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Career Change for Teachers - Grant Writing!

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by Alexis Swenson
November 15, 2021
 Career Change for Teachers - Grant Writing!

Top Career Change for Teachers

The longer we’re around, the more we’re seeing teachers sign up for the Learn Global Grant Writers Collective who are looking for a career change. Or, they are former teachers having already taken the leap to a new career into grant writing. Interesting theme, no? We also have a lot of teachers asking if grant writing is a good career change for their education background, and this blog post will answer that!

For this post, we chatted with three of our rockin’ members with education backgrounds about their experience switching to grant writing professionals. As it turns out, there are many parallels between the two fields of work. Depending on your goals, the fields and/or skills required for each field are very complementary.

Similarities Between Teaching and Grant Writing

Intrinsic Motivation

At the most basic level, individuals who become teachers or grant writers simply love helping people. Daniel, a member in the Collective said that “Teaching is not a job you do for the glory; it’s a job you do because you love helping people.” We couldn’t agree more.

When it comes to grant writing, you can definitely make decent money, but we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: money is not what is going to motivate you when you’re in the thick of a really tough grant application. Nor will money prevent burnout. Rather, what will motivate you long term is an intrinsic motivation to help others (along with balancing your energy well!). It’s also much more effective to write a grant when your heart is behind the mission and the organization.

Helping Others

Along the same lines as helping others is that both professions have the incredible potential to enact tangible results and change. That being said, the impact of a teacher is rarely immediate. When you were in third grade, do you remember feeling overwhelmingly grateful for all that your teacher taught you? Eh, probably not. I bet you were mostly thinking about recess and there’s no shame in that..!

However, what about now? Okay, yeah, sometimes I still think about recess too, but I can also remember advice my teachers gave me in elementary school that I still try to follow. That advice sticks with me to this day because they really saw me; they identified my strengths and weaknesses to cater their advice to me. It was simply my personality and I carry so many of those personality traits with me to this day. The impact of my teacher’s advice continues to serve me today, decades later.

Grant writing is similar in that we, as grant writers, invest a ton of time, energy, and vision into identifying solid funding sources, project development, organization strengths and weaknesses, and preparing the grant application to submit. It can be months or nearly a year before we even know if our application was awarded funding. Even then, receiving notification of award status is not the final impact because the organization needs to put those dollars to work. If the funding ask was for a capital project, that can be literally years later before the project is completed. Again, we’re talking long-term impact, which is something you are familiar with.

Career Change From A Teacher

‘Transferable expertise’ and ‘transferable skills’ are pretty catchy buzzwords nowadays and for good reason. They’re pretty much the only way a person can make a complete 180 degree career change without years of school and thousands of dollars. Transferable skills are exactly what they sound like: skills you use in every job, no matter the title or the field. Teaching requires skills that are directly transferable to grant writing.

Project Management Prowess

As a teacher, you’re juggling multiple tasks nonstop and you need to be organized. You manage yourself as a teacher in addition to managing each individual student. Although you project manage the classroom as a collective, each student has their individual needs that teachers are always tuned into.

Grant writers are also project managers as they work backward from the final application deadline to collect necessary information and documents from various sources. They also need to be attentive to the personality of who they’re requesting information from—what is the best way to contact this individual?, how much time do I need to give this person?, and more.

Flexibility on the Job

When you step into the classroom as a teacher, you have a lesson plan and a schedule. However, so much can happen from when the first morning bell rings and when the last afternoon bell rings. Beyond that, so much can happen in the course of a unit or school year that you simply cannot predict (cough, cough Covid-19 teaching from home perhaps?). Teachers must be willing to be adaptable to the constantly changing needs of the student, classroom, and season.

Grant writers also need to be flexible throughout the grant writing process as they coordinate with a community, organization, and funder to develop a killer narrative. They aren’t able to predict each plot twist until the plot twist is suddenly upon them. That must be why it’s called a plot twist, huh? Then, grant writers are expected to respond and pivot with grace.

Career Change for Teachers - Grant Writing!

Compelling Communication

Effective communication is crucial for both teachers and grant writers. Both professions are tasked with getting their point across in a way that the audience can understand. This often involves creativity, patience, and clear articulation. Being a good communicator also helps a ton with project management!

Solutions Oriented Mindset

Finally, both teachers and grant writers tend to be pragmatic and solutions focused people. Teachers follow a rubric, working to ensure all students learn the desired outcomes. As they’re helping students achieve learning goals, teachers are continuously troubleshooting their teaching strategy, messaging, and working to creatively problem solve issues that arise.

In a similar way, grant writers adhere strictly to the funding guidelines, a detailed overview of all information required on any given grant application. Putting together a solid application or searching for the most relevant funding source for any given project can necessitate a certain degree of creativity and problem solving as well. In our Collective, we train grant writers to reframe limitations as opportunities to be collaborative, creative, and ultimately, solutions oriented.

Overall, there are several commonalities between teaching and grant writing. Making the switch to grant writing can make sense for a lot of different reasons if these similarities resonate with you.

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Differences Between Teaching and Grant Writing

For Daniel, he noted that there are different rules in the two professions. While grant writing can certainly be heavy on the rules (ever read through a Federal grant Notice of Funding Announcement?!), teaching has its fair share of rules too. With teaching comes the responsibility of enforcing behavior rules, checking the boxes on tests given, grading, and completing various types of paperwork. There is often a lot of space for gray areas in the classroom.

One other difference is that the rules are typically explicit in grant writing. For example, those funding guidelines for a Federal grant application are clearly laid out for applicants. Applicants can know precisely what is being asked of them. After receiving award notice, a scoring rubric can be requested if desired which is usually fairly clear as well.

Of course, this can vary depending on the type of grant and grant program, but many grant applications are straightforward.

Best Career Change for Teachers

Is grant writing the best career choice for teachers looking for something different? As with all things, it depends. For the students we’ve talked to, making the switch was the best choice for them for different reasons.

One member in the Collective, Lauren, decided to learn more about grant writing because she was curious how she could increase her scope of impact. “If I can learn to write grants, then I can write any project that I'm interested in,” Lauren said.

And, she’s basically right. She has literally created programming in her school that didn’t exist prior to her developing grant writing skills. Teachers are in the unique position of being boots on the ground with the opportunity to see potential for helpful and relevant programs in the schools. Every grant application starts with an idea or a solution to a problem; teachers can identify those solutions. In turn, the skills of a grant writer can help make those solutions come to life.

Jess, another Collective member, appreciates the flexibility of being a consultant. She’s able to choose who to work for, what projects to work on, and when to work on them. This was a huge shift for Jess as she was familiar with working for someone else who determined her value and schedule. That type of compartmentalization was stifling for her. With grant writing, Jess is able to more fully integrate her daily schedule and meld all her passions together cohesively. This has become especially important to her to be a more present mom to her two (precious!) little boys.

🦄 Check out more of Jess’s story here: From Teacher to Grant Writing Consultant in 6 Months

Unicorn spotlight Jessica

As a teacher, you might be feeling burdened by the educator lifestyle. Are you interested in being your own boss? Perhaps you’re no longer keen on having a school board tell you what you can and cannot do or are tired of kids not appreciating the work you’re doing for them. We aren’t advocating for all teachers to turn in their resignation letters because if you do thrive in a school environment still, we need highly qualified teachers in our schools. And, maybe you’re just looking for a side gig for a while. Grant writing can be that for you.

Side Hustle for Teachers

You might be looking for a side hustle to supplement your primary teaching job or are curious about testing out grant writing as a side hustle. We are 100% convinced that side hustling and freelancing are invaluable skill sets. A lot of people have side hustles because they’re plain ol’ passionate about that work or they want to continue learning or need to build up a financial safety net. With a side hustle you can earn money and even give yourself a raise without quitting your full-time job.

In short, the benefits to starting a side hustle are innumerable—we wrote a whole blog post about it! Grant writing as a side hustle for teachers is a great move, but don’t just take our word for it.

Lauren said grant writing is “one of those things you can absolutely do and you're going to find that you're well equipped to do so.”

Jess’s take on moving from teaching to grant writing is to “just do it. It's so awesome. The way the Collective is set up to really support budding grant writers is truly amazing because you hold our hands through the whole process. You help us come from nothing or maybe a little bit of something to really build on the technical and professional skills, as well as the personal development.”

We love how Lauren and Jess made the leap and found what worked for them!

Career Change Teacher Resume

As you’re reading this, you might be thinking, “Sure, transferable skills I get, but I have no experience with grant writing. And, what about my resume?”

That is an excellent question! We have an example for you. Jess recently revamped her resume to customize it for grant writing. We love how she incorporated her education background and highlighted how her skills as a teacher are perfectly suited to grant writing.

Jessica Resume

Looking for more resume help to make sure you really emphasize those golden transferable skills? We highly recommend learning from Jennifer Spoelma, Founder of Career Foresight Coaching. (Jennifer provided our members an exclusive resume training in our course as well!)

Final Takeaway

There is certainly a draw for teachers as they consider a career change into grant writing. The professions themselves are very similar. They both involve helping others and making a tangible impact. Educators also have multiple skills that are directly transferable to a successful career in grant writing including project management skills, flexibility, effective communication, and being solutions focused.

Is it for you? We hope this helped you as you consider your next step in your professional journey.

Grant Writing Resources

If you're interested in becoming a grant writing consultant, check out this free training on how you can pull off a meaningful career change. We’re rooting for you!

If you have any additional questions about the Global Grant Writers Collective, let us know! We can connect you with a member of the program for their perspective. Shoot an email to [email protected] or DM us on Instagram!

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About the author...

Alexis Swenson serves as Unicorn Coach and Content Director for Learn Grant Writing. The product of small-town northwestern Minnesota, she is a self-declared “old soul” and grounded free spirit. She has secured over $2.7 million in grant funding in her career. Alexis writes to help people learn, laugh, and not be so hard on themselves.

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We made this video to answer your questions about how to build a career in grant writing without the fear of where you will find clients or the fear of failure. We cover the top three mistakes that keep people from making the leap from a soul-sucking job to something more meaningful.

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