Month: July 2022

Getting a Teaching Job: When All Else Fails

         “I’ve done everything I can think of; now it’s the summer, and I still don’t have a job. What should I do now?” Well, this calls for extraordinary measures. Basketball coaches motivate their players as the game draws to an end and the score is still close by telling them, “Leave everything you’ve got on the court.” This means exhaust all possibilities. Most school leaders are on vacation during July and the first two weeks of August. Upon return they almost always find that a few staff members have notified the district that they’re not returning. Some staff members decide to retire, others find new jobs or might be re-locating, some decide they want to stay home to raise their family, and still others reach the conclusion that education is not their forte and resign.

         Use your time in June and July to get prepared. Polish up your resume; read a how to get a teaching job guide…https://www.amazon.com/Getting-Your-Teaching-Larry-Aronstein-ebook/dp/B00KWEG2KQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527344934&sr=8-1&keywords=larry+aronstein#customerReviews. Get coaching from an experienced educational career coach.

        Administrators are faced with the challenge of filling these jobs within the next two to three weeks before schools open for the new school year. There is a real urgency to find new staff. Therefore, this is a great opportunity to get hired. So, here is my advice. Sit down with a local map and decide how far you are willing to commute. Draw a circle from your location using that maximum commuting distance as the radius. Identify every school district within the circle, find the websites of the districts, research the names of the assistant superintendents for human resources, and try to find the names and phone numbers of their secretaries; you might even call the district to find these names and phone numbers. Put your fear of rejection on hold. Call every one of those secretaries. Introduce yourself: “Good morning, Mrs. Fisher, my name is Carol Hines and I’m a certified elementary school teacher who’s recently graduated from Curtis State College. I understand that you may have several vacancies, including a K-5 position. I would appreciate it if I could make an appointment with Dr. Charlton, so that I could introduce myself, give him my resume, and tell him why I’m the right person to fill that position. I promise not to take more than five minutes of his valuable time.” Now, we really don’t know if there’s a pending K-5 position available. The only thing that’s important is that you get in and meet Dr. Charlton. And yes, this actually works. But, don’t be surprised if the secretary brushes you off, “I’m sorry Ms. Hines, we only accept on-line applications, and I do not believe there’s a vacancy.” Still, you are far from finished.

        If you get an appointment, that’s fantastic. You must then get in there and convince Dr. Charlton that you should get further consideration. He might just pick up his phone and call the principal and tell her that he’s sending you over to meet her. Remember, they are in a hurry to fill that job. But, if your phone calls to the secretaries all result in rejections, you must now take the next step. Put on your most professional looking outfit, plot your route, and visit as many district offices in your circle as possible within the next few days. You may encounter a security guard or will certainly have to go through a receptionist. Now, this is what you say, “Hi, I’m Carol Hines and I’m here to see Mrs. Fisher (remember, she is Dr. Charlton’s secretary).” The receptionist will either direct you to the Human Resources Office, or she’ll pick up her phone and tell Mrs. Fisher that you’re here to see her, or she will tell you that Mrs. Fisher is not available. Even if you can’t get in to see the secretary, ask the receptionist to take your resume and give it to Dr. Charlton. There is a chance that Mrs. Fisher may tell you to come up. If you get to see Mrs. Fisher, be as personable and self-confident as you know how to be and ask her if you can meet Dr. Charlton and personally hand him your resume.

        I have actually hired people who walked in off the street in July and August. I assume that these candidates are committed and are the kind of people who aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to succeed. I like “go getters” and want them to work in my organization. However, there might not be a position available. Nevertheless, you might ask Dr. Charlton about other available opportunities. The following are possibilities: a long-term substitute position; a teaching assistant position; a regular substitute who is permanently assigned to a school. These may not be your dream jobs, but it is a foot in the door and an opportunity to impress school leaders. Just go for it. Nothing to lose; everything to gain.

Dr. Aronstein prepares teachers for interviews and their preparation of resumes. www.larryaronstein.com

Laid Off, Resigned or Denied Tenure

It can be devastating to your career to be laid off, asked to resign your position, be denied tenure, or resign because you are very unhappy in your job. Potentially, these events can be career ending. Leaving a job before getting tenure is a bright red flag on your resume. During every interview, you will have to answer the question, “I see you only worked in Happy Hollow for two years. Were you asked to leave? What is the story regarding your leaving?”

Assuming that you have not been involved in any serious wrong doing, you should be assured that the situation need not be hopeless. Once you clear your mind and harness your anxiety, then focus and plan your course of action. There are effective strategies available to you. However, let’s be clear that no matter how desperate you may feel, NEVER LIE. The field of education is small throughout your region; people gossip, and information about you may be on the internet. Sooner or later, a lie will be uncovered and you will be terminated for lying. That said, here are some suggestions:

  1. Get out in front—you may have some control over the timeline. If you are told that you’ll not be getting tenure, then you’re better off resigning. But submit that letter as late as you can. Do whatever you can to get assurances that a positive letter of recommendation will be forthcoming and that good things will be said about you if someone calls for a reference check. In return, promise that you’ll submit a letter of resignation. Start applying as soon as you can. If you get interviews you can honestly say at that point in time, you have not resigned.  
  2.  What happens if you resign and you don’t have a job? You will need to answer the question why you resigned; you must do so without hesitation– you can’t appear as if you’re covering something up. Most leaders have been through their own career crises and can be very understanding. Just take a breath and briefly tell your story. Your narrative must be credible and evoke empathy. A good coach can help you craft your narrative. Your narrative is the key to getting a new job. Never say anything critical of your present or past employers or supervisors. Always make a brief positive final statement beginning with: “I’d like to leave you with a final thought”. This will leave them with a powerful last impression. I suggest you say something like: “I just want to assure you that I have never done anything that I’m ashamed of. I am an honorable, hard working and sincere person who would never do anything that would discredit or embarrass me or my employer.”
  3. What if you are laid off because of budget cuts? You will be in a strong position to get excellent letters of recommendation and references. Your supervisors will undoubtedly be sincerely sorry to cut you lose. Don’t despair. You are now an experienced candidate looking to make a parallel move. Your potential new employer will have empathy for your plight. If you have a copy of a newspaper article that verifies that your position was lost based on budget cuts, then present it at your interview as documentation. It will immediately quell any doubts.
  4. What if you can’t find a comparable job? You still have options. If you are a supervisor, you can go take a step back in your career or return to the classroom. You can seek employment at a private school or a charter school. You can seek employment opportunities in a nearby big city. You can re-locate. In exploring these opportunities, you might find that you might move up the career ladder, from assistant principal to principal for example.
  5. What if you are accused of a serious infraction? If you have committed a serious infraction, then you should probably find a new line of work. If the charges are false, then find a good lawyer. Hopefully your union will provide you with one. Do everything you can to keep the situation confidential. Stay off social media. Do not respond publicly or in the media. In the interim, you should probably try to apply elsewhere.

As a final thought, you should remind yourself that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Going through a career crisis or transition can be growthful. You learn how to be humble and more resilient, and you’ll find out who your real friends are and how supportive they can be. Larry Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with clients preparing them for interviews and perfecting their resumes. Find out about Dr. Aronstein at www.larryaronstein.com

WORDS AND PHRASES NEVER TO BE USED ON YOUR RESUME OR DURING AN INTERVIEW

Here is a list of words and phrases you never want to use on your resume or during an interview. Why shouldn’t you use them? What to say instead.

1. “UNEMPLOYED”—It makes you sound like a loser and nobody wants to hire a loser. Let potential employers figure out that you are “between jobs” and be prepared to explain what happened.

2. “HARDWORKING”—The word is over-used and therefore trite. Instead, provide accomplishments that document your work ethic and diligence and let the interviewer conclude that you’re hardworking.

3. “AMBITIOUS”—Making personality claims comes off as bragging. You want to project a modest image which is backed up by progressive accomplishments and activities.

4. “OBJECTIVE”—Stating your career object at the top of your resume is superfluous. It is clear what position you are applying for. Stating an objective in flowery language only slows the reviewer down. He/she is probably speed reading through 100’s of resumes. Just leave it out.

5. “DEDICATED”—This is another over-used, stale personal claim. Describe your passions and your actions over a period of time to fulfill them.

6. “UNION”—Remember that unions often sit on the other side of the table pushing back on leaders’ decisions and actions. Leaders make personnel decisions and may not welcome people who are “union-friendly” on their team. Leave out any mention of unions.

7. “LIFE-LONG LEARNER”—Another trite expression. Your on-going participation in professional development opportunities demonstrates your willingness to learn and grow. During the interview, ask about professional development opportunities and who would be mentoring you. That question implies that you want to grow and learn.

8. “ROCK STAR”—No one likes a braggart. You’re not Elvis, Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga.

9. “DABBLED”—Either you know or did something significant about something that is important enough to mention. Who wants to hire a dabbler? Use strong verbs like led, created, directed.

10. “EXPERT”—Be careful what you claim. A skillful interviewer may probe or challenge your expertise. “What does the research say on the topic of…? What research and literature have you studied?” If you claim to speak a foreign language, don’t be surprised if an interviewer asks you a complex question in that language and asks that you respond in that language.

11. “A BIG FAN OF…”—Speak like a professional. I’m a big baseball fan, however I wouldn’t tell a group of professions that I was a big fan of differentiating instruction. I would describe how I go about differentiating.

12. “Like”—Using the words “like” or “you know” at the beginning, the middle, and the end of every sentence as a “filler” makes you sound juvenile and will hamper your professional image. Work to change that speech pattern.

These are just a few examples of words and phases to avoid. There are many others. I would also caution you about referencing anything related to politics and religion, or what might be perceived as controversial topics. Needless to say, never use any words even bordering on profanity. Everything you write and say as a candidate creates your narrative and your image. Choose your words carefully.