Marketing Yourself in Tough Times
It's kind of scary to realize that most openings for teaching positions regularly draw dozens of applications. Sometimes hundreds of applications. It never used to be like that. But these are tough times. Thousands of public school teachers lost their jobs in the downturn which began back in 2008. Thousands more new teachers are looking for their first job. In the meantime school budgets have been reduced, some drastically, by changing community demographics and changes in the local and regional economies. These are major factors which have changed the dynamics for teachers all over the nation. The realignments which follow these major changes take time to fall into place. For example, when a major employer shuts down a call center, an office or a plant, it will be years in most cases before that void is filled.
While many teachers might well prefer to remain in the public K-12 system or possibly teach at the tertiary level, the realities of the job market mean that those same teachers will also be competing for private school positions. In most cases the best a K-12 teacher can hope for as far as teaching college is concerned is some sort of adjunct instructor position. The reality is that those teachers will probably be applying for the same positions private school teachers are applying for as well.
Here are some tips to help you cope with the job search process in these tough times.
Be realistic in your expectations both of the position being applied for. Most importantly you must understand that finding a teaching position in a private school takes some serious planning and much effort. If you are not prepared or cannot invest the required time and effort, then you need to consider other options. By not preparing thoroughly and spending significant amounts of time on the process, you will reduce your chances for success. Anthony Hines offers a detailed set of job search tips in the following video.
Finding a teaching job is not like searching for a managerial or sales job. There are some similarities, for sure. However, the difference is that those kinds of jobs in the business world are open throughout the year. On the other hand teaching positions typically begin in the late summer or the begging of the academic year. These positions conclude in the late spring or at the end of the academic year. Therefore, in order to secure a teaching position for next fall you need to begin the process in November or December at the latest. Most contracts are renewed in February and March in private schools. You need to be in a position to move quickly once those vacancies are announced and advertised.
Where do you find private school vacancies? You monitor sites like The Klingenstein Center's Job Bank pages. You bookmark the employment links on private schools in your area. You list yourself with an employment agency which specializes in placing private school teachers. More often than not you will find that a combination of these employment sources and resources will provide the leads and openings which you are looking for. Avoid relying on any one source exclusively.
Always customize your cover letter and application to the specific position for which you are applying. Professionals who have been teaching for a while understand how important this advice is. You may even have been on a committee or two where you reviewed applications for open positions. It's embarrassing to read materials submitted by potentially well-qualified applicants who never make the cut simply because they used a generic cover letter. Understandably a generic cover letter or one which you use for several applications can make your work easy. Unfortunately it sends the wrong message about you and your suitability for the position. The Interview Guys explain how to write an effective cover letter.
Make sure your qualifications match the requirements as closely as possible. And if, for some reason, they don't match the requirements but you still think you are a good fit for the position, state your reasons very clearly, indeed, compellingly in the cover letter and again in the application. It's a long shot, but you just may get lucky particularly if the applicant pool doesn't yield a better match.
Avoid overused phrases and generic language. Words like "dynamic", "creative", "multi-faceted" and so on are best replaced with clear descriptions of you, your personality, your teaching style, your passions and your experience. Read the requirements of the position and determine what the school is looking for in an ideal candidate. Then be that ideal candidate.
This advice applies to just about any job position in a tough economy. Administrators have to make adjustments on the fly. If they know that you will be agreeable and handle any assignment they give you, that will enhance your chances for being appointed. It will also virtually assure long term employment. Agreeable, competent team players are a huge asset in an academic community. Everybody appreciates those qualities. Students and colleagues alike.
Have excellent references.
No reputable private school will hire you without doing a thorough background check. This usually takes two forms. One is the standard credit and background checks including drug tests. The second is the much more personal references check. Most private schools will ask for the names of three former employers who can speak to your abilities and experience as an education professional. You must ask these people before you put there names on an application. Hopefully you have been smart enough to use them as mentors and advisers in your job searching process. Those referees will be called and interviewed at length. Make sure there are no skeletons in your closet. Don Georgevich explains how to format your references.
In line with references make absolutely sure that your online presence reflects well on you. That includes your profile and recommendations on LinkedIn and your activity on Twitter and Facebook. Your public face must reflect your professionalism, your thoughtfulness, your respect for the views of others and your willingness to help. Snide and inflammatory comments will backfire on you on social media platforms in more ways than one. Photographs of you should be professional. I wince when I see profiles on LinkedIn with a picture of somebody sunning themselves on a beach. Save those shots for a Facebook album available only to close friends and family.
Network. Network. Network.
Honestly, you need people who think you are wonderful, gifted, brilliant and so on on your side. Your network should be your fan club. Make it so. Become part of the social media conversation. Don't be outrageous. Just contribute intelligent comments and observations whenever appropriate. Your colleagues will remember and respect you for that. Always thank people for their recommendations and their help. Be willing to return the favor one of these days.
Questions? You can contact me on Twitter. @privateschl