Networking and Attending Job Fairs
Networking and Attending Job Fairs
“Word-of-mouth” is one of the best ways to discover job openings. Over 70% of teaching jobs are filled through personal contacts and networking. This is one of the most important things you can do to find job openings and get a teaching job! Learn more about networking.
Begin early to build a familiarity with and a network of principals, school staff, district staff, and teachers, so that you can become aware of teaching positions before they are officially advertised. By the time a position is advertised, there is a 90% chance the administrator has already identified who will fill it. Through networks, you open doors to opportunities. The more options you create, the better chances you have for finding the perfect match for your skills and interests.
Where and how do you build this network?
- Ask your parents, family members, friends, and friends’ parents to list for you and talk to anyone and everyone 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 listservs that you may belong to (various organizations, professional groups, and churches have these) to let it be known that you are looking for a teaching position.
- Speak to teachers you’ve met during field experiences and student teaching. You can get inside information by talking with teachers from the school where you student teach.
- 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 all semester often know fairly early which schools may have openings. Don’t forget to share and ask for information from other student teachers and recent graduates.
- Join professional networking websites, especially LinkedIn, which can be an excellent way to tout your accomplishments and goals to the online world. Sometimes it isn’t what you know, but who you know, and being “linked” to someone impressive in your field can never hurt. Use LinkedIn’s tutorial to learn how to build your profile and then start linking!
- Go to Job Fairs. Some of these are face-to-face, but many are now virtual. Read about Attending Job Fairs below and learn how to take advantage of these opportunities starting at least a year before you are actually looking for a job.
Please note that this does not mean simply posting a generic message on Facebook that you are looking for a job for next fall. It means you actually talk to (by phone or in person) each of your present and past friends and explain what you have been doing and what type of position you are seeking. Then you give them an e-mail and phone number where they can reach you if they hear of anything at all. Get their e-mail and send them a résumé and a broadcast letter so they will have it handy to give to their contacts. Write and mail them a note to thank them for taking time to listen to and help you. This will help them feel more committed (and remember) to help you! This will be time-consuming, but it will be worthwhile. Don’t forget that one of the ladies in the cafeteria or an instructional aide may be a valuable source of information.
The career center (placement office) at your college or university and the office of student teaching receive and post advertised teaching positions as well as job fair announcements. College Career Centers used to be called Placement Offices, because they assist students with their first job placement after college. The services of your college’s career center/placement office 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, so use the expertise you or your parents paid for!
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. Most importantly, these services are probably offered online now. Just go to your alma mater’s website and click on “career center”!
Also consider participating in online communities, blogs, and discussion boards geared toward your particular 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 be different from when you were in school, so this is a good way to learn the current terms and what they mean. Creating yourself as an “expert” in a certain subject will go a long way toward making you appear more credible when it comes time for an administrator to choose a candidate to interview.
Watch the video Insider’s Guide to Getting the Job You Want to gain more information about networking and enhancing your candidacy.
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 the majority of 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; she’s your friend and can be your advocate if she is positively impressed by you.
- Leadership experiences. It’s not too late to volunteer at a school, in an after-school program, or at a camp! Join a professional group on campus. Become active in your Kappa Delta Pi 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.
- Ability to 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—don’t let it slip because you are almost done. Don’t forget to list your GPA and your KDP membership on your résumé. And include all the roles you’ve played and what you’ve learned as a KDP member.
- Success in working with children. This has to 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
Most principals will spend less than a full minute on your résumé. It is very difficult to distinguish one person from another on a few bullet points. A great broadcast letter allows you to display 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! (See the list in the Preparing Your Résumé)
Learn the components of a Broadcast Letter and how to use it by watching the video Insider’s Guide to Getting the Job You Want and open the Broadcast Letter so you can read it while Dr. Leibman talks about it. Presenter Dr. Peter Leibman uses his extensive experience as principal and assistant principal in helping his graduates get jobs in record numbers.
Don’t forget to 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.
Attending 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 HAVE to get a job. Attending a fair early in your teacher preparation program can lessen the sense of being overwhelmed or intimidated later when it really matters. Gathering information about school districts and networking before your senior year will ease your eventual job search.
Download and read:
Novice Notes – Polishing the Apple: Six Steps to a Shining Job Fair Performance
Novice Notes – Teacher Job Fair Tips
Teacher Job Fair Tips
Top 12 Tips for Making the Most of Job Fairs
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 to you like a face-to-face job fair during particular hours on a specific day, 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.
The American Association for Employment in Education (AAEE) has very helpful blog posts on virtual job fairs:
Virtual Job Fair Advantages and Tips
Conquering Virtual Career Fairs (Part 1)
Conquering Virtual Career Fairs (Part 2)
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 fairs are generally considered to be an early opportunity for prospective teachers to become acquainted with local hiring districts. The majority of 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 displayhe 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 also a 3-minute speech and some questions you want to ask. Don’t be a wallflower or a mouse; 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 fairs are generally all-day events, held in the gymnasium of one of the schools gymnasium, where individual schools in the district are represented by their principals and maybe a teacher. Whole counties are now holding job fairs at the fairgrounds. These work the same way, but have representatives from each district or school. You need to “work the room” at an on-site fair, by signing up for an interview with the district’s central administrators and meeting the individual administrators. Every conversation you have 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
What should you wear? You want to look neat and reasonably conservative. No piercings (other than an earring or two per ear for women) or tattoos should show. No heavy make-up, expensive jewelry, overly short skirts, or overly high heels. Do not show too much skin. See samples of how to dress.
Overall, 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: A woman’s suit should be conservative in color and style, the skirt knee-length or longer. Slacks are acceptable as long as they are tailored and match the suit jacket, and classic pumps of 1-2 inches look best with either choice. A conservative style extends to accessories also. 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 have to carry, the easier it is to manage your load, shake hands with your interviewers, and even make notes while standing up.
Men: Men, you can’t go wrong with a conservative approach. A dark suit with a white or matching shirt and a conservative 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 is appropriate for either sex 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 for the fair. Locate the restroom and check your appearance. Orient yourself to the site 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. Go it alone. 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. Remember that you are on display. 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 letter to your interviewer(s) within 24 hours, thanking them for the opportunity to interview for the school’s opening. Following up an interview with a message of thanks shows professional and personal courtesy. Handwritten notes personalize your message, but pen your thanks on 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.
Your 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 Web site 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. Additionally, a Teachers-Teachers.com account will help you keep track of all the districts to which you have applied.
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 on a teaching position by phone, e-mail, or in person, be polite, patient, and understanding. You don’t want to burn any bridges.