The education job market has become increasingly complex in recent years. One school district offering hiring incentives even as another is laying teachers off. Schools and districts are becoming more selective in their recruiting. Available positions may be more specialized and harder to track down. And the job-searching process itself has become more multifaceted.
So what can teachers looking for new positions do to improve their standing in this environment? Here are a few tips gleaned the Career Coach archives:
Become “highly qualified.” The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires public schools to have a ‘highly qualified’ teacher in virtually every classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year. Highly qualified generally means you’re fully certified (including by alternative certification) and you’ve shown proficiency in your subject area. Check your state’s specific criteria to make sure you have all the bases covered. Administrators will instinctively favor candidates who don’t have any outstanding gaps.
Be willing to relocate. Demand for teachers varies significantly by region and locality. According to data from the American Association for Employment in Education, teacher need has been greatest in parts of the South and West and in many rural and urban areas. “If you sit down and talk to people from [outside your own region], you may find your interest increased and the possibilities exciting,” says Steve Head, director of educational placement and career services at the University of Wisconsin.
Consider a shortage field. There continues to be a high demand in schools nationwide for teachers in subjects like mathematics, science, special education, English as a second language, and foreign languages. Switching fields isn’t easy, but in some cases, the career opportunities may be worth it.
Fine tune your search. “Don’t underestimate the possibility that refinements in your job search can make a difference,” says Head. Revamp your resume and portfolio to highlight key aspects, seek out varied resources and contacts, review application procedures closely, follow-up on inquiries and applications, and use the Internet to extend and manage your search.
Research. Before an interview, learn as much as you can about the position, the school or district, the community, and the students. “I find that those who have done the research generally have a genuine interest and aptitude for the job,” says Ron Alatorre, a high school principal in California.
Focus on students. In interviews and contacts, show strong enthusiasm for students and emphasize your commitment to their learning potential. “I am looking for that optimist who feels any child not only can succeed but will succeed,” says Alatorre.
Take the lead. In a time of change and heightened pressure, schools and recruiters are reportedly targeting candidates with strong leadership skills. In your job-search materials, highlight instances where you’ve overcome challenges or driven organizational improvement.