Getting a Teaching Job: When All Else Fails

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 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 late in 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.

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YOUR CANDIDACY:WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

YOUR CANDIDACY: WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

Everything you submit in writing and say contributes to building an attractive and effective narrative, that is a story and picture of yourself as a candidate. This includes your resume and cover letter, how you present yourself, your answers to the interviewers’ questions, the questions you ask, your letters of reference, and what your references say about you. It’s about developing a picture of yourself, creating a chemistry, demonstrating you are a good match and a good fit for what they’re really looking for and what their community wants.

Creating an attractive narrative requires a multi-step strategy for each position. Each position is somewhat unique. However, the commonalities out-weigh the differences. Before I can describe some of the strategies that go into building your narrative, we first must understand what the interviewers are looking for.

What They Want

  1. They want to know who you are, and what you’ve accomplished.
  2. They want to like you. Too often interviews are sterile; you must create an emotional and compelling context by telling your story.
  3. They want to make sure that you to share their values and aspirations.
  4. They want to see that you look and act the role.
  5. They want to be sure that you’ll easily fit in and not cause conflict.
  6. You need to come across as humble, self-effacing, sincere, direct, plain spoken, good humored, and authentic.

If this is what the interviewers want, then how do you go about creating a narrative and presenting yourself as that candidate? What strategies should you employee?

Strategies to Take

  1. Find out all you can about the school-community from a variety of sources.
  2. Decide what they really want you to do. Do not solely rely upon their job description—that’s what they think they want; it may not be what they really want.
  3. Analyze your resume, particularly your accomplishments, and emphasize those aspects that they are looking for. It is not enough to assert, “I’m creative and hardworking”. Provide specific and vivid examples of your accomplishments, both professional and personal.
  4. Work in some personal information, which is not on your resume and they can’t ask you about. If you are married and a parent, let them know. School people love family-oriented candidates who can relate to children and their parents.

The tactics as to how you go about carrying out these strategies requires some in-depth analyses. However, the reward of moving on to the next steps of your candidacy will be worth the effort.

Dr. Larry Aronstein is an experienced career coach who assists school leaders, aspiring leaders, and teachers in their resume and interviewing preparation. Find out more at www.larryaronstein.com. Contact him at larryaronstein@yahoo.com

The Likeability Factor

Your most important asset as an interviewee is your likeability. Likeability can trump everything–your knowledge of pedagogy, your qualifications, everything. Unconsciously, interviewers often decide at first sight whether they like you. Still, over the course of the interview, interviewers can change their opinions in either direction. If they really like you, they may even overlook some of your less-than-satisfactory responses their questions. So, what can you do to get them to like you?

Ask yourself, “What is it that makes me like someone when I first meet them?” If you’re like me, I like people who are friendly, relaxed, humble, pleasant, authentic, and respectful. We probably also like people who enjoy and exhibit good humor, and who seem to resonate with your values.

Researchers indicate that being likeable bears no relationship to appearing attractive, intelligent or assertive. In addition, there are also unpredictable elements, such as a resemblance to a highly-respected friend or colleague. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the uncontrollable.  But, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Dress appropriately and modestly—it’s just as important to not over-dress as it is not to under-dress. Limit jewelry to a small number of modest pieces. Hair styles should be modest. Going on an interview is not like going on a date.
  2. Smile. Shake hands with everyone, look each person in the eye, smile, and tell the interviewers your name. The warm firm human touch and the proximity of person to person contact are magical.
  3. Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Sit up, lean forward, make eye contact with whoever is speaking, acknowledge your understanding by gently nodding and smiling, and acknowledge others’ nods and smiles by nodding and smiling in return. Do not cross your arms. Do not frown, shake your head from side-to-side, or grimace in disagreement or disapproval.
  4. Laugh appropriately. If someone says something funny, it’s okay to laugh, but don’t overdo it. It’s also good to say something funny within the context of the interaction; however, you’re not there to entertain. If you’re the only one who’s laughing and joking, then stop!
  5. Control your emotions. If you feel interviewers are confrontational, disrespectful or disapproving, never show any signs of annoyance or anger. Keep your cool and push through it.
  6. Express an air of self-confidence; but never come across as cocky.
  7. Shake hands at the conclusion of the interview. Smile and thank each person.

Before walking into the room for your interview, your mantra should be: “Be likeable, be likeable!”

 

 

 

Interviewing: Do You Need to Be Coached?

Interviewing: Do You Need to Be Coached?

Trying to get a leadership job is very much like a horse race. Recently, a school district posted an ad for an assistant principal. They received more than 150 applicants, met with 20 for a pre-screening interview, and then a hiring committee interviewed 8 semi-finalists. The Kentucky Derby had 16 horses “run for the roses”. Those horses had the benefit of the best trainers in the world prepare them.

Let’s extend the horse racing metaphor. Have you ever gotten a tip on a horse or a stock or a restaurant? Tips are for amateurs. A tip is nothing but an opinion. I never made money on stock tips, and am usually disappointed with tips in general. Tipsters aren’t coaches. A good experienced coach hones your narrative, helps revise your resume, teaches you strategies, rehearses you, gives you feedback, and acts as your cheerleader.

How much of an investment does a serious candidate make to get a leadership job? There are education expenses such as tuition, application fees, books, and expenses for commuting… then there’s buying your interview suit or outfit. That’s at least $12,000 to $18,000. Does investing a few hundred dollars for a coach make sense?  Your salary will increase by 20%. What can a coach do for you? Does coaching work?

Being a well-coached candidate can mean the difference between playing a good game of checkers compared to being a fine chess player. A good coach will prepare you so that you present yourself with self-confidence; tell your story as to why you’re the right match; anticipate and prepare impressive and unique responses to the interviewers’ questions; and strategize what to say, what not to say, and how to read body language.  And yes, coaching does work. Coaching should also be confidential. There’s no reason for anyone to know the secret to your success.

Your university probably offers free workshops in preparing your resume and letter and provides a list of interviewing tips. However, an experienced coach goes way beyond that. He has a network of former clients and colleagues. He/she knows the school districts and their inside politics. You will be guided in how to fashion your approach to the unique needs and wants of the school, the community and the district.

A good coach also guides you in closing the deal and assists you in negotiating your salary.  Don’t leave getting your leadership job up to chance. Don’t rely on tips. Remember, getting promoted is a lifetime gain which requires a short-term investment. The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.

 

Resumes That Get You Interviews

Resumes and cover letters should be designed to get you an interview. If you’re a fairly well qualified candidate and you aren’t getting interviews, or if your rate of getting interviews is low, then your resume and cover letter are probably your problems. Well qualified candidates should be getting interviews at least fifty percent of the time that you send them off. If you aren’t getting this kind of action, then you need to revise your resume and letter.

The people who screen resumes are busy. They often receive hundreds of resumes for a single job posting. It may take experienced screeners only 30 to 45 seconds to review a resume. Therefore, you must immediately catch and hold their attention. Developing your resume requires a strategy.

The most common mistakes that candidates make in preparing their resume are that they follow out-dated rules. You should not: (1) limit your resume to one page; (2) start the resume with an objective; and (3) follow a strict order of categories (education, certification, professional experience…). No, no, no. Another mistake is when your resume reads like a job description. The reader already knows what a teacher or an assistant principal does. Instead, your resume and cover letter need to clearly describe your accomplishments. What special experiences, skills and knowledge do you possess that will make you uniquely qualified to do this specific job, in this specific school-community?

Most job seekers struggle to identify their most significant accomplishments. Your greatest accomplishments may not be directly related to your professional experiences. Accomplishments may also define your true character or speak to a skill set or knowledge base that few candidates possess. A good career coach can stimulate your thinking and help you define yourself. I often advise my clients to add a category to their resume that might be labelled interests and activities. I recall, as an example, a candidate who was seeking a leadership position who served as a chief of his local volunteer fire department. He supervised and trained scores of fire fighters.

Here are some additional cautions and suggestions. Never fictionalize or inflate your credentials or accomplishments. In education, there are only a few degrees of separation between your past experiences and your new one. Oftentimes, you are too close to your own resume to be objective. Have your paperwork reviewed by a well informed and respected mentor, colleague or coach, and get objective feedback. Your resume and cover letter are works in progress. Continuously revise them depending on feedback, the uniqueness of the position for which you are applying, and the results you are getting as measured by how many interviews you are getting.

Here are my guidelines for writing resumes that get action:

  1. Less is more—state your accomplishments briefly in bullet statements
  2. Accomplishments; Not Job Description
  3. Lead with Your Strengths (list them near the top—catch attention)
  4. Ignore Most Rules (omit objective; determine your own sequence of categories and timeline; keep format simple)
  5. Start Bullet Statements with Action Verbs (past tense)
  6. Emphasize Accomplishments that Match Job Posting –make them the top bullets
  7. Omit Irrelevant Activities and Experiences for the Position
  8. Interests & Activities Can Capture Attention– acting, kickboxing, interesting hobbies (visits to Presidents’ birth sites), unique travel experiences, speak foreign languages
  9. Tailor for Different Demographics (urban, affluent or blue-collar community, small town, rural)
  10. Set Maximum Number of Bullets– current position 5-8; prior 3-5; before that 2-3
  11. Sweat the Mechanics– spelling, subject-verb agreement, capitalization and punctuation; grammar; word selection; consistent format; readable font size
  12. Cover Letter– 3-4 paragraphs– always required but seldom read
  13. References upon Request
  14. Get Authoritative Feedback—friends and family are well-meaning but often lead you astray
  15. Never Confuse or Mislead the Reader– clear timeline; short and simple sentences
  16. Never Lie
  17. TELL YOUR STORY

Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders. His e-book is available at: http://www.e-junkie.com/schoolleadership20/product/495531.php#YOU%2…

 

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So, You Want to Be a Superintendent

So, You Want to Be a Superintendent of Schools: Topics for Interview Questions

  1. Improvement of Learning and Teaching
  2. Implementing the Common Core
  3. Building Constituencies
  4. What do you think are the most difficult type of problems that you will face?
  5. Dealing with an angry hostile crowd
  6. Building an Effective Leadership Team
  7. Succession Planning
  8. Response to Crises
  9. Developing a School Budget

10.Capital Improvement Planning

11.Teacher and Principal Evaluations

12.Entry Plan–1st hundred days

13.What qualities do you look for in candidates?

14.Board-Superintendent Relationship—information to one is information to all; role is to protect the Board; Board is a body corporate; what gets communicated and how; building consensus; school board member visits to schools; communication with school leaders

15.Central Office Relationships

16.Principal-Superintendent Relationship

17.What functions does Superintendent take charge of directly?

18.Appointments and Tenure Decisions

19.Developing district goals

20.Negotiations with various unions

21.Communicating with School Counsel

22.Superintendent Hearings

23.Board Meetings—executive session; agenda; dealing with open session; role of Board President; open meeting law

24.Dealing with Grievances

25.Conducting Investigations of Wrong Doing

26.Superintendent Evaluation

27.Superintendent’s Contract

28.Bond Issue

29.Snow Days

30.Dealing with the Union Leaders

31.Transparency

32.Building High Morale

33.Creating and Sustaining Positive Change

34.Decision Making Process

35.Making Unpopular Decisions

36.School Security and Public Safety

37.Relations with Police and Fire Officials

38.Maintaining Positive Public Relations

39.Visibility vs. Accessibility

40.Speaking with One Voice

41.Interfacing—parents, students, teachers, community leaders, community

42.Public Image

43.Dealing with “special requests and favors”

44.Dealing with Disloyal Administrators

45.Revising and Creating School Board Policies

46.What would you do if you strongly disagreed with a decision of the Board?

47.How long do you expect to remain in the district?

48.Are there any issues that might be non-negotiable?

49.Free speech and student publications

50.Role of technology

51.Cost of special education

52.Comprehensive Self-Evaluation

53.Buildings and Grounds

54.Cost Saving Strategies

Do You Need a Coach to Get Your Dream Job?

Recently, a school district posted an ad for an assistant principal. They received more than 150 applicants, met with 25 for a pre-screening interview, and then a hiring committee interviewed 12 semi-finalists. The Kentucky Derby had 16 horses “run for the roses”. Those horses had the benefit of the best trainers in the world prepare them. Trying to get a leadership job is very much like a horse race.

Extending the horse racing metaphor. Have you ever gotten a tip on a horse or a stock or a restaurant? Tips are for amateurs. A tip is nothing but an opinion. I never made money on stock tips, and am usually disappointed with tips in general. Tipsters aren’t coaches. A good experienced coach teaches you strategies, rehearses you, gives you feedback, and acts as your cheerleader.

How much of an investment does a serious candidate make to get a leadership job? There are education expenses such as application fees, tuition, books, and expenses for commuting… then there’s buying your interview suit or outfit. That’s at least $10,000 to $15,000. Does investing $45 to attend a workshop, or $20 to buy a book, or a few hundred dollars for a coach make sense?  Your salary will increase by 20%. What can a coach do for you? Does coaching actually work?

Being a well-coached candidate can mean the difference between playing a good game of checkers compared to being a fine chess player. A good coach will prepare you in: honing your resume and cover letter; presenting yourself with self-confidence; telling your story as to why you’re the right match; anticipating and preparing impressive and unique responses to the interviewers’ questions; and strategizing what to say, what not to say, and how to read body language.  And yes, coaching does work. Coaching should also be confidential. There’s no reason for anyone to know the secret to your success.

Your university probably offers free workshop in preparing your resume and letter, and provides a list of interviewing tips. However, an experienced coach has a network of former clients and colleagues. He/she knows the school districts and their inside politics. You will be guided in how to fashion your approach to the unique needs and wants of the district.

A good coach also helps build your confidence, guides you in closing the deal, and assists you in negotiating your contract.  Don’t leave getting a leadership job up to chance. Don’t rely on tips. Remember, getting promoted is a lifetime gain which requires a short-term investment. The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.

 

Dr. Larry Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching to school leaders and aspiring leaders in preparing for interviews and in the preparation of resumes. Larryaronstein.com

The Inside Candidate

Should you even bother to apply for a job when you know that there are inside candidates? Can you beat out an insider? Are the cards already stacked against you? The short answer is that you should apply—there is nothing to lose. The actual status of the insider or insiders is unknown. The “powers that be”, the superintendent, board members, other administrators, may not favor the insider. The insider may have been on the wrong side of some internal issue, or is just not well respected. Oftentimes, the screening committee or the hiring committee will reject the insider’s candidacy, which results in a wide-open process.

Even if there you wind up competing with an insider, it remains a possibility that you may prevail. You have no control over the status of other candidates, but you do have control over the quality of your performance. All you can do is to do your very best and then hope for the best.

Nepotism and xenophobia have always existed in many of our schools. It goes beyond just knowing someone on the inside to get a job. Sometimes you must be someone on the inside. Under some circumstances you must even live and work in the district. Organizations that regularly practice nepotism are often resistant to change and do not honor diverse perspectives which might come from outside sources. However, leaders in these schools might argue, “if it ain’t broken why fix it”. They assert the need for continuity and consistency. They preach that outsiders don’t relate to their community. They take pride in being a “close knit community”. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the only way to land a job in many school districts is to be an inside candidate. If this is the case, then you will probably be better off not working in a place like this. Be careful what you wish for because you may get it.

Besides being unfair, nepotism often results in mediocrity in that the best qualified candidates are passed up, and the same practices are perpetuated, as the torch is passed to another insider who was weaned in a closed system. The justification for rejecting outside candidates is often that “they’re not a good fit”which ironically is often true! Unfortunately, sometimes “outsiders” are chosen and then not listened to, sometimes even shunned. However, schools are entities that must continue to grow and learn.

A Case of Nerves

OVERCOMING NERVOUSNESS

“I get so nervous when I interview that I freeze.” It is natural that interviewees feel nervous about interviewing. There’s a lot at stake. You have invested a great deal of time, effort and money in trying to take the next step in your career. You’re walking into a room all alone to meet a group of strangers who are going to ask you difficult questions and make judgments about if they like you, if you’re a good fit, and as to your qualifications and readiness. It is threatening that you are facing possible rejection. For most of us, interviewing is an unfamiliar, somewhat intimidating, and uncomfortable experience. So what you do to calm your nerves and become more effective?

You should take some comfort in knowing that the interviewers who are across the table have been on your side of the table and understand your nervousness. They are quite forgiving of a shaky voice and a little perspiration. But how do you avoid freezing?

My formula for shedding your nervousness is: (1) be familiar with each step of the interview process; (2) be prepared by anticipating many of the questions by preparing and practicing your answers; (3) learn how to read and respond to the interviewers’ body language and non-verb clues; (4) find comfort in your knowledge and skillfulness; (5) stay out of “your own head” (how am I doing; are they liking me) by just focusing on answering the question; and (6) only speak to the individual who asked the question (don’t look at the large group).

Perhaps an analogous situation might serve to illustrate my approach. I must confess that sometimes I get anxious when I travel. I imagine that the taxi is going to drop me at the wrong terminal; the flight will be over-booked and I’ll get bumped; the plane will leave late and I’ll miss my connecting flight; upon arrival I’ll be told that my hotel reservation was for last week and they are now all booked up—I can go on and on with my fears. However, I’m happy to report that over time I have figured out ways to alleviate most of my anxieties. I take a page from my own formula by familiarizing myself in advance with my ticket which identifies the terminal; I try to book non-stop direct flights; I re-confirm my hotel reservation; and if unanticipated problems arise, I have copies of all the documentation and contact phone numbers in my possession—you get the idea.

A good coach will walk you through the interview process step-by-step. You will learn what forms of body language to look for and how you should respond verbally and non-verbally. You will analyze and practice answering the most often asked questions. You will role play and have a dress rehearsal. You will report back as to your actual performance, and will get feedback on how you might improve. You will find comfort through all of your preparation, and as a result your nervousness will be minimized.

Guide for Resumes

Your resume is your first introduction to your potential employer. As the saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. As a career coach, I rarely see a resume that can’t be significantly improved upon. If you are a well qualified candidate and are not getting interviews to at least 40% of the jobs to which you are applying, then your problem is your resume. The job of your resume is to get you to the next step, an interview. Here are my guidelines for preparing a resume that works for you.

  1. Less Is More
  2. Accomplishments; Not Job Description
  3. Lead with Your Strengths (list first—catch attention)
  4. Ignore Most Rules (omit objective; determine your own sequence of categories and timeline; keep format simple)
  5. Start Bullet Statements with Action Verb (past tense)
  6. Emphasize Accomplishments that Match Job Posting (strengths)
  7. Omit Irrelevant Activities and/or Accomplishments for the Position
  8. Interests & Activities Can Capture Attention– acting, boxing, interesting hobbies (visits to Presidents’ birth sites), unique travel experiences, speak foreign languages
  9. Feng Shui Your Resume
  10. Tailor for Each Different Position (urban, affluent or blue collar community, small town, rural)
  11. Set Maximum Number of Bullets– current 5-6; prior 2-5; before that 1-3
  12. Sweat the Mechanics– spelling, subject-verb agreement, capitalization and punctuation; grammar; word selection; consistent format; readable font size
  13. Cover Letter– 3-4 paragraphs always required but seldom read
  14. References upon Request
  15. Get Authoritative Feedback
  16. Never Confuse or Mislead the Reader– clear timeline; short and simple sentences
  17. TELL YOUR STORY

 

Larry Aronstein is a career coach who assists leaders and aspiring leaders in preparing their resumes and prepping for interviews. Visit www.larryaronstein.com to find out about Dr. Aronstein’s services, workshops, and ebooks.