profiling careers after teaching.
What are your qualifications and experience in classroom teaching?
- Bachelor of Arts (Italian and Indonesian),
- CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults),
- Cert IV TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages),
- Cert IV TAA (Training and Assessment),
- Master of Education
I’ve taught in 9 countries, had 12 overseas postings, have taught kids, teenagers and adults, been a language teacher and assessor in various international testing systems, and finally decided to do a Masters when I wasn’t feeling challenged anymore teaching or assessing grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.
I started working in large Curriculum Development and Teacher Training projects at universities and training councils, and then found myself in the middle of the Pacific on an Aid and Development project putting the Australian Vocational Education system (TAFE) into a country called Kiribati. My role was to train teachers and implement a fully customizable English language program for all staff and students, at all levels. Three days after we arrived the college burnt to the ground and two years later I was evacuated with multiple organ failure. That’s another story though~!
How do you explain what you currently do to make a living?
I’m a Teacher Trainer and Curriculum Developer who helps passionate professionals create quality learning experiences, (workshops, worksheets or webinars,) that create real change in the worlds of their clients.
When I decided to go out on my own, I started doing a lot of research, and a lot of training on how to run your own business and I was appalled at the standard of the unregistered training that was available online. What I realized, was that there were a lot of content experts out there who didn’t have basic teaching skills so I set about changing that – and have created a suite of offerings based on the foundations of best practice teaching and learning; an online course, workshops and one-on-one consulting.
Can you give some background about how you decided to leave the classroom?
Well the experience I described above (looking death in the face and surviving) definitely makes you sit up and think about what you really want out of life. After 33 countries and 12 overseas postings culminating with 2.5 years in Consulting and Senior Management, I realized that I’d done everything I could really do in my industry, working for someone else.
I’d worked in schools, for private colleges, in universities and in vocational education centres, for small businesses, large corporations and everything in between. I’d been in junior positions, middle management and senior management positions and what I realized, was that I was never really getting the results or the impact that I truly wanted to get.
There was always some sort of budgeting restriction or bureaucratic nonsense standing in the way, or else I was surrounded by people who were either stuck (unhappily) in a job they continually whinged about, or were clambering their way up a corporate ladder, with no regard whatsoever for those they were kicking and stomping over, on their way up.
It gets pretty draining after a while, especially when you DO love what you do, you DO love seeing your clients getting results, and you DO actually care about making a difference. Sure, no job is perfect, no boss is flawless and no working environment is paradise, but I’m a ‘cup half full’ kinda gal and being surrounded by the ‘half empties’ takes its toll after a while.
I always put 150% into my work, pulling 18 hour days when I suppose it wasn’t really necessary so I decided that if I was going to do that much work, I might as well be working for myself, being able to choose who I work with, the projects that I work on, and the working environment I choose to create for myself.
I’ve never looked back.
How long did it take you to make the transition?
I left the job in the Pacific in April 2012 and just sat for about 3 months, without any real understanding of what I’d do next. I then took a 10 week contract in Indonesia teaching, to fill in some time while I worked it out, and it was there that my decision was confirmed to go out on my own. I worked for the next 2.5 years part time teaching, studying and business building and only went full time on my business in March 2015. So about 3 years I suppose!
What is your top piece of advice for someone who is thinking about changing careers?
Research. Research like your life depends on it (it does). Talk to (real) people who are doing what you think you want to do. Don’t make decisions based on glossy websites or job descriptions that don’t really show the inner workings and the reality of what it’s like to be running that business, or working that job.
Get the low down from them, ask them all the ugly questions, get the full picture before you dive in. The grass is always greener till you get over there and realize there’s a whole heap of prickles you couldn’t see with your rose coloured long distance glasses on.
What is the best way to get started, and what advice would you give to anyone wanting to do what you have done?
Just start. Join forums of people who are doing similar things. Join local networking groups so you can surround yourself with people who you can relate to. Talk, interact, don’t just sit at home in front of a computer thinking it’s all going to come together.
I found in the end that real, live people and communities trump online communities in the long run. Online is AWESOME for support, and for day to day questions and learning the ins and outs of business but long term, if you’re going to be running a business from home, you’ll go bat-sh&t crazy without live human beings to discuss things with.
I never thought I’d say that, and it’s taken me 3 years to learn it, but yeh, can’t imagine life now without my local communities of business owners, consultants and entrepreneurs. If you’ve changed careers but are still in the 9-5 world of offices, or you’ve signed up to a co-working space then AWESOME – you’ll have people to chat to all day long – but when you’re working from home, beware of the perils of long term isolation!
What were some of the problems you faced?
- Isolation – read the answers above!
- Not really understanding what I had to offer, my specific (useful) skillset and who could benefit from that.
- Comparitinitus – don’t do it to yourself. No one has your specific set of skills, ‘qualifications’ or experience, so no one is going to be running a business or selling their expertise the same way. Know how you’re different, and run with that. Your circus, your monkeys. Create a circus you love working in – not a trumped up version of someone else’s – how can it ever feel right if it’s not all about YOU?
Which teaching skills have proved to be most valuable?
Flexibility, adaptability, multitasking superpowers, and the skills of negotiating, problem solving and interpersonal communication.
If you had one secret to give about changing careers what would it be?
Make sure you’re not leaping out of the frying pan, into the fire. Be realistic about what changes you’re making, and why.
If you’re changing careers, GO YOU! Just make sure you’re changing into a job that plays to your strengths, and the has you doing work that you LOVE every day – remember the rose coloured long distance glasses analogy!
Working for yourself is AWESOME but it’s still a lot of work – it’s not like you just sit around doing what you love every day and end up with 6 figures in the bank (unless you’re Jay Z… but hey…)
Yes, doing what you love should come easily to you, and abundance should flow when you’re on path and on purpose, but beware of creating or landing another ‘job’ for yourself, that seemed a good idea at the time, but simply ends up being another version of what you were (unhappily) doing before. Work out what it is about your job that is making you unhappy – and set about fixing THAT – for me, that meant going out on my own – what does it mean for YOU?
If you DO choose to go out on your own, GO YOU! But don’t underestimate the amount of ‘jobs’ you’ll all of a sudden have if you do – book keeper, graphic designer, web developer, researcher, writer, administration assistant, the list goes on –this isn’t to put you off, but just to be realistic – you either end up paying someone to do all these jobs for you, or you try to do them all yourself, which leaves very little time for you to be actually doing the stuff you LOVE! (Again, it’s taken me 3 years to work this out – and now I outsource all of it!)
Whatever the job or career change – work out what you love doing, and figure out a way to get paid for it – it’s as simple as that – anything else will just be another version of the life you’re not loving right here right now!
You can read more about Maria and her business at mariadoyle.com.