Today, Ali and JoDee are talking with Cara Holt. Cara has worked in education for 20 years, mobilizing from the classroom, admin, NWEA, LearnZillion, and BrainPop. Together, they will discuss how Cara transitioned to a career outside the classroom, strategically using LinkedIn for your benefit, and the best way to write your resume for success.
Connect with Cara:
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Teacher Shift LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/teacher-shift
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I, if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
Today, our guest is Cara Holt. Cara has worked in education for 20 years, including the last three years in edtech. She's currently writing a book with Gibbs publishing, on assessment and using assessment to empower teachers and students. She is the manager of sales, communication, and training at BrainPOP. All thoughts and ideas expressed in this episode are that of Cara and do not reflect your company's thoughts or viewpoints. Welcome to the show today, Cara.
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
So we're going to be actually kicking off an edtech month. And in our last episode, which is pre-recorded, I was able to share about my experience in the ed tech world as a consultant, which is kind of blended with edtech and an arts integration. So we're glad that you're here to kind of tell us about your role in edtech. And the different roles that could possibly be for educators as they are in this space of life right now, where they're, they might be thinking about what is the role of in a district? Or what is it outside of the classroom? So thanks for being here.
Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm excited to share.
So we're curious, how did you mobilize your career outside of the classroom?
I think that we need to first like recognize the fact that like when you're transitioning, it could be hard, right? Like, we have these feelings, like my whole identity was wrapped up in being a classroom teacher and being with students. And so even though I was administrator when I left, it was still like this really hard space to be in. And it was almost like, I guess you could compare it to like a midlife crisis. Like, what am I going to do next? Like, what do I want to be when I grow up? And so I had to take some space and really think about that. Because Ed Tech was really foreign to me. I had never even heard or explored it. I only had one conversation with somebody. I was giving my back to school address to my staff. And I had a consultant that was there to do our professional learning for NWEA. And she came up to me and she said, Have you ever thought about doing what I'm doing? And I was like, No, I don't even know what you do. It like opened my eyes to this whole world outside of traditional Ed. And so after I took a moment, I thought about like, what do I really want to do? I thought, what am I really good at. So thinking about my past experiences, I had also trained teachers. I've done a lot of instructional coaching, and I've done a lot of professional development. So that sounded like a natural place to start. And I think at that time, I had not really built my LinkedIn. But I'd heard so many things about how LinkedIn was a great platform for how you can connect with others, and that networking. But as a teacher, you know, your networking is usually like stuck to your district and your schools. So it was really this whole new world of networking with people across the United States or across the world, really, that shared my common ideas. So really looking for those people in education. And I was looking for roles, you know, consultant, professional learning, professional development. They all have different names, but all technically do the same thing. So I was really looking for those PD type roles. And I was lucky, I found LearnZillion. And I really got into like curriculum training and going around the country doing trainings for schools and staff. And from there, you know, that's where I was like, Okay, I'm really like getting my feel for this. And usually, that's like a contract job, when you have a professional development job. It's not necessarily always full time, which is scary in and of itself when you're used to having a paycheck and relying on that. And so usually you're looking for multiple different jobs, you know, in that transitioning space. And so I also found one that NWEA doing online, they had just started doing online consulting. And so being able to work from home was a great opportunity for me. And so that led me to training trainers at our company, a role that I applied for and served in for two and a half years at NWEA. And, you know, from there, it was funny, because the product that I was representing and how I was training our staff had never been sold before. And so I really helped to work with our sales team, and NWEA for how to position it, which I had never done before. And so that led me to a position where now I'm sitting on a marketing team. But marketing was never something like I stepped out of the classroom and thought, I'm gonna get into marketing. And so now I trained sales. So it was like this really big loop and when transitioning teachers reach out to me and say, you know, how did you get into edtech? Or how did you mobilize that? It's like, start with what you like know. And you feel like you have those skills that transition. And then think about the things that are outside of your comfort zone. You know, like, there's this kind of between not being afraid of challenge and change, and allowing yourself to grow in that space.
So one of the things that I heard you share with our listeners is that you started off in like, contract work, and it was scary for you. We get a lot of questions around this topic of, you know, I'm leaving a very stable profession, but I know that it's just not the right fit for me anymore. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt and how you decided that you were going to take that risk, and you were gonna go ahead and jump into something new?
Yes, I was an administrator. When I decided to step out, it was not a good position for my mental health. And I had shared that on one of my LinkedIn posts. And it was amazing to me, how many people reached out to me and said, you know, like, I'm in a situation that's similar. You know, like, I'm really feeling that. And so a lot of people resonated with that feeling of like, this is not good for me and my mental health. Now, for me, I had to step back, and I dipped into my retirement a little bit. I don't recommend that. But that's what I had to do in order to give myself that space. I was a single mom at the time. And so like, that's a scary thing. You know, like, at the end of the day, you have to have food on the table for your children. And so that's where, when I started looking for the roles and understanding like contract work, I did not understand that there's a busy season, right? So if you really think about it, professional learning happens, right before back to school, like a lot happens that back to school time or before December. And then at testing time, there's this lull and it's quiet. So what are you going to do during that space? Can you write curriculum? Can you you know, look at things district wide? Like what other roles can you help to fill those spaces? So really thinking strategically, which is something that I never really had to do before, of how I was going to build that back up and know that I was reliant on a paycheck or had a paycheck coming in.
You do a really good job on LinkedIn, I've been following you. But we're still like working out that space to even just the past few years. But you do a really great job of one being active on there, but also sharing meaningful content. But I wanted to say that there's been a common theme among people we have interviewed that are former educators. And that's, and even though everyone's path is not linear. there's always the starting point of identity. Who am I? What can I do? What am I capable of? Because this has been my full identity. And this has been my status within society. It's been my status within the building. So where do I start if I don't even know who I am? And that always seems to be a good point for people to stop and think like, Okay, well, what am I capable of? But it's a difficult process to really think about who you are, and not feeling like it is a midlife crisis but a need. This is what I need for me to be able to be happy and to move and to pursue my career in a healthy manner.
For me, I mean, it was really staying connected to education. Like I know, there's several transitioning teachers that step out into roles that are like in it, or in a different world that's not necessarily connected to education, because there are a lot of those transferrable skills. However, for me like my why. I think going back to like, why did you get into education in the first place, it's always about the students. It's making an impact on students. Like I'm, I'm a mom of four, like, I'm very involved in like what's happening in the education space. And I didn't want to lose that. So that was something that was really important to me, was staying in educational roles. And so that's where when I first stepped out into LearnZillion it was curriculum. And then NWEA, it was assessment. And now at BrainPOP. It's really like that essential skills building that our movies do so well. So it's really still that connection to education, even though like I'm in a role, that's training sales, and I'm not directly connected to our students anymore. And I think that that's why I still look for outside opportunities to still connect, like whether it's writing blogs or writing a book. So that I still have that connection to, you know, I did these really great things in the classroom, and let me share them with you. Because I know that it makes a positive impact. And I want to help in that space still. So I think like very true to me, I am still an educator. And there's lots of times where somebody will say like, oh, what you'll do, and I'm saying, Oh, I'm a teacher. And they're like, Oh, what do you teach? And then that's where it gets complicated, right? You're like, oh, well, like I'm not a teacher, like you're thinking you're, you know, so then it gets it's funny to try and explain that. Like, Oh, well, now I'm a teacher of sales. But I'm still very much a teacher and an educator in my heart and in who I am.
And I think both JoDee and I are jobs that we have now are still connected to education. And so I love that the grant program I work on now supports youth ages 16 to 24. Because as a former high school teacher, those are the kiddos those were the kids that I saw grow up, you know, and go onto a path to it's apprenticeship now. So they're not maybe they go into college, but they're going on a different path. I really love that it's still connected to what I did before as a teacher, even if it's just like a different type of connection. But having that inside knowledge, like, I can only imagine what you bring to your current role. Because when you're looking at marketing, to educators, or to school districts, the knowledge of actually having been there is so much different. And it's not a skill set that most people have. So you're really leveraging, like, your strengths. And then you're doing something new, that still connected education. And it's, it's wonderful, I love hearing how, how you really focused on your why, and you stuck with it. And to me, it seems very, very natural, your progression, like you found something that was a good fit at the time. And then there was something else that came up. And I think a lot of us go through that career wise. Like we, we take our first position outside of the classroom, and it's something that fits us at the time. And we can keep growing, and we can keep transforming our careers, and still stay connected to education if we want, or maybe we can do something else. But it seems like a very natural progression for you.
We've had many teachers reach out and say, I want to do PD or I want to I want to train adults. And we say it all the time, children grow up to be adults. And those learning styles are still probably true to who they were as their younger selves. And so all of these organizations need that person that can reach various audiences and various learning styles. And you'd have definitely found that niche.
Thank you. Yeah, I get that asked a lot. You know, like, what did you do? Like or they think sometimes that I went from the classroom to marketing. And I'm like, Oh, it wasn't that easy, right? Or it didn't happen quite like that. I think that there are people that definitely have those marketing skills or have been, you know, learning how to market so that when they step into roles right out of the classroom, they're ready. But I was not ready myself to go from the classroom to marketing. Right. So there was that transition that did occur. But you know, it's definitely true. Like, you have to think about, like, what is right for you? And what transferable skills go to those new roles?
So we're wondering, how do you think teachers can grow in the EdTech industry? Like, what are some steps they could take if they're thinking that might be something that they're interested in?
Yeah, so I get asked that a lot. Because I have a lot of teacher friends, you know, from being in education for so long. And I get asked, like, what do I need to do? I've been thinking about transitioning, like, where do I start? And I always say, start on LinkedIn. Like, do you have a LinkedIn? And most of the time teachers don't, you know, like, I found because they don't think of that as like a platform for education. I'm like, you can share your pedagogy, like you can share things like your ideas, and people are looking, and they can see like, oh, that's how this person thinks, and that aligns with my thing here, and I need somebody like that on my team. So really starting with LinkedIn, and that's how you brand yourself. Like that's creating who you are, and really showing that to the different companies that are out there. And start making connections. Like I say, start with companies that you know, or you use in the classroom, right? So BrainPOP I used in my classroom. So that was something that I was very familiar with. So look for companies that you already know and love that you use, and follow them. Look for people. Like you can look in LinkedIn and look for people that are working for that company, or previously worked for that company in roles that you you know, want to be in and start following those people and engaging with their content. A lot of times people go straight to sending you a message, and you know, engage in their content and get to know them get a feel for who they are. Because that makes for a more authentic connection, rather than just going straight to their inbox and saying, like, how can you help me get a job, right? So really making those authentic, true connections is really important.
That is a really solid piece of advice right there. And I've noticed that some of these people that I haven't directly messaged, but I do engage in their content, they will share jobs, too, with all of their connections. And I think that that's really valuable. Just to get onto LinkedIn, get a feel for it, and understand the behaviors of it as well, because then you'll start to notice what is socially appropriate for that type of platform.
Definitely. And it's almost like a Facebook, but for business. So I mean, you're already familiar with kind of sharing, it's just what are you sharing to really show who you are in this workspace or you know, with your work lens. So it's a different way of looking and thinking about things. I always try and like post pictures of my children randomly, but you work them into, like, how is this relevant to teaching or education or you know, for really thinking about who my network is, and growing that organically.
I noticed when I first got on Facebook, many years ago, I was like posting things about like language immersion and language acquisition. No one cared. Not a single person cared until I found LinkedIn. I was like, Oh, this is where people care about this type of content. I just need to post a picture of my daughter turning one month old and they will care.
Yes, these are my people like like minded people. Same thing. Like I'll share a blog mine on Facebook, and you know, I think maybe my dad likes it. But then you share it on LinkedIn. And you're like, Oh, it's getting shared. And you know, like, this is valuable content. So definitely knowing your audience is important.
Yeah, and I think we've heard about leveraging LinkedIn before, but one of the things that I really like to share is my experience as a military spouse. This is very common for service members to do also when they're transitioning, right? So they're going to leave being in the military, and they're to go find a new job. My husband has countless friends, who he's worked, with this situation. And they do the same thing. This is really the world that we live in. Now, this is how you make connections. This is how people get jobs. It's through LinkedIn, people you've never met in real life. And that's how you ended up getting a connection to an employer, and it works out. So you truly have to put yourself out there. I know it can feel intimidating at first when you're doing something new. But it sounds like you went ahead and you took that leap. And it's paid off for you and you're staying active. So now I'm the one who hasn't been connected with you on LinkedIn or follow you on LinkedIn, I need to get on there because I want to see all these posts.
Yeah, definitely. And that's, you know, growing, that network has been become more important to me, because, you know, I'm really happy in my job. Now, I'm not looking for a job. And I think some people think like, it's only for looking for a job. But like, you're still making these connections. You can still like help somebody else that's finding a job. You never know what's happening in your future, right? Like, you never know, how somebody that you connected with may, you know, be the next person that you write a book for, or you write a blog for, or you know, you really connect with, and even like, or do a broadcast, you know? You just never know who you're going to meet and connect with and where it's going to take you.
Let's talk about BrainPOP for a second, just about the EdTech industry and in terms of jobs. So when I was teaching, BrainPOP was such a huge part of my planning. It was a lifesaver. It was a go to resource. And I'm talking like, from way back in 2006, when I stepped into education. But when I was transitioning, I really did sit back and look at all of the programs that impacted my instruction, because behind those programs was a person. And I knew for sure that educators had to be behind those platforms. So what are some of the ways that you got yourself in front of a company like BrainPOP? How did you curate your resume? How did you network? What were the skills that you had to, to use to get to that point?
I'd have to one, would say it's perseverance. Like I had a friend that reached out to me, and she said, You know, I have two masters and I have applied for twenty roles and I've only gotten one interview. And I'm like, I applied, when I was you know, moving positions, I applied for like 150 roles, and maybe only got, you know, five interviews, and I think I made it to the top of maybe two or three. So, and BrainPOP was one of those I was in you know the top for another at the same time. And, but it was every night. And I had, I have twins. And so I was rocking babies and applying on my phone, and always looking for positions. And I redid my resume, I want to say probably just as many times like 150 times. Because what I have learned is that resumes have changed from 20 years ago. Like you used to just be able to list your skills like, you know, lead professional development. Now it's more of like writing a SMART goal, like lead 550 professional, you know, learning trainings for district audiences with 95% success rate, as shown on my survey. So like, really, like, how are you making an impact and showing that impact is so important. And there's a website, I think it's called resumeworded.com. And you can put your resume in and it will grade it for you and say like, this percentage, will give you a percentage and you're trying to like get higher than that percentage for the next time. And it's really about, you know, making it show your impact. So you don't want to just put, you know, I taught kindergarten for seven years. It's not just taught kindergarten in small groups, like most people know, especially in edtech, that when I teach kindergarten, you know, small groups are gonna be involved. And then I'm teaching phonics and phonemic awareness, but it's more of what impact did I have. You know, like, I had a 95% success rate with their, you know, shown on their assessments. And you know, it's really honing in on that impact. And that you don't have to have a whole lot to show under each one. It's really like, here's my key things. And here's how I made that impact.
I taught kindergarten to and I have to say, if anyone out there ever sees that someone taught kindergarten, you better hire them. Let me just tell you, you have to be resilient. You have to be an entertainer. You have to love hard on every single one of them. Like it's a hard job, hire them.
That's my favorite part about kindergarten is making them love school. You know, like I'm very passionate about early childhood and that, and that's why you know, like you have to do so many things to make them really love school and there's, you know, broad skills throughout. Like you said, you have those that come in that didn't know anything about school and then you have those that came in that are reading. It was a nice challenge and I loved it.
Well, you're really speaking our language here by suggesting that, you know, the way that you curate your resume is to write SMART goals to demonstrate what you've accomplished. And honestly, that was spot on. Like, I've been thinking of ways to explain that for a long time now. So I really want the educators who are listening, who are working on their resume, like, take a look around LinkedIn. We will put the link in the show notes for hopefully resumeworded.com. I'm going to look into that because that sounds like an excellent resource. But really, one of the best things you can do too, I think, is to look for the roles that you're interested in, find people in those roles, see what their profiles look like too. Like, what are they doing in their jobs? What have they done in previous roles? I think a lot of times, we focus so much on our degrees. And the truth is like once you land your first job, what you've accomplished, that is really the meat of what an employer is looking at. Yes, there may be requirements. Some jobs have requirements. And like one thing we also hear a lot is, well, all my degrees are in education. That's great. If you have multiple degrees in education, that's fantastic. Just leverage what you have done in your professional life that others can understand you maybe aren't in education, if you're moving outside of education. And for those who are in education, like going to Ed Tech or something like that really quantify. Do those smart goals and I think that you'll you'll get a lot more looks. You'll get a lot more hopefully, interviews. But the perseverance part is true. You can't give up. It's really disheartening. I know when you apply for something that you really want, and you don't get it. But it does make you stronger, you will learn how to how to stomach that. Growing up doing childhood theater and not getting a lot of roles that I auditioned for definitely made my, my skin thicker. So I hope that everyone who's listening really took these amazing tips from Cara because this was such a great dive into how you can move into other spaces outside of a traditional classroom. So I want to thank you so much for being on the show today, Cara.
Thank you, thank you so much. And if you're in the classroom now look for things that you can do outside the classroom, like school trainings, you know, district training, stepping out outside, adjust your world, really helps as well.
Yeah, lots of good wisdom and advice today. I mean, I really feel like we could have Cara on the show for a lot longer. We appreciate your time. And if you want to connect with Cara. You can find her on LinkedIn as Cara Holt. C A R A H O L T comma EDS. Thank you so much.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and Audible. Today's episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon, and my co host JoDee Scissors. Executive produced by Teacher Brain. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor Paper Planes Ed.