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“Everything You Do Means Something”: Why One Woman Switched Careers To Teach Young Children

Since childhood, we've been sold the idea of the “dream job”. Work hard, make good choices and eventually you’ll “make it” and your life will play out like a 2000s rom-com. 
The reality is, the average Australian will have 17 different employers and five careers in their lifetime. Since the pandemic began, six million Australians have considered a role change. But what’s it actually like to switch career lanes? 
Salina Collins, an early childhood teacher in Victoria’s Yarra Ranges, made the ultimate switch when she swapped sales pitches for playgrounds. 
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After managing a sales team in bustling Melbourne, Salina realised that the competitive (and often unhealthy) work environment wasn’t worth it. 
But it wasn’t until she started volunteering at her child’s kindergarten that she considered changing careers. 
“I spent my volunteer time at the kindergarten looking on at the teachers and educators with envy," Collins told Refinery29 Australia.
“Not only did their job teaching young children appear to be immensely rewarding, it looked like enormous fun.”
Over the next decade, Collins would go on to complete a diploma, a Certificate III, and a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) at Swinburne University. 

Higher work satisfaction

While Collins felt there was no “big picture” in her previous 15-year career in sales, the altruistic nature of teaching meant that her work satisfaction skyrocketed almost immediately. 
“When teaching, especially in early childhood, everything you do means something. Every action, initiative, and minute of work contributes to a much greater goal,” Collins says.
Due to the nature of her previous job, Collins shares that her transition to early childhood teaching was a natural one. Add on fewer hours and school holiday periods, and the working mum felt that it was the perfect fit for her growing family. 
“It was never really an option for me to go back to where I was before,” says Collins.

Moulding young minds

One stereotype that Collins is trying to rally against is the notion that early childhood teachers (and educators in general) are glorified babysitters.
“It's so much deeper than that. It’s a job that not only makes me feel as if I’m helping to emotionally, socially and intellectually develop young minds,” says Collins.
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“It has also satisfied my own intellectual curiosity by finding new ways to engage the children in areas like STEM, literacy, physical education, and nutrition.”

It's never too late

While Collins is incredibly passionate about her new role and wishes she’d been in it from the start, she recognises that the skills she learned in her previous corporate career have helped her today, proving that investing in a new career isn’t a waste of time.
“A corporate career teaches you how to build and maintain trusting relationships,’ she says. “You learn how to engage and relate with people and work together towards shared goals."
As for being the clichéd mature-age uni student? Collins relished going back to studying later in life. Having age, life and work experience on your side means the nerves, cliques, and insecurities associated with university fade, forcing you to focus on re-training and embarking on your career change.
While everyone is different, Collins' positive experience in switching from stilettos and sales to smocks and students shows that it's never too late to find new passions.
From speaking with Collins, it's clear that as an early childhood educator, she has never felt more fulfilled and only has a richer career and life as a result, suggesting that even with society's expectations of a linear career, it's never too late to change it if you're unhappy, or simply need something new.
For information about becoming an early childhood teacher in Victoria, and the financial support available, visit Early Childhood Teaching: make a difference.
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