It’s a tough world out there, how do you prepare yourself best to find your dream teaching job?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I figured the first thing to do besides becoming a qualified teacher and being on top of your specialist subject is to make sure you know who you want to teach and where. If you’re not bothered that’s fine but if you know that you feel more comfortable with a particular age group, or that you have more to offer a particular age group then get that straight first. Then decide if your dream job lies in a school, college, sixth form, university, prison, overseas, hospital, public/private sector, academy… the list is quite substantial. I figure it’s better to focus in on where your dream lies but keep yourself flexible at the same time. You’ve probably already made a choice hence your placement location but you might change your mind when you do your observations in other sectors.
As a newly qualified teacher I guess a job anywhere is a start but I’d be careful to accept ‘just anything’ if it could mean a poor reference at the end of the first year, being totally out of the comfort zone, away from social support networks and such might have a detrimental affect on your performance.
From working in the NHS I saw many, many well qualified and able nurses and doctors relocate to this quiet East coast town as an ‘easy’ first job due to historical recruitment and retention issues and I saw most of them struggle and even saw some fail and abandon a career they’d worked years towards. Social ties and connections are important to some people, isolation is not good for everyone. It’s not always going to happen that you walk into a job and a web of social activity with your colleagues. Living in a strange town or city with nobody familiar to go home to at night can be tough. If you’re going to do it I’d really seriously recommend that if it’s possible (i.e. you are single with no kids) you flat share with people or a person your own age, maybe from the same profession as a start so that you have some support and company to start off with. As someone who left home young and moved to the big city I know how important that first connection can be and if you can set it up before you get there so much the better. It’s not the same as university where freshers have activities arranged and are housed together, it’s not like that at all.
Other more practical things you can do to give yourself a good shot no matter what you teach, where you want to teach it or to whom include things like:
1. Make sure everything is up to date, your CV, Personal Statement, Linked In account and such.
2. Make sure you have all of your certificates from those O’Levels you sat 30 years ago because someone will want to see them, especially those relating to English and Maths qualifications. They can be costly to replace so if you need a few of them start getting them gathered in gradually now to spread the cost. You can get help with tracing old results here: http://www.aqa.org.uk/help-and-contacts/past-results
3. Make sure your social networking accounts are professionalised, go through them painstakingly removing any photos that you might not want a prospective employer to see and any posts which you’d rather stayed for your friend’s and family’s eyes only. Clear out your liked pages and your favourite movies and books that might have been stored there since you were a 15 year old kid.
4. Put together a portfolio of any work you have done which is particularly relevant or which may be interesting to show somebody who is interviewing you, you may never use it but it’s useful to have one ready rather than scrabble around for one the night before an interview. Making sure you always have toner or ink for you home printer is also another one to go with this, if you get a last minute offer of an interview and need to take print outs of anything with you make sure you are not caught running around with your precious documents on a memory stick trying to find a friend who will let you use theirs.
5. Get your course mates to interview you, practicing interviewing techniques is always useful and getting some input from others on what they’d anticipate questions to be like might be really useful too. Come to think of it, while you are a student make the most of support on offer and run applications forms by relevant experts and get your CV and personal statement checked out too.
6. As a matter of courtesy let people who you know you will use as referees know that you are going to do so and check that they are happy with that. Select these wisely too, your tutor and mentor will make good relevant referees.
7. Keep your blog up to date if you have one. It might be something that tips a decision in your favour by adding value to show a prospective employer that you are so committed to and interested in your craft that you think about what you are doing, read, share, support peers, are capable of self reflection and all of those collaborative, self-development activities that prove you’re putting effort into being a teacher and it’s not just a job to you. Peer support and networking shows team spirit too, something that will be very important as a teacher throughout your career. Blogging is increasingly popular and a key feature of things like TES and Guardian Education.
8. Invest in a fabulous new interview outfit, if you feel good it will help you to relax and act more like your true self at interview.
9. Make sure you can be flexible, there is nothing an interviewer hates more than people who can’t make their interview date and time (believe me I know, I’m pretty easy going and open minded but I’ve often assumed that if someone can’t make a date they don’t care enough about the job and it gives me a negative impression from the start). This is your future, this is your passion, this is your dream, nothing matters more than this (OK besides staying alive) but nothing non life threatening should keep you from an interview so…
- Do not book holidays around the time you know you will be applying for jobs – as a teacher you’ll have loads of long holidays to look forward to right?
- Do not book minor operations, leave your boob job and face lift for another time when you’ll have more money anyway on the huge teacher’s salary that is about to be yours.
- Tell family that they have to be on stand by to pick kids up or babysit. Note I say ‘tell’ not ‘ask’. This is your dream they love you, they want this for you as much as you do surely.
- Get yourself a railcard while you’re still a student. This is only relevant if you plan on applying for jobs outside of your home town so you can let the train take the strain and arrive for interviews refreshed, stress free, prepared and with not too much damage to the bank balance.
- Be financially prepared. You might be attending many, many interviews all over the country so make sure you have the funds to get to them, it would be awful if you had to turn down an interview because you were too skint to get yourself a ticket or a killer outfit (see above, get one now).
10. Finally, practice Skype interviews. I know lots of teachers who have been interviewed via Skype. It’s becoming increasingly popular. It saves money in reimbursing travel expenses, it’s environmentally friendly in that it doesn’t do much to add to the old carbon footprint and can reduce reams of paperwork. Besides it can be easier to set a convenient interview slot (avoiding all of the issues in point 9). Top tips for Skype interviews then:
- Get your peers to practice Skype interviews with you
- Look at your background, do not have a Skype interview with a pile of washing behind you, an Xbox game on pause or something more unsavoury playing on a TV in the background
- Think about what you are wearing, dress professionally and don’t just dress your top half, you might be asked to transmit something that is on a memory stick in another room
- Make sure people who share your home with you know that you have an interview and that you will destroy them if they dare to come home, move, speak, put on music or let the dog in while you are being interviewed.
- Turn off phones, disconnect door bells, put notes on gates warning anyone who dares to knock on your door that they WILL be torn apart with your bare hands or by your giant imaginary Rottweiler
- Of course, most importantly make sure you get your best camera angle and don’t forget you are talking to the camera not to your own image on the screen down in the bottom corner or to the image of the interviewer in the middle of your screen, look into the camera and smile, but not like you do for a selfie, that’s not cool.
Have a look at this video on You Tube to help some more:
So much to think about! But it all helps and if it means the difference between not getting a job and getting one at the end of this then it is all worth it.