Friday, April 29, 2011

Winning a Teaching Job Starts Early

Winning a teaching job starts early for education students. When admitted to the education program, students can begin working with career counselors to map out their plans for career development, build and update teaching job résumés, create a structure for a hiring portfolio, and learn about the hiring process (e.g., what do employers look for in an application and during the interview?). During the final year of education program, students can fine-tune résumés and cover letters, set up profiles at a teacher recruitment and hiring system site, monitor job postings, identify references, attend job fairs, and submit applications.

After graduation, it can take anywhere from three months to a year or longer (depending on educator supply and demand) to win a teaching job. It depends on your job search, organization, preparation, persistence, and hard work.

I don’t advise “going solo” when you’re applying for teaching jobs. Involve career counselors in improving interviewing skills and developing high quality job application materials. Rhode Island College’s career center offers a range of workshops preparing students for job fairs, practicing interviews, and designing a professional image. And, they offer drop-in sessions for polishing résumés and cover letter.

I conduct a comprehensive, strategic workshop on the job search, application, and hiring process. It’s perfect for students who are six - 12 months away from graduation. Since January 2010, I’ve taught the course to 80 students. Most have been very satisfied with the experience. A former student wrote me last week after his first job interview: I have to tell you how much the course helped with this whole process. I truly did feel like I had the edge going into it. Things came rushing back to my mind as I was sitting in the interview, most of which were discussed and practiced in class.

There are 14 hours of meeting time. I schedule nine hours of face-to-face meetings for interactive presentations, small group discussions, and in-class journaling. Participants learn about the five winning strategies and important selection factors. They map their career pathways – connecting academic, work, and personal experiences contributing to their development as a teacher. Participants identify knowledge, skills, and experiences that make them unique and distinguish them from the competition. And, they create a set of “talking points” for the interview.

Next, participants establish an online account at teacher recruitment and hiring process web site. They apply for a "fake job posting” by posting their résumé, cover letter, and answers to two short essay questions. The application materials are available electronically to mock job interviewers to review prior to the mock job interview

Then, participants sign up for four one-hour "tutorials," small group work sessions in the career center. They improve drafts of résumés and cover letters, hiring portfolios and interview skills. The career center staff and I facilitate the tutorials.

During a 90-minute panel discussion, several hiring personnel from local districts explain their hiring processes. And, they provide advice for applying.

The highlight of the course is the mock job interview. A panel of interviewers (PreK-12 school personnel and RIC faculty/staff) interview individual students and provide immediate feedback following the 15-20 minute interview. Participants dress professionally for the interview. They enter a room and present folders of cover letters/résumés to each interviewer. They use hiring portfolio during the interview as additional evidence. The interviewers take turns asking questions related to the teaching position and to evaluate the candidate’s knowledge of teaching, critical thinking, and dispositions. After seven or eight questions, interviewers provide "balanced feedback.” Feedback is guided by important selection factors (e.g., knowledge of teaching and subjects, critical thinking, constant learning, personal responsibility, verbal communication, professional image). Each interview with feedback is digitally recorded and available to the student on a secure server shortly after the interview. Participants reflect on their performance and feedback before reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses.

I'll end with this fun video “spoof” called "How to Lose a Job.” We created it during the January course. Click here for the url. You may need to register with Vimeo to view.

NOTE: The one-credit course begins May 24. Click here to view the flyer. Click here to enroll!