Networking and Job Fairs
Networking is one of the most critical pieces of a job-hunting strategy. Build a network school staff and teachers to become aware of positions before they are officially advertised. These networks open doors to opportunities improving your chances for finding the perfect match for your skills and interests. Learn more about networking.
Where and how do you build this network?
- Ask your parents, family members, friends, and friends’ parents to list and talk to anyone they know who works at a school or has a child in a school (if you want a position in a specific school system, make that known).
- Use social networks (various organizations, professional groups, and churches) to share you are looking for a teaching position.
- Speak to teachers you met during field experiences and student teaching. Get inside information by talking with teachers from the school where you did your student teaching.
- Remember other teachers you’ve observed or worked with, as well as those you knew in school. They may still be teaching, but even after they retire, a teacher’s circle of friends consists of teachers and administrators!
- Have you asked the director of student teaching about positions available? The director and other teacher educators who visit area schools know which schools may have openings. Share and ask for information from other student teachers and recent graduates.
- Use professional networking websites to tout your accomplishments and goals. It isn’t what you know, but who you know, and being connected to someone impressive in your field helps.
- Attend face-to-face or virtual Job Fairs. Read about Attending Job Fairs to take advantage of these opportunities starting at least a year prior to looking for a job.
Don’t post a generic message on social media that you are looking for a job for next fall. Instead explain (by phone or in person) to your friends what you have been doing and what type of position you are seeking. Provide an e-mail and phone number so they can reach you. E-mail them a résumé and a general cover letter to share with their contacts. Send a note to thank them for their time and willingness to help you. This helps them feel more committed (and remember) to help you! This will be time-consuming, but it will be worthwhile.
College Career Centers and the office of student teaching receive and post advertised teaching positions as well as job fair announcements. The services of your college’s career center are there for you, so use them as much as possible. The people in these offices are trained to help you with all aspects of your job search—from writing a résumé to practicing interviewing to locating open positions! Most colleges now offer these services for free to any graduate for life!
Has it been a while since you graduated? Are you returning to the workforce after staying home with young children? As an alumnus, you can, and should, go back to campus and take advantage of the career center. It’s a great way to get help with a new résumé and a new credentials file. Just go to your alma mater’s website and click on “career center”!
Consider participating in online communities, blogs, and discussion boards geared toward your field or specialty. Researching your area of specialty or interviewing other educators in the specialty will give you credible information to post and add greatly to your own knowledge. Terminology may have changed since you were in school, so this is a good way to learn the current terms and what they mean. Positioning yourself as an “expert” in a subject contributes to your credibility when it comes time for an administrator to choose a candidate to interview.
Enhance Your Candidacy
Networking will also help you learn ways to enhance your candidacy. You will learn if schools are looking at people who have more than one certification or if most candidates who are getting interviews have a specific credential or have worked as an aide in that school system.
How else can you enhance your candidacy?
- Professionalism. This includes how you dress and how you treat others, especially your attitude toward those who are giving you information or interviewing you. Be kind and fully attentive. Have a professional e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and voicemail message. Be nice to the school secretary; they can be your advocate if you positively impressed them.
- Leadership experiences. Volunteer at a school, in an after-school program, or at a camp. Join a professional group on campus. Become active in your KDP chapter. Volunteer at your local hospital to read to children.
- Dual certification. This brings you to the top of the pile. Special Education is the best second certification to get. Reading specialist and any certification in English as a Second Language will usually help your résumé stay at the top of the pile.
- Supervise a club or activity. This is always needed, so the ability and willingness to help coach or sponsor a club helps you get an interview. Enhance your abilities and skills. Volunteer to oversee or work with the club supervisor for the club or sport of your choice while you student teach. This will give you a mentor and teach you the ways that have worked in that school.
- GPA and honor societies. Keep your GPA up. It is important to have at least a 3.75 GPA. Include your GPA and your KDP membership on your résumé. And list all the roles you’ve played and what you’ve learned as a KDP member.
- Success in working with children. This must show on your résumé. If you want to be a teacher, prove you have experience with and can work with children. Have you worked at a camp? Do you tutor? Show what you achieved. Talk in your interview about how you showed them you cared. Mention ways you differentiated instruction for your students.
The Broadcast Letter
A broadcast letter is a networking and marketing tool that you can send to a large but tailored group of potential employers. Most principals spend less than a full minute on your résumé. It is very difficult to distinguish one person from another in a few bullet points. A great broadcast letter displays intelligence, teaching or other relevant experience, organizational skills, attention to detail, and an endorsement from a respected mentor. A broadcast letter is different from a cover letter.
Develop a variety of sentence styles (other than subject-verb-object). Vary the length of your sentences. Eliminate prepositional phrases at the end of sentences. Use action verbs!
Include your résumé and a reference list or your three letters of recommendation with your broadcast letter.
Inside information must be followed up as you would any position—by formally applying once the opening is announced. Many teaching positions are posted in local school newsletters and newspapers.
Attend Job Fairs
Job fairs offer you the opportunity to start your job search and gain interviewing skills. Networking at a job fair in a professional manner can be a powerful step toward securing a teaching position.
Not yet in the job market? Attend a job fair anyway. Don’t let the FIRST job fair you attend be the one where you MUST get a job. Attending a fair early in your teacher preparation program can lessen the sense of being overwhelmed or intimidated when it really matters. Gathering information about school districts and networking before your senior year will ease your eventual job search.
6 Strategies for Success at the Job Fair
Virtual Job Fairs
Seek a position from your desktop at a virtual Internet-based job fair. Employers submit information about their organizations and hiring needs. Candidates search for permanent jobs, as well as summer, co-op, or internship positions, and submit résumés directly to employers. You can read company profiles and explore job descriptions, customize your résumé to fit the employer or job opening, and search for jobs in a specific area. If you have a laptop, you can attend a virtual job fair from home, school, or while traveling any time of day. Some are scheduled and have recruiters online to respond during specific hours, but some are done through software and are open 24 hours during a particular range of days.
Virtual job fairs are held by colleges, counties, cities, and states. Some are national, or even international. If you are moving to another location (especially another state) after graduation, these virtual job fairs are a wonderful way for you to find and apply for teaching positions.
Job Fairs at a College or University
A well-established tradition for finding an education job is through college- and university-sponsored job fairs. These are generally considered to be an early opportunity for prospective teachers to become acquainted with local hiring districts. Most candidates will mingle at tables reviewing the available recruitment information for that district. As you walk through the event, look for information about new schools, salaries, and subject areas being sought (also referred to as Critical Shortage Areas).
College job fairs often have recruiters who conduct 10–15-minute screening interviews and collect résumés to take back to their districts. They may be distributing applications or cards with online application materials. Stop and talk with the person working the display¾he or she most likely is the person who will decide if you later get a full interview. Prepare a one-minute sales pitch (expand on your profile on your résumé) and a 3-minute speech and some questions you want to ask. Be confident. Be your own best sales representative! Participate in everything provided.
Attending a college job fair the year before your job search begins will help you determine how these events function so you can be prepared for the real thing.
Job Fairs at a School District
In addition to exhibiting at college and university job fairs, school districts that need teachers may plan their own job fairs. These are generally all-day events in one of the schools’ gymnasiums, where individual schools in the district are represented by their principals and maybe a teacher. Whole counties may hold job fairs at the fairgrounds. These work the same way but have representatives from each district or school. You need to “work the room” by signing up for an interview with the district’s central administrators and meeting the individual administrators. Every conversation is an informal interview! You are onstage all day. Take your paperwork, dress professionally, and turn on the charm! Remember your speeches and be enthusiastic.
Do not be surprised by a group interview. There may be several people interviewing you at once. Or, there may be a team of interviewers talking with three or four candidates at once. Be alert and attentive when a question is asked of someone else, and look interested as well.
Read the Top 12 Tips for Making the Most of Job Fairs.
Dress for Success
A job fairs and interviews call for professional attire. Avoid heavy make-up, expensive jewelry, overly short skirts, or very high heels. Do not show too much skin. See samples of how to dress.
A business suit is the most appropriate apparel for an interview. On both men and women, suits look professional and make a great impression. When you wear professional attire, you are telling an interviewer that you are serious about fitting into the school community. You want interviewers to notice you, not your clothing.
Women: You can’t go wrong with a suit with either skirt or slacks and classic pumps of 1-2 inches. Jewelry should be understated. For example, a small necklace and basic post earrings are preferable to multiple bracelets and large hoop earrings. You can carry a purse along with your portfolio; however, the less you must carry, the easier it is to manage your load, shake hands with your interviewers, and make notes while standing.
Men: A dark suit with a white shirt and a tasteful tie keeps the focus on you as a professional. Save those wacky ties for your students to enjoy once you’ve been hired. Avoid the blazer and khakis look—and, of course, carry your portfolio to the interview.
When attending job fairs and distributing copies of your résumé, it can be handy to carry either a briefcase or attaché case. Remember to take a working (test it!) pencil or pen and paper for taking notes. Save the tote bag for the classroom.
What to Do When You Get There
Acclimate yourself upon arrival. Check in at the registration desk and put on a name tag. Locate the restroom and check your appearance. Orient yourself and locate your preferred districts. Carry your organized materials in your left hand to facilitate shaking hands with recruiters. Speak positively to yourself about your teaching ability and success at the fair. Approach a recruiter from the middle of your preference list to “warm up” before speaking to interviewers from your favored districts. Smile, look the recruiter in the eye, shake hands, and offer a warm hello.
Eye contact is important during interviews. It conveys confidence, forthrightness, and an interest in the interviewer. Don’t be a limp fish! Shake your interviewer’s hand with a firm grip; it indicates confidence and determination.
Stay focused. Though it’s tempting to work the job fair with friends, especially if you arrived together, it should be an individual pursuit. Speaking with recruiters alone narrows the focus to YOU and prevents possible feelings of insecurity or dependence on others.
Listen. Pay careful attention to the discussion taking place between recruiters and the participants ahead of you. You may hear potential questions and gain insights to further help you prepare for your turn.
Recall your manners. Recruiters may be observing you, even when you are not directly engaging them in conversation. Talking on the phone, chewing gum, hanging out with friends, laughing, congregating in corners, or blocking the aisles does not portray a professional demeanor.
Address recruiters by their titles (Dr., Mr., or Mrs.) and last names. Ask the recruiter how he or she is feeling while exchanging greetings. Be considerate of the recruiter’s possible need to take a break and offer a beverage from the refreshment table.
Patiently await your turn, remember to say thank you, and be conscious of where you stand to avoid blocking access to the tables. If a line is long, visit another recruiter and return when the line is shorter. Approach each recruiter with a fresh and enthusiastic attitude, regardless of what transpired at the previous table.
Follow-Up after the Fair
Whether you interview in person or over the phone or Internet, send a thank-you letter to your interviewer(s) within 24 hours. Following up an interview shows professional and personal courtesy. Handwritten notes personalize your message but use business-style stationery for a professional look. You also may type your message as a business letter. An e-mailed thank-you note is a quick follow-up for interviews conducted by phone or if you cannot get a written note out within a day of your interview. In such cases, write a formal e-mail, and follow up with a paper note as soon as possible.
A thank-you letter is the perfect opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position. You are still trying to win a job, so keep an eye on spelling, grammar, and penmanship! If you forgot to get the spelling and titles of your interviewers, look on the school’s website or double-check with a school secretary. To avoid duplicating thank-you letters or, worse yet, neglecting to send them at all, note the dates in your tracking file.
It’s okay to keep in touch with a school concerning a hiring decision—just allow at least a week between your interview and your follow-up inquiries. When following up by phone, e-mail, or in person, be polite, patient, and understanding.