Eight years ago, I left education to work for a publishing company as a curriculum specialist. It was disorienting at first, because it caused something of an identity crisis. If you are in education, you basically put people in two categories: educator or sales person. Period. You meet someone at a party and ask, “What do you do?” If they reply, “I work for a blah, blah, blah company,” you automatically categorize them as a sales person. A non-educator. Someone who has a less virtuous and fulfilling job than you. Then you quickly locate someone  else to talk to.

So, finding myself working for a publishing company, in an industry that by sheer definition was all about SALES, I had to reimagine myself outside of my previous categories. My job title was curriculum specialist, which sure sounds a lot like an educator. That is because it was. The best early piece of advice my new boss, a former teacher and principal, gave me was that when presenting to current customers or potential future customers, my job was to teach them about my product, just as I would have taught my students in my classroom. He was right! I had new tools for instruction, namely my carry-on rolling suitcase containing my projector, speakers, laptop, and handouts; as well as a slightly different audience, the educators who now viewed me as a dreaded sales person. Ha!

During my four years as a curriculum specialist for the publishing company, I learned a lot about how to communicate an idea to diverse audiences. I learned the importance of messaging and branding. Those sure sound like words a “salesman” would use, but I can’t tell you how incredibly valuable it was to learn how to be a storyteller and teacher from the wonderful leaders in that company. I am grateful for the experience and I know I wouldn’t be the leader I am had I not learned from those mentors.

Now it has been four years since my re-entry into public education, again as a curriculum specialist. There was not disorientation during that transition. I found myself full of confidence with new perspective and fresh ideas. I had developed the ability to speak extemporaneously on almost any topic, which helped me build relationships with the teachers in my department and campus administrators. During my years in “the business world,” I learned how to determine the pain points of potential customers so I knew which products to suggest or the right way to approach them with what I deemed to be a solution. Now, as the curriculum leader of my department, I use those skills to lead change and support teachers.

It is all about selling. You have to get people to buy-in to the plan you have as a leader. Messaging matters. Branding matters. Good leaders set the vision, they tell a story, they share a dream. For more about my dream, click here.

Thanks for reading.