My first year out of college, I was able to obtain an interview at 10 schools and I received job offers at all 10 schools. I started working at the age of 12 (at McDonald’s – long story), and (thankfully) have never been unemployed since. I think I’ve got this job-hunting thing down to a science. While the tips below are geared toward individuals looking for teaching jobs, many of the tips can apply to job hunting in most fields. If you have any follow up questions PLEASE ask!
- Direct your resume to a specific person & to the right person. In High Schools the department chair is usually in control of the hiring process. In elementary schools, there is sometimes a grade level coordinator or something of that nature. While it is great to send your resume to the principal, you should also contact the school to send a resume directly to the appropriate person – be sure to ask for the spelling of their name and whether they are male or female (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received something sent to Mr. Donnie Smith because I have a masculine name. I don’t take it personal but it lets me know the person has no idea who I am lol).
- A resume is not enough to make you stand out from the crowd. You should also include a mini-portfolio that includes recommendation letters (if you’re new to the field), student work, lesson plans, sample handouts, and a discipline/classroom management plan (especially if you’re new to the field). Also include a cover letter that discusses what you believe as a teacher and why you know you’d be a great match for that particular school. Research the school using the web and include their mission state or other personalized info. Don’t just write a form letter to pass out, make it personal!
- Practice interviewing. Most interviews are done panel style so there are multiple people interviewing you at once. I sat in on teacher interviews at my job this year and while I’m sure that each of the candidates were stellar in the classroom that energy and passion did not always translate into the interview. Consider some of the more difficult questions like “What is one of your weaknesses,” or “Why do you want to leave the school you’re currently at” if you’re hoping to switch schools. Mock interviewing allows you to train your body and your mind so that you won’t expose your anxiety or nerves. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for the real deal.
- Go to job fairs. There are some schools that hire on the spot at job fairs. This is a great opportunity to find out what schools are out there and to get your feet wet interviewing.
- Keep in touch with your professors, your advisors and your dean. You’d be surprised to learn how connected your professors are to schools. Keep a good relationship with them and keep in touch. Let them know you’re looking for employment so they can pull some strings for you.
- Get involved in your professional organizations. Kappa Delta Pi, Phi Delta Kappa, National Council of Teachers of English, etc. are all organizations that you can become a member of as a college student. Take advantage of the discounted student membership rate and invest in yourself. If there are conferences happening, attend them. Many of the professional organizations have regional or local chapters – join those. As an active member of your professional organization, you are showing others that you are a serious and committed teacher who is committed to lifelong learning plus you are expanding your professional network.
- Be persistent & (humbly) aggressive. It is not enough to mail one resume to a school. You should drop off your resume in person and check on the status regularly. Try to introduce yourself to the principal or other administrative team members. In a world where technology is king, face-to-face interactions go a long way.
- You may have to settle. I’ve worked at three schools in my professional career so far. You may have to settle and work at a school that may not be ideal until you work your way up. Look into private, charter, public – everything. Don’t limit yourself. The wider net you cast, the more fish you’re likely to bring in. “Good” schools rarely have openings and when they do, they often look to experienced teachers to hire as opposed to those fresh out of college.
- Image is everything. Work with professionals and experienced people on your resume. Get business cards printed. Consider creating a website or electronic portfolio which shows that you value technology. Understand that whatever you do/say will be translated into what you will do/say as a teacher. If you dress inappropriately, administrators will assume that you do that in the classroom. If your resume has grammatical errors, you will be perceived as someone who can’t be taken seriously as a teacher.
10. Be willing to do something else. The skills that you develop as a teacher can be used outside of the classroom. If you can’t find a teaching job your first year, consider looking into youth programs and nonprofits in your area where you can still work with children in some capacity. Consider subbing. Good subs are often the first round of individuals who are looked at to fill full-time positions should they become available because they figure you know the school and you know the students. Start your job search early (January or February) and continue to reach out to schools until you find a job.
That’s All For Now! Good luck this year!