Even before the snow melts, teacher job-hunting season is in full swing. No matter if you’re in your final year of college or if you’re a seasoned educator looking to make a shift, finding a teaching job you want isn’t always easy. Almost as soon as a job is posted, there are often hundreds of applicants. And then there are the unknowns: is this going to fit with my teaching philosophy? Is the culture at this school going to be supportive of what and how I teach? Am I ready for this next step?
There’s so much to consider when thinking about a teaching or (gulp) a leadership position. What’s important to keep in mind is that you deserve to be in a place and a position that appreciates your unique qualifications and which challenges you to grow. That means that what worked for you in the past may not be right for you now. It also means you might have to brush up on some skills to help you land the teaching job of your dreams.
Here are 5 tips to help you get ready for the next step in your teaching job:
1. Create a list of strengths and weaknesses
Yep…we’re getting back to basics here. But it’s so important to remind yourself what you’re good at and what is a challenge for you. Because no matter what job you may apply for, chances are they are going to ask you that question. Plus, by writing down your strengths and weaknesses, you get the added bonus of clarity when it comes to exactly what you’re looking for in your next position. Is it something that really plays to your strengths? Or are you looking for a new challenge to tackle? This list will help you decide and will save you time by weeding out choices that don’t meet your goals.
2. Proactively seek out positions and places that align with your goals
Sure, there’s that one-in-a-million chance that the perfect teaching job is going to fall out of the sky. But more than likely, you’re going to need to look for what you want. Here’s the good news: there’s always something that’s the right fit for you somewhere.
So start with an online job search, reach out to your social networks and ask if there are any positions opening up in the content area you want to focus on and keep your options open. You never know where opportunity will lead you. But remember this: always look for positions which align with your goals and values. Even if the position isn’t what you had in mind, if it aligns with your goals and values, it will be worth taking.
3. Prepare, Practice, Present
Preparation will get you halfway to your goal. Practice and presentation will take you almost the rest of the way. That last 5% is out of your control. So focus on preparation first:
- Create a clear, concise portfolio of work
- Be ready to answer the tough questions
- Research as much about the position and place as you can
- Know what you would do to take the job to the next level
Then, work through your practice. Dress the way you would for the interview or the job and sit down with a friend who is willing to go through a dress rehearsal. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you’ll be.
Finally, present your best self. Share confidently about your highlights and how you’d address your areas of growth. Be sure to present how your unique qualifications can enhance what has already been built and how you plan to take their program to the next level. And always have a few questions about the program and the school to ask at the end of the interview!
4. Lead with what you’ve learned
Nobody likes a know-it-all. So when they ask you to tell them a little bit about yourself, start with what you’ve learned from your experiences and how that’s brought you to their doorstep. Remember that as educators, we are the lead learners in the school. Demonstrate that you take that seriously by sharing your knowledge and your willingness to keep growing.
5. Take charge of your professional development
Does this new teaching job require a set of skills you aren’t quite confident in yet? Would a certification program give you an advantage? As you think about making this shift, consider what professional development options would enhance your ability to not only secure but to thrive in this new role. Take a course or enroll in a certification program, even if it has to come out of pocket. Everyone notices if you’ve taken the initiative to be the best-prepared candidate.
What other tips would you share for teachers looking to make a job change? What are your interview stories? Share them in the comments below!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.