3 Ways for New Teachers to Job Hunt that are Better than a Recruitment Fair

It’s right about that time that social media advertisements start popping up that give me panicked flashbacks to senior year of college when I went to the ONLY teacher recruitment fair I have ever attended. After fifteen years in the industry, that time still ranks up there as one of the ickiest experiences of my career; afterward, I was compelled to curl up on my dorm room bed and watch the best comeback movie of all-time — Legally Blonde — not once, but twice in a row just to feel a little better about how unsuccessful I felt. Thankfully, since then I have learned how to find and land teaching jobs that bypass the need for standing in the lines at teacher recruitment events like I’m a farm animal awaiting judgement at a county fair.

The Big, Hairy, Unifying Question

I’m sure you want to cut right to the chase and get to the three ways to avoid the recruitment fair. After all, you are a person of action, right?! But let me stop you right there for a second. If you skip this step and act without an answer to, what I see, as one of the most important questions in a teacher’s job hunt, then your efforts will likely feel all over the place to you, and they’ll look that way to everyone else. And by “everyone else,” I mean any one in the position to recommend you to the superintendent for a job.

So here’s what you need to do first.

You need to ask yourself the big, hairy, unifying question: What do I contribute?

And then you need to streamline your answer to it. Of course you are an amazing soon-to-be college grad who was involved in three clubs, made the dean’s list, and took Psychology of Education and a Methods class. So is everyone else. The only way you are really different than any other new teacher hunting for his/her first job is in the way you, personally, are able to — and looking to– contribute to your next school…and dare I say to the education industry overall.

Once you figure out your answer to what you contribute, you need to look and act the part through one or more of the steps below.

1. Be Observable Online

Let’s clarify right from the start: by “online,” I don’t mean Snapchat. And unless you have a page dedicated to teaching and learning, I don’t mean Facebook either. Where are you building your professional brand online that recruiters can see and get a sense of who you are and what you contribute even if they’re not currently connected to you?

I’m on a variety of social media platforms, but professionally, I stick to Twitter, my website, and LinkedIn. Admittedly, I am currently not the most avid Tweeter, but I am aware of many administrators that are on it and use it. I hop on there every once in a while, and when I do, I share something that aligns with what I aim to contribute to schools. You can set your Twitter feed to “public,” so it’s something you can share on your resume and encourage recruiters to visit.

If you want a little more information about using social media professionally as a teacher, check out this post by Instructional Technology Coach, Kyle Pace. (Note: At this point in 2020, Google+ is a thing of the past. Stick to the other three platforms in the spotlight!)

2. Give Away a Resource

This tip is inspired by two people I follow: Alexandra Franzen and Seth Godin.

Seth Godin first got me thinking about my curriculum writing and everything else I do as an educator as “art.” In his words, “Art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.” “Connection” is what you want in the job-hunting and recruitment process and “a generous contribution” is exactly the way to initiate that.

So how do you authentically and effectively make a generous contribution during the hiring process before you’ve even connected with anyone yet?

Alexandra Franzen suggests the connection option that you offer a gift in your thank-you note after an interview. She writes about a time when she sent a follow-up thank-you note and offered a marketing agency 10 taglines for free to use as they redesigned their brand — whether she was hired or not.

But you haven’t even gotten to the interview yet, so how will you offer a piece of your art? Simple: through the power of the Internet.

  1. Make a particularly good lesson of yours available online through one of your publicly accessible social media platforms. Reference it or link to it in your cover letter to any school.
  2. Do a little research online of a particular school you’re applying to. If you see a text or project in particular that the department uses, make a lesson or curriculum unit specifically for it available on social media. Again, don’t forget to link to it in your cover letter.
  3. If you’ve networked well and know a teacher (or a friend of a friend of a friend knows a teacher) at a particular school, ask what the department has been working on lately. Create something or offer something you’ve used in the past that might be of help. Once again, make it accessible online and of course, don’t forget to mention it directly in your cover letter!

Will this definitely get you the job? Nope. Sorry, there are no definites, but offering your work indicates that you are a collaborative person. Nobody wants to hire someone who is going to keep everything to themselves, so offering something of value for free is a really good starting point.

3. Network, Network, Network

While the following statistics are specifically about “companies,” I still think they are relevant to job-hunting in schools and worth giving a look:

Research from LinkedIn shows that in 2016, a whopping 70% of people were hired at a company where they already had a connection in place…A study completed by Lever ATS indicated that, once interviewed, a referred candidate has a 20x higher chance of getting hired than someone who applied online for a critical job (8.3% if referred and 0.4% if applied online). When you’re referred by a source trusted by the hiring manager, that number increases to 50x (20% of hire compared to 0.4%).

Schools by no means are companies, but schools and companies are both organizations. Organizations are made of people, so as far as I’m concerned, these same rules apply to schools. This means, you need to be out there making connections to people who already work in the school system(s) that you are applying to.

Use social media as a way to connect with teachers and administrators who work in your targeted school system. If you’re reaching out to an administrator, I’d suggest doing so through the social media platform they use for their professional work. (If you see that all an administrator uses Twitter for is personal interactions, find a different platform — even if it’s email.) With teachers, I think it’s a little more flexible, and I’d actually suggest starting there rather than jumping right to administrators. Teachers are “your people” now, or will be shortly. Besides, a teacher can give you the teacher’s perspective about the school. An administrator probably has a different perspective than a teacher, and “teacher” is the job you want.

Unless a teacher is sitting on the hiring committee, they might not have any direct say in whether or not you get an interview. What they can do, however, is drop your name to the department head of your discipline, which significantly raises the chance that your resume will at least get a look.

Don’t Ixnay the Teacher Fair Just Yet

I know. I know. You read this far because you didn’t want to go to the job fair. How dare I even bring it up!

I hope the teaching gods shine down on you and you find yourself rearranging your schedule to accommodate multiple interviews and job offers. In the event that doesn’t happen right away, there’s no denying that getting your face in front of administrators and HR professionals can’t hurt, and that is something you potentially can do at the teacher fair.

If you do manage to talk to someone, or maybe even land an on-the-spot interview, wouldn’t it be great to be able to mention the name of a teacher you talked to about the district, reference a relevant article you just happened to be reading and shared online, and offer a timely resource?

Having these three steps at the ready will help you put your best foot forward…even in the long line at the job fair.

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