Zed Holmes, former senior banker, joined Now Teach in 2018. She now teaches business and economics.

As a career-changer from the banking sector to teaching, my responsibilities have changed dramatically over the past few years. But my motivations to work hard and embrace a challenge are the same. So if you are considering career-change, your real task is to uncover what drives you.

Career clarity

I was a senior banker and then a senior manager at S&P Global Ratings for twenty years. I loved it. Travelling to different places, meeting new people and working on great projects. I loved the hard work, the challenge, the never-quite-knowing if we could deliver work on time.

Now I am a Business and Economics teacher and I love it for nearly all the same reasons.

 My career in banking gave me many opportunities. I learned to be good with people because I was looking after customers and managing people. I had to be comfortable with change and physically fit because they sent me to Africa to Russia to New York and back to Europe again in the same month. I learned how to sleep anywhere, look after myself and about how different parts of the world live and work.

This was what I wanted. I never thought about anything else other than being really senior in finance, doing all these fancy things and traveling the world. Maybe I'm a typical product of the 80s but I wasn't looking for a higher purpose. 

Over and over and over again

After 20 years, I came to a point where I was just repeating the same things. The only thing that was changing was I felt more tired and was getting older.

I started remembering how I felt being 25, desperately hoping to get to where I knew exactly what I was doing and wouldn’t have these doubts. I realised I had got there – and I didn’t like it.

If you are like me, you’ll need an element of doubt. Is it the right decision? Will I be able to complete the job? Get a promotion? Why stretch yourself, if you know you're going to succeed? If something's worth doing, it's going to be difficult. 

Restructure to the rescue

I felt too old for keeping on going but too young to retire. So I got stuck for a while, and didn't feel very happy. But the company restructured and I was able to take redundancy.

Working in a senior role in finance meant I was financially secure, so for a whole year I met new people and looked around. By the end of this period, I’d decided I would teach.

I can't remember one single moment that put me on to teaching. But I especially remember meeting some people in their twenties setting up a fancy businesses with artificial intelligence and robotics.

I felt like a dinosaur looking at them. I thought, wow, if the future is going to be fully automated, how am I going to work in the new world that these people are creating?

And as I was thinking that, other people said, I should teach because I had so much to offer in terms of business experience and knowledge in economics. 

Sharing knowledge

I thought, well, if I'm going to share my knowledge with somebody, it should be someone who will benefit from it most. 

At this point I realised that part of my motivation had changed and I really wanted to make a difference for someone, not just for me. But as a teacher, I can see that some of my old motivations are still in play. 

The excitement I used to get from a last-minute flight to Moscow is not a million miles away from the uncertainty of teaching.

I love the fact that every day is different than the other. I love the unpredictability of a room full of teenagers who are wonderful one day and horrible the next.

I don't know if you can ever know for sure that something is right thing for you. For me it's the right thing because it's I want to do on a daily basis. I love getting that challenge back, starting something completely new, not having a clue if I can make it or not.

I love the challenge. 


If you are considering career-change but unsure about teaching, try the following reflections?

  • What moments in your past careers did you have felt most alive? Felt in the ‘flow’? Most excited? Have those moments changed? If your current career is no longer for you, take the time to reflect on yourself and gain new insight by talking to people in other careers.
  • Change is possible but we often need a push. Don’t miss opportunities like a restructure if they come. And if they don’t, you still can change. You just have to do it yourself.
  • Explore your options with practical research. Take a day off and explore something else. I was lucky to do this over a year but it’s possible in other ways. Now Teach run school visits where you can observe lessons and get a real taste of teaching. It’s the only way to find out if a new career is for you.