When I graduated from high school and first began looking for work, I used the only job search method I knew: searching the classified ads in the newspaper. Identifying possible options from those listings, I began submitting applications to employers. I had no idea how few jobs were actually advertised in the paper. Although I eventually landed a position, it was not until much later that I learned the value of networking and utilizing my contacts to locate opportunities.
I’ve found a similar job search method being used by the new teachers with whom I work. These candidates are familiar with the process of searching job listings -- online or other -- and applying to a school district. The district personnel department collects all necessary documents (application, resume, test scores, transcripts, clearances, etc.) and determines that all minimum qualifications are met. This office serves as a clearinghouse, matching eligible applicants with vacancies. But there is an additional strategy that can help open some doors.
Many job seekers are unaware of the truth to that old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It’s human nature to be more comfortable and feel more secure hiring people you know or those who are familiar to your friends and colleagues. Even in the field of education, utilizing your professional and personal contacts is imperative to conducting a successful job search. Your network will provide not only leads to jobs, but also referrals to other sources of information. This is one of the reasons substitute and student teaching are valued for more than merely gaining experience. They also provide numerous opportunities to get to know people who are potential leads to positions. Tutoring and volunteering at schools are other ways to get your foot in the door and become known by the staff and administrators.
Candidates who are successfully using their networks often invite administrators to observe their teaching and request feedback. They also spend time in the faculty lounge getting to know other teachers at the site. They talk to everyone they know, from their mechanic to their children’s pediatrician to the barista at the local coffee house about their job search. One never knows what connections these acquaintances may have to the field of education. This acquaintance’s spouse or relative could be the principal at a growing school or the superintendent of personnel at the local district office. This contact may even serve on a school’s site council or PTA. The possibilities may astound you.
When we begin utilizing our network to its fullest, we realize what a small world we live in and how we are connected to so many people in the most unexpected ways. Now more than ever we have increased access to numerous networks, whether we connect in person or online (are you on LinkedIn or Facebook?) Take advantage of these rich resources available to you and you will discover the power of your network.
Career Counselor, California State University San Marcos AND
Past-President, California Association for Employment in Education
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.