Career Advice Opinion

How Did My Dream Job Become a Nightmare?

By AAEE — October 30, 2008 2 min read
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You start the year with high hopes. The interview went well, and the job (or student teaching placement) sounds ideal. Sometimes your expectations are realized, and the fit is perfect. Sometimes, though, it is not. How does this happen?

I wish that I could say that every job that LOOKS good IS good. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. What goes wrong? It may be one of the following:
• You looked at the job idealistically, rather than realistically. When we want something very badly, we tend to see only the highlights and overlook the drawbacks.
• You didn’t do enough preparation. Your research was not sufficient to reveal critical facts about the school/district.
• You didn’t give yourself enough time to think about the position and consider the offer before accepting it.
• You were not experienced in understanding employee benefits and salary schedules.
• Unexpected contingencies emerged – you were asked to take on courses you weren’t prepared to teach; you were expected to assume duties that were out of your realm of knowledge or interest.
• The interviewer’s intent was to impress you rather than to present an honest picture of the school and the position’s unique challenges.
• When you met the staff members, you found that there were some with whom you didn’t get along – and they have made your life miserable.

You’re now at a crossroads. You may feel like resigning on the spot. In most cases, though, it’s best to finish the year, with the intent of finding a more suitable job next year. Sometimes situations do surprisingly improve. Many of us also find that even the most adverse job can provide valuable experience. No matter what, you may find yourself back in the job market soon. How do you avoid making the same mistake again?
• Talk with a career counselor about your situation. Do a mock interview, so that you can learn to ask the right questions before accepting a position. Discover how to research schools and districts effectively. Practice talking about your current position in positive terms.
• Seek a mentor who can advise you in understanding school cultures – what to seek and what to avoid.
• Update your resume, so that you’re ready for the new recruiting season.
• Network. Get to know other teachers and administrators by attending conferences and workshops. Go to job fairs. Remember, however, to be discreet about job searching while you are still employed.
• Keep your eyes and ears alert to job openings.
• Seek counseling if you begin to feel emotionally overwhelmed.

Although your confidence may be shaken, try not to think of yourself as a failure. At times like this, you may begin to question your teaching competence, your personal worth, or your career choice. The reality is that we all make mistakes. It’s how we move on from those mistakes that matters most. Vow to do your very best to make your next job a shining success.

--Dr. Dawn S. Jones,
Online Education Adviser,
Northern Illinois University, on behalf of AAEE

The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.