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Be the Job Candidate You Want to Be

Discover ways you may be able to increase your marketability and get the job you want.

What can you do if you do not get a teaching job immediately after you’ve earned your teaching credentials? How do you get back into a teaching position if you temporarily set aside your career? The best advice is to stay connected to teaching in as many ways as possible and to keep learning new things that make you more employable. Here are some tips to help you increase your marketability, get closer to being the job candidate you want to be, and make an easier transition back into your chosen career.

Keep your teaching license current. Do whatever you can to remain a fully certified teacher in your state. This may mean completing paperwork every 3 years, or taking a certain number of professional development hours. But this is important, since only a teacher with a license is employable.

Network. Stay connected to professional associations. Maintain your membership in the NEA and at least one other professional association. Membership in a specialized professional organization, such as the International Reading Association, the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, or the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, will provide you with journals, professional development conferences, job postings and networking opportunities.

The professional associations all have websites. Consider reading them or contributing to them as an author. You might even use LinkedIn or Facebook to stay connected with professors and teachers with whom you have worked.

When soliciting help from your associates, rather than inquiring if they know of any open positions, request their advice on how best to conduct your search. Ask if they know of someone who may be able to help you better refine your search or provide additional pointers on how to navigate a career transition to or from education.

You may also want to consider working as a substitute teacher, especially if doing so allows you the opportunity to attend district workshops with other teachers. You could also think about working as a para-professional/teacher’s aide for the same reason.

Enhance your skills and qualifications. Focus on courses that will lead to additional endorsements to your teaching credentials. While the job markets in individual states vary, many schools seek teachers who have additional coursework in special education, ESL/ESOL, Spanish, gifted education, reading, math and science. Check with your local college for areas with a high demand for educators, and find out what you may need to add to your certification/license. In some states, regional education offices offer free, or low cost, professional development seminars. If possible, attend these events and add them to your résumé. In addition, the NEA offers learning options at a discount to members through partnerships featured in the Professional section.

Consider a private school environment. You may not teach in your primary area of teacher certification, but you are gaining more experience. Many private preschools need part-time teachers, so you may be able to work part-time and get low cost or free care for your own children.

Become a tutor. There is growth in private tutoring businesses, so you may be able to work as a tutor for a company in your city. You may also find work as a tutor for a school district. Additionally, you may want to consider starting your own tutoring service.

Relocate. Moving is difficult for some teachers, but a move to a Sunbelt state that is still facing teacher shortages can be a great career step. Remember that you must get your teaching license for that state in order to be qualified to teach there. A state’s requirements are available online from the state’s department of education. Use a public search engine or visit NEA.org for a list of the 50 state departments of education.

Look into the business world. Many companies have internal training and development departments to teach employees about everything from computer systems to compliance procedures. There are also companies that specialize in offering training to large corporations. It is possible large industrial, insurance, technology or pharmaceutical companies in your area have a training department or check your local yellow pages for training companies.

Consider job opportunities at libraries and community colleges. Libraries and community colleges need employees who can teach, do research and help clients. Many community colleges also need part-time instructors, and may hire them as late as the first week of class. If you have a master’s degree, you may also want to consider being a community college adjunct instructor. Ultimately, you may be able to sub during the day and teach two nights a week at a community college.

Work at a college or university. This may be the time for you to earn your graduate degree. Some universities offer free tuition if you work 20 hours a week for them. As a teacher, you may qualify to work as a tutor, a student teaching supervisor or a teaching assistant. Contact local colleges to find out what positions may be available. Working in student services or student recruitment keeps you tied to current events on campus as well.

Expand your horizons: Teach abroad. If you have the flexibility and are in search of an adventure, consider going abroad to teach English for a year or two. Many jobs are available in Asian countries for English teachers able and willing to work and live abroad. Most recruiters for international jobs are searching a year in advance. So reach out to recruiters early even if you are only considering this as a distant possibility.

Monitor your online profile. As you prepare to apply for jobs, be aware that many employers may also look online to see what they can find out about you. It has become common for school employers to go to Facebook and MySpace to see if you have a page. If they find one, it is likely they’ll read it and include its contents in their overall assessment. Pages with inappropriate messages, pictures or videos may prevent you from getting an interview. Screen and edit anything that is posted online about you. A simple Google search and a review of your friends’ and colleagues’ social networking pages is a good place to start. Learn more about using social media to your advantage.

Once hired, keep good records. Once you are hired, or re-hired, keep records for creating your next portfolio. Sample lesson plans, a curriculum map, student work samples and proof of completion of professional development workshops should be kept. The next time you need to job search, you can update your résumé and make a new portfolio very quickly by pulling out your records.

Dr. Mary C. Clement is a professor of teacher education at Berry College, northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. Her research on the hiring of new teachers has received national recognition.

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