Expanding Your Leadership Impact After the Corps
Career coach and entrepreneur Alana Henry (Dallas-Forth Worth '11) shares professional advice for second-year corps members and early-career alumni who are considering career options to continue contributing to One Day.
March 29, 2021
I will never forget my TFA experience, and many alumni echo my sentiments. I think all corps members can vividly remember the long hours, sleepless nights, endless grading, a summer of intense and ongoing training, and the constant worrying: “Am I doing enough? Are my students learning?” TFA provides an incredible opportunity to create, build, and expand opportunities for children, families, and communities who have historically been denied access to a quality education. But after the two-year whirlwind, many corps members begin to wonder, “What next?”
I’ve outlined some items to consider as you navigate your future professional endeavors, whether you hope to stay within the educational sector or to make an impact beyond your classroom.
1. Stay in the classroom
After completing my TFA commitment and a brief stint in corporate America, I realized I wanted to continue my work in education--and that there was SO much more from which I could learn and benefit. I had found joy in building a classroom community, facilitating academic content, and partnering with parents or stakeholders in order to positively impact school communities. However, I knew I wanted to expand my impact beyond my classroom and become a more active presence on my campus.
If you are in a similar position of wanting to get involved beyond the classroom, you can simply start by consulting the leadership team within your school community and asking what your school needs. For example, does your principal need someone to build an after-school club or program that could expose students to skills such as gardening or destination imagination? Or, maybe you want to get a group of fellow educators together to practice self-care and lead a Zumba or yoga class three times per week from your school’s gym (and make money in the process)? Maybe you’d like to hone in on your guided reading instruction and grow your skills to become a better small group instructor--now is the time to begin thinking how you can both personally and professionally improve while still impacting students and staying in the classroom.
2. Transition into a TFA leadership role
One of the benefits of being a corps member is being continuously plugged into the organization’s resources, including staff member support. Perhaps the next phase of your career includes working with new corps members to help them become effective classroom leaders. If you’re thinking of joining TFA staff, attend regional information sessions on becoming a full-time staff member, or ask your coach about ways to continue working with TFA as an alum.
Some examples of TFA roles include coaching new corps members within their classrooms, supporting alumni involvement, working within an operational capacity, and managing professional development programs tailored for corps members. Additionally, commit to exploring what you want to do next and how your goals align with the organization and your region. Some reflective questions to consider and actions you can take are listed below:
- What brings me joy? What did I like about being a teacher? What did I not like about being a teacher?
- Do I want to stay within education? If so, do I want to stay in a school community or do I want to work for a support organization, such as a non-profit or a private company that sells curriculum? If I don’t want to stay in education, am I willing to work in a role that supports education, such as a legal expert that lobbies for educational policy?
- Explore some of the TFA leadership options, including roles like: Manager of Teacher Leadership & Development, Director of Recruitment, Director of Alumni Affairs, and many more.
“This work of furthering equity and challenging systemic racism that breeds inequity is not a “one-time thing." It must be a life’s work.”
3. Continue pursuing equity through a new professional path
The third option is to make the decision to transition onto a new professional path. To do this, create a “transitional” action plan with the aforementioned questions and resources. Using your ability to backwards plan, create a roadmap for how you are going to get to the next step in your career. Who do you need to talk to, when do you need to complete certain tasks, and what will you do with the information you’ve gathered
- If I do not want to stay in education, what areas interest me? How can I get connected to people in these industries? A great way is to tap into the TFA alumni network within your region and ask to be connected to other alumni willing to participate in informational interviews. When you are connected with someone, you want to be consistently strategic and professional in the way you communicate. An example introductory message/email is listed below.
- “Hi, < Insert Name>, I hope this email finds you well. My name is <insert name>, and I was provided with your information by <insert name of contact>. I am reaching out to you because I am a professional looking to transition to <insert industry/role>, and your professional background peaked my interest. I understand you are very busy and I want to respect your time- could you spare 30 minutes to discuss your career/position? I am available during these days and times: <insert 3-4 options>. Please let me know if you’d be willing to connect. I look forward to hearing more from you!”
- Create a list of “target” companies for which you can envision yourself working. If you don't know where to begin, start to brainstorm activities and topics that interest you, then find companies that support those interests.
Reach out to TFA to see what resources they have in place for transitioning or second-year corps members. Many TFA offices have ample resources available for corps members looking to transition out of education to help them get a head start on their journey.
Some additional things to keep in mind that you’ll want to have ready, especially if you plan to transition out of your current school community and/or profession are the following:
- An updated resume and cover letter with achievement-driven bullets.
- An updated Linkedin profile that is reflective of your accomplishments.
- Any classroom data that you’ve gathered--to be able to use in interviews to speak to your accomplishments.
- Two or three reference letters from support staff, colleagues, or school leaders to help get you your next position.
- Develop a plan of resignation with your current school community. Most schools have a formal process in the spring, during which you elect to stay on or leave. If you choose to leave, professionally communicate your intent and offer written notice to your employer, with at least two weeks advance notice. An email will suffice.
If you need help in any of the areas listed above, reach out to The Writique, as we offer a variety of career services and can articulate your classroom experiences in a way that helps you meet your long-term career goals!