Learning to Drive - Member Post

4. Driving.jpg

Hi friends! My name is Daniel - though I write as Oz, for reasons I won’t go into now - and I joined Covo’s membership about a month ago. I also help Covo’s CEO and my good friend, the wonderful Rebecca Brian Pan, to curate and edit this blog. A few weeks ago she asked me if I would be willing to guest post for Work. Life. Balanced…so here goes! If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share my story of the process that shaped my professional outlook.

In 2008 I completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE for short) which is one route into teaching in the UK. I’d like to say that teaching was my passion, my vocation, but in reality at the time I drifted into it because I wasn’t sure what else to do.

The PGCE was a difficult year - as any new teacher will attest, the training years are the hardest. But I came through it well enough and around April 2008 I was on the lookout for jobs. I applied for a couple of teaching positions in the local area and had a couple of interviews. I didn’t land either of them. The facts were that I didn’t love teaching and I didn’t really want either of those jobs. It showed.

As I considered what I would do next, an email filtered through to my college inbox from an international school in Geneva, Switzerland. They were looking for newly qualified teachers with PGCEs to staff their boarding house. It wasn’t quite classroom teaching, but I would be putting my qualification to use - in a foreign country, no less, and earning good money doing it! I applied and I got it. From drifting into a teaching qualification without really meaning to, I had now fallen into a job I had never envisaged myself doing before. I was doing alright for myself, but there was little intent in my progress.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was looking around for something more stimulating. I decided to put my teaching degree to better use and I bit the bullet. I moved to London to sub and get some experience while I applied for jobs at international schools around Europe. But again, I wasn’t really aiming at anything in particular. I fell into another teaching role, this time in Romania.

And this time I loved it. I became established in the school, I learned how to teach (in much the same way as you only really learn to drive after you’ve passed your test and get some hours alone behind the wheel) and my passion for education grew.

Three years later I was ready for a new challenge, and this is where things got tricky. I made a decision which, while I was living through the consequences, I believed was a terrible mistake. I quit my safe, comfortable job in Romania without anything else lined up. I had been applying for jobs around the world and was landing interviews, but I always fell at the final hurdle. I just wasn’t experienced enough. All of the reputable British international schools wanted candidates with UK experience (the logic goes that if you can handle a classroom in Britain, you can handle a classroom anywhere). I applied and applied and applied. For months. Nothing.

I believed it was a terrible mistake at the time for exactly that reason - I didn’t have a job and nobody would give me one. But what I only came to understand years later, was that it was during that period that I stopped drifting into things and started driving my future. For the first time I knew what I wanted.

Throughout those months of being on the end of disheartening rejections, I was learning and reflecting. My CV was getting better and better as I pinpointed my particular interests and achievements within the profession. I was mastering the ability to tailor cover letters to individual schools, tweak by tweak, week by week. And above all, throughout all of those failed interviews, I was getting really good at presenting myself.

I got the UK experience I needed (incidentally, working with the best teacher, motivator and manager of people I have ever had the pleasure to know) and the next opportunity I got I was off again, this time to Thailand.

And all that rejection, all the experience I had gained in tailoring my application, understanding what was required in a particular role, learning what I loved about teaching and presenting myself in the right way - it all paid off. I wasn’t falling into things any more. I got my first management job in that school, chosen from a field of 8 applicants, because I knew what I wanted, I was genuine in my motives and I drove straight at it.

Fast forward a few more years and I find myself in another period of transition - albeit in completely different circumstances - as I follow my other passion: writing. But this time, I don’t feel lost like I did before. I feel some fear, naturally. I know that there is almost certainly rejection in my future, and plenty of it. But I also know how valuable that rejection will be, and how much I will learn from the process.

And most importantly, I’m no longer drifting into things. Now I’m driving.