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From Higher Education To Ed Tech: The Great Switch

The Great Switch is a series featuring those who have transitioned careers during the pandemic. We hope their stories can serve as inspiration for those who are considering a career switch. Now, more than ever, companies are focusing on employee engagement, shifting to remote or hybrid work models, and employees are prioritizing their careers and health. This is the future of work.

Meet Memory Baker, a teacher who pivoted from higher education to an ed tech role during the pandemic. This is her story.

  1. What were you doing before the pandemic? What are you pursuing now?
    I was with the same company in higher education for the past 17+ years. Prior to the pandemic, in 2018, I had been promoted to oversee the financial aid departments for 7 schools across the country, working remotely. Now, I am pursuing pivoting from working for a college to working for an EdTech company who provides the software that colleges use.  
  2. What made this the right time to switch for you/did you have any doubts?
    had been thinking of this switch, daydreaming of it really, for the last 7-8 years or so of my career. I always thought it was the next natural place for my career to go. I had made it to the top of the ladder in my company and growth is something that I need in my career to keep me engaged and challenged. The economy has been causing a lot of layoffs and I was surprised with a layoff at the end of June 2022. I was at a crossroads – one way was staying in my comfort zone in financial aid and the other was moving toward my daydream in EdTech. I did have doubts since if I had pursued another Director of Financial Aid role, I could increase my salary significantly and hit the six figure goal I have always had. I knew making the career pivot could likely come with a salary decrease which was hard to accept. My career has always been on an upward trajectory with both title and income so heading backwards was not easy to accept. 
  3. What was the turning point for you in which you decided to pivot?
    The layoff was definitely unexpected and seemed like a sign that it was time to follow my instinct to pivot my career. Working as long as I did with my previous company, I had built a lot of solid, lasting relationships with the third party companies we used. The pivot was easier to imagine since I reached out to those relationships as my first step when I learned of my layoff and it paid off. 
  4. What lessons have you learned during this process?
    I have learned a ton! I feel like I went on the full roller coaster ride that so many unemployed people go on. I started out knowing exactly what I wanted (EdTech) but as the months dragged on desperation set in and I found myself starting to look at any and all positions I could see myself enjoying and being good at. This phase of the job search made me feel out of control and super rejected since jobs I didn’t even really want were not responding to my resume. It was when I made the decision to get back to what I was really after that I was able to regain focus and traction. Throughout the 4 months of unemployment, I stayed busy trying to understand today’s job market by doing as much research as possible. I tuned in to every free webinar I could to learn about how to best get a job, create the strongest resume, and optimize my LinkedIn profile. I also took up an offer to work with a career coach with Korn Ferry which was a free member perk through my bank, SoFi. Doing these things kept me heading in the right direction and gave me the feelings of accomplishment and confidence. 
  5. Have you dealt with imposter syndrome since switching? If so, how did you overcome it?
    Yes, I did deal with imposter syndrome a bit and it came when I was really stepping out of my comfort zone and applying for jobs I had no hands on experience with. This was during the job search phase where I was starting to really broaden my search. I ended up listening to a couple of podcasts on imposter syndrome which helped me to understand it a bit more. Once I have dedicated time to doing the research and have  a good understanding of what something is, I generally feel better about it. This pivot to EdTech did not give me feelings of imposter syndrome which I feel is a good sign that I am genuinely excited for this next phase of my career. 
  6. What tips would you give someone who wanted to pivot?
    I do have some tips that I picked up along the way. My career coach challenged me with creating a circle of influence to build my LinkedIn network, starting with family, friends, community, and then branching out to old colleagues, etc. That was a fantastic process since it really made me think about who I could connect with to see what doors could open. I have heard statistics recently that suggest, in today’s job market, that the vast majority of jobs are found by networking rather than the traditional application process. Networking is how I made my career pivot happen so it seems like a worthwhile thing to spend some time on. I really feel like that thought I put into the 3rd party companies I had relationships with for all those years was where I was able to find that pivot success. Almost any business is going to have a software company they use and if someone wants to pivot to tech, for instance, they are a great asset to the software company since they’ve been using the software for a stretch. 

Next, I recommend attending as many free webinars as possible (or finding quality, recent videos on YouTube to watch) to optimize as well as you can on resume and LinkedIn. Also, consider investing in working with a career coach. I worked with one at Korn Ferry and will likely continue to have sessions with my coach as I begin this new career to make sure I am putting my best foot forward. Lastly, stay positive. It’s hard at times since being unemployed is such a scary thing but trying to stay positive helped me along the way. I found a few LinkedIn influencers who were instrumental in helping me along the way. I found a few that regularly posted positive, uplifting content; I found a few that regularly posted really great technical content to help me with resume, profile, and interview tips; I found a few that were specifically a part of the career pivot from higher ed and into EdTech. Seeing their messages really kept me on track and pushing forward on my mission. 

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