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Are You a Teacher at Heart?

A corporate leader who transitioned to teaching reveals what you should think about first

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by Kara Baskin

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In his early fifties, Ray Marcinowski left his high-powered job as a director at Fidelity Investments to become a lecturer and executive in residence at Babson College near Boston. He was ready to shift gears and give back. The leap was rewarding, but he says that there are several crucial things to keep in mind before following in his footsteps. 

Many midstream professionals dream of standing in front of the classroom, sharing their wisdom and getting energized by their students. It takes more than pluck to reimagine your career. If you’ve ever fantasized about teaching, here are Marcinowski’s tips for shifting from corporate work to the classroom.

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1. Pinpoint your area of expertise, and look for a school that lacks this niche. “Your first step should be to investigate schools that have an underdeveloped curriculum in your field of knowledge,” Marcinowski says. ““Right now there are lots of Boomers in particular who want to teach; filling a gap will make you stand out.”

2. Make sure the school is a cultural fit. Whether you want to lecture at the university level or teach a class at a local community college, network. Investigate the division chair in your potential department. “They make the hiring decisions,” Marcinowski says, and they set the cultural tone.

3. Ask to guest lecture at your chosen school. “This will give you a feel for the culture, you can demonstrate that you’ll be successful, and you’ll get a real idea of what it’s like to stand in front of a classroom,” he says. “Schools love having guest lecturers come in to provide real-world experience.” 

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 4. Look for other ways to share your wisdom. If teaching isn’t an option, volunteer as a mentor or team leader for academic competitions. Many business schools, for instance, have consulting challenges or business plan contests, and they need advisers and judges.

 5. Recognize that, yes, teaching is a lot of work. “It’s a less structured environment that the corporate world,” Marcinowski says. “Creating that structure by building a curriculum is empowering, but it’s also very time-consuming. People tend to underestimate it.” Your time in the classroom is just the tip of the iceberg—lesson planning, grading, staying up-to-date on industry news, and meeting with students outside of class will also keep you busy.

 6. Be comfortable with a sense of obligation. “Whereas in the corporate world, you’re paying your employees, realize that students are paying you, which creates a different dynamic,” he says. “They’re paying for your expertise, so you absolutely have to engage them.”

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 7. Have a financial plan. Realize that you might simply get paid on a course-by-course basis instead of a traditional salary. “My real reward is in seeing students develop and grow,” Marcinowski says. 

Photo Credit: Phil Boorman/Getty