Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Unique Factor – Personal Branding

If you’re applying for teaching jobs in a crowded marketplace, you may be joining hundreds of other job seekers from the Class of 2011, 2010, and 2009 with similar student teaching experiences, education degrees and certifications. Employers seek applicants with unique skills, knowledge, and dispositions who can help schools with their mission. How do you know if you have the unique factor? How can you distinguish yourself, stand above the rest and get your foot in the door? You’ll need to work harder, think like a marketer, and promote your unique qualities.

First, discover your self. Reflect upon your life experiences to determine what makes you unique. What life experiences have shaped you as a teacher and person? What experiences contributed to your core beliefs about teaching and learning?

Second, know your audience. Research the school or district’s mission, key initiatives, and hiring process.

Third, develop high quality job application materials, personalize cover letters, and practice for teaching job interviews. Above all, don’t do anything to appear unprepared or mediocre and sit below the rest.

Fourth, share your record with professional teachers, administrators, and professors. Ask: Do I convey the unique factor in my application materials? Do you notice anything special in my résumé or cover letter, such as

  • honors and awards
  • service to others, creativity, scholarship
  • unusual knowledge of subject or expertise in teaching
  • prior professional experiences
  • travel, foreign study, cultural experiences
  • special skills such as fluency in other languages, technology, curriculum, instructional materials, leadership
(Still feeling that you lack the unique factor? While you’re applying for jobs and substitute teaching, continue to develop yourself and add to your résumé.)

Fifth, develop a personal brand. A personal brand is an identity – a symbol, logo, and/or a slogan - that can help you stand above other applicants vying for the same vacancy. Personal branding means knowing yourself well and your employers’ needs and selection factors. Branding helps employers recognize who you are, what you can do, and that you are an asset to the school and district.

A personal brand can relate to your philosophy of education. List several core beliefs about

  • purpose of education
  • how students learn
  • collaborating with other teachers, parents, and the school community
  • knowing your subject, a repertoire of teaching methods and differentiating instruction
  • constant professional learning
  • using assessment data to plan for learning and raise achievement
  • reflection and critical thinking

Next, select one or two core beliefs. Then, weave these core beliefs into symbols, slogans, cover letters, essay questions, and responses to interview questions.

Branding symbols and slogans deliver a clear message. They relate to particular beliefs, strengths or expertise, connect to the employer’s mission, and motivate them to consider you further.

Create a compelling logo for your business card, letterhead, e-mail signature, résumé, and hiring portfolio. For example, a science teacher’s business card could include an image of a magnifier enlarging the text, “Science for All.”

Examples of slogans reflecting core beliefs include:

  • Teaching for Success in a Changing World
  • A TEAM* Teacher for a Turnaround School (*Together Everyone Achieves More)
  • Active Teaching for Active Learning
  • Achieving High Standards - One Student at a Time

Be careful about adopting over-used slogans.

Use your branding strategically. Deliver business cards and résumés to teachers and principals who can inform you about vacancies and recommend you to others. Incorporate your branding slogan in your response to a typical interview question, what makes you a good fit for the position?

Winning a teaching position in this economy requires a great deal of self-promotion. Identify your unique factor. Spend time researching, developing, and using personal branding. Discover yourself, promote your unique qualities, and stand above the rest in the crowded marketplace.