According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 71 percent of high school teachers spend an average of three years on the job before changing careers. In addition, the number of elementary school teachers and college lecturers abandoning teaching for another career have risen by 24 percent in the last five years. Low pay, long hours, liability pressure, and budgeting for the unpaid summer months are common reasons why educators are tossing out their textbooks in search of greener pastures. As a former educator myself, I feel confident saying that Digital Marketing (namely SEO) could be an ideal, and unexpected fit for ex-educators wandering the fields of career limbo.
What a Former University Lecturer Turned SEO Director Has to Say
More than 15 years ago while earning my PhD in literature over in England, I was working as a university lecturer. I loved teaching in the EU, but loathed doing it in America. In Europe students only have to take classes appropriate to their degree, so my pupils across the pond were passionate about the curriculum whereas in America 90% of my students could care less and were simply chasing the elective with a C average. It’s funny looking back then; I would have never imagined I would wind up working outside of academia. Then life happened, and I moved back to America to be near family. After one year of teaching in the States I was done. The pay was comparable to what someone made working retail, and most of my students had the attention span and writing skills of a walnut. Teaching in America meant something else to me, and since returning to Europe was not in the cards, I found myself face-to-face with the stark reality of a pending career change.
Thankfully, I wrote copy for a marketing agency in London while working on my Master’s degree, so I learned a lot at a time when SEO was just starting to become “a thing”. I got an entry level job at an agency, studied SEO, ran my own experiments, and sooner than later worked my way up to various executive roles, passed through some turbulent waters, and finally wound up with the best digital marketing agency that ticked off all my “must haves” in an employer. Looking back at my past life in academia, I can see how it prepared me to embrace SEO, do well, and fit right in as if I had never even taught Huysmans to a lecture hall filled with French “Decedent” literature devotees.
College lecturers have two primary things in common: a goal to get published (or keep publishing) and a love of researching. Developing an argument to support a thesis is an art in of itself and one most scholars pursue with passion. If you miss your researching, SEO is an ideal industry to dip your toe into for a temperature check because you can:
- Run tests and experiments to gather data that can be used to form a theory relating to common industry challenges
- Outline your findings in a well-structured, detailed presentation to unveil at industry speaking engagements.
- Publish your research and insights on various search marketing blogs as a guest writer, or start your own and gain a following
- Build up your industry reputation and join panels at search marketing conventions where you can present your work and chime in on the toughest questions.
There will always be endless research opportunities in SEO. Consider the fortuity knowing mobile search is king. Think about how Google’s goal to provide the best user experience has led to the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence being baked into its algorithm (RankBrain). The possibilities are endless.
Successful SEO Requires Creative Thinkers and Problem Solvers
Educators are some of the most underrated creatives. Not only must they find exciting ways to teach and lecture, but identify student’s individual learning styles, and convey the lesson in a way they can understand. Then to top it all off teachers must justify the fruits of their creativity by pleasing students, parents, school boards, administrators, and accrediting bodies.
If you try your hand working for a top Google-partner digital marketing agency, you will be challenged, daily, to be creative while ensuring your strategy is effective across all channels of SEO. In order to put together a high-end creative strategy, you need to understand the following:
- Target Markets – Who are these people? What do they want? What is their pain, and how can your client’s products or service be a solution?
- Consumer Modelling – What is the general age, gender, and location of your consumer audience? What do they talk about in social media and what motivates them to engage with the product on Facebook or Twitter? What kind of content do they favor?
- Humanizing – How can content cause consumers to have “an emotional moment” that converts into a desired action (a purchase or a download)?
- Be Broad – Can you take all of this and create a winning strategy designed to perform well across all the components of a robust SEO strategy, setting up these facets to nurture one another (on-site / off site SEO, technical SEO, social, design dev, site architecture, ASO and mobile)?
Your goal is to lay out a SEO strategy that will get a site to rank, attract, perform, convert, and influence. Sometimes knowing what colors have psychological influences over consumers, combined by creating content that targets a pain while offering a need, can ensure a smooth funnel where someone sees your client in the SERPs, is compelled to click the link, loves the content, engages deeper into the website, makes a purchase, and then tells others all about it. Being able to do this day after day requires a high-level of creativity and an understanding of people.
Sure, there can be a little toxic competition between teachers just as there can be between SEO team members. But according to Edutopia, educators report seeing less toxicity among colleagues in the last three years. Quora Reports also reveal that digital marketing agencies have some of the highest job satisfaction and company culture scores with a drop in toxic competition. Teachers also like to hang out with each other. Multiple surveys reveal educators in a high percentage bracket of building camaraderie with others in their field. When asked why, the majority reported a common love of their academic subject. Empathy was another reason; teachers put up with the same pains including low pay with long hours, political forces at play, and having little control while being expected to carry more responsibility. In general teachers get along well with others who are like them, as opposed to lawyers who are reported to prefer interacting with people outside their field. If you are a burned out educator contemplating a new career field, and working with like-minded people is a top priority, you may be suited for digital marketing. Most high-level SEO agency professionals tend to be readers, creatives, thinkers, and collaborators–just the persona teachers are drawn to.
Why Would a Digital Marketing Agency Hire a Former Educator?
The best digital marketing agencies recruit top creative people to join collaborative teams. Of course recruiters look for experience, but they also seek out people who understand others, have sharp problem-solving skills, are highly creative, and possess leadership backgrounds. I am a former educator; one of the many who have transcended to a better place in life. Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting a good number of ex-teachers in SEO, PPC, and social media marketing. I have even hired previous teachers with no SEO background above other candidates with several years of industry experience. Why? Because there are some things you can’t learn; certain traits are either a part of who you are as a person, or you simply lack them like so many of the cubicle-enslaved SEO writers I’ve met. Teachers can start out as technical writers, learn SEO, and work their way up whereas not all candidates with several years of SEO experience know how to read people, research, write at high levels, and meet deadlines. In fact, an article by All Education Schools examines what you can do with a teaching degree (besides teach), and highlights SEO and technical writing (the two often go hand-in-hand) as recommended career shifts for the very reasons previously expressed.
As a former educator you are far more valuable than you may think. While you may have felt little appreciation, grown accustomed to low pay, and were always bogged down by stress, digital marketing agencies love people like you, and the pay and atmosphere are worlds apart from the hell you likely just crawled from.