Job hunting advice for Beginning Teachers – it’s about networking!
There’s no way to sugar-coat it, the job market for graduating teachers at the moment sucks. If you are lucky, you might end up getting a teaching job from your placement but don’t count on it. Right now there are too many teaching graduates and not enough jobs. A far cry from when my mother graduated Teachers College back in the 1970s and the government found her a job (though she did have my Dad to write a letter to get her out of country service).
While I’ve made no secret that social media got me my first teaching position, there’s a bunch of offline stuff Beginning Teachers can do to network if they aren’t interested in geeking out. Some of this is hard and you might feel a bit intimidated putting yourself out there. But any short term discomfort you might feel will be so worth it when you get the phone call offering you a job.
Job searching is about more than putting in applications
A lot of student teachers think that applying for a teaching job involves having a nice CV and cover letter, putting their application in and hoping for the best. In this job market, where there are dozens of applicants for each position, finding a job isn’t about having a nice CV and cover letter. It is about long-term relationship-building rather than short-term paper work. Although I did get a tip from University on the Hill to drop off your CV in person which is a nice touch I guess but too little too late.
The most interesting people in the world are those who are interested in you
This is the most important advice for Beginning Teachers, be passionate about the schools you are applying for! You don’t want a hiring panel to think of you as just another Beginning Teacher in a stack of CVs, you are a fabulous individual in your own right. Likewise if you are a on a hiring panel, you don’t want to hire someone who comes across as wanting to be hired by any school you want someone who is interested in the wonderful things going on in your school.
You can show interest by turning up to information meetings and asking good questions afterwards. School visits are good way to show interest but most students leave this until the end of the year when the CVs are arriving. There’s nothing to stop you starting early. Well before job search season (I’m talking June/July) knock on doors and ask to find out more about the schools you are interested in working for (also a good way to decide if you really want to apply to the school). Some schools will say no, and that’s ok, move on and find the ones who will say yes. They’ll likely be impressed by your initiative and interest, good qualities to mention when you apply for a position later in the year. It’s also a good way to practice for job interviews because it is a job interview!
Join your union, go to meetings
The first piece advice that one of the principals on my Teaching Experiences gave me and the other student teachers on placement was to join the union. She mentioned that she had hired a Beginning Teacger in part because she remembers meeting the teacher previously at an NZEI national conference. Going to union meetings shows you are interested in teaching and education issues and you get to meet real teachers who can also help with job hunting advice and getting you into their school on a visit (see above). The bonus is that both the NZEI and PPTA are free for student teachers to join so really there is no excuse.
Volunteer – but be prepared to stick with the commitment
A lot of student teachers volunteer at their schools after their placement has ended coaching sports, helping with production, or just doing general work (like laminating) for their Associate Teacher. It’s a good way to show dedication and interest in a school. Even if there isn’t a job going at the end of the year, you’ll have a great referee if you get to reference check stage. Always remember that it’s easier to get into a commitment than out of it.
Go to education-related community events
In my case as a geeky teacher I was attending InternetNZ’s nethui and educamps. The Emerging Leaders Symposium puts on Ignite evenings once a term in Auckland which anyone is free to attend. These evenings are a fantastic opportunity to meet future-focused teachers. It can be a bit intimidating being the sole student teacher in a room full of real teachers but don’t let that stop you! When I visited a school one of the teachers remembered me because we had both attended EducampAKL. All recognition is good when you want to stand out from the stack of CVs and be to sure to mention that you attended these events when you apply.
If you are doing the 3 year degree, get involved in campus life!
Your students association is a great place to gain leadership experience, demonstrate organisational skills and learn how to talk to
university bureaucrats grown ups. I couldn’t recommend involvement in your students association enough, especially for school leavers, and advise getting involved in the central campus organisation as well as the one based around your education faculty to show you have a life outside of teaching.
Go forth and volunteer to be a class rep, join a sports club, put yourself forward for student executive, write articles for your student magazine, help organize orientation week/student parties etc. to help pad out your CV, gain valuable life experience and meet people who will be life-long friends. Your 1st and 2nd year is the best time to be involved in campus life but by final year you want to be pulling back and thinking about finding a job.
Graduate Diplomas are about finding a teaching job and not much else
The one year Graduate Diploma isn’t the course to play the role of social butterfly/campus activity coordinator. For a start the short time frame makes for a heavy coursework burden which means you need to be really judicious with how you spend your time. Steer well clear of campus politics and social intrigues which suck time and energy you could spend doing more productive stuff. In fact that’s one of the reasons I think online study is better than campus-based instruction for the 1 year course.
Use any connection you can
Teaching is a really small world so don’t be afraid to tap into the the networks of the people on placement. One of the DPs on my first Teaching Experience referred me on to another school where a new principal had recently been appointed and would likely be looking for teachers at the end of the year. Did I name drop when I wrote my email to the school? Absolutely. I even went to my old intermediate school to see my old Principal who gave me some great advice.
Say you get to the start of next year’s school term and still don’t have a job. All is not lost. A lot of Beginning Teachers find that relief teaching is their path into full-time employment. Put your name down at schools and keep networking.