If you missed part I of finding work in education after student teaching, you can find that post here.
Part II: Look good on paper.
I was in the throws of my graduate program: drowning in reading assignments, neck-deep in papers to grade, and attempting to write my own papers. I was really looking forward to a day of meeting professionals in the field. My graduate program had arranged for directors of employment from all over metro Atlanta to talk to each of the graduate students about how to ‘look good on paper.’
Certainly, all of the directors emphasized having a polished resume. I had already met with my mother-in-law, a seasoned vet in education, to clean up my resume. It took plenty of tough love and a few agonizing hours to make the resume perfect….and it was, perfect. I wasn’t terribly worried about what an employer would think about my resume…mostly because I had a LOT of help writing and formatting it.
I was, however, terribly worried about the number of polished resumes that would end up on the same principal’s desk. We are in the middle of an odd time for teaching…while we are being paid an historically low salary, there aren’t too many spots available for the taking. It is a dog-eat-dog mentality. As gruesome as it sounds, I was determined to be the last dog standing.
I don’t think I’ve ever taken more notes than I did that day…listening intently for clues from each of the directors of employment.
As I scribbled furiously attempting to keep up with the advice from these men and women who may eventually hire me in the future, I got a golden nugget of information.
A Cobb county director casually mentioned something about his applicants post-interview etiquette.
“Of the twenty years I’ve been in this position and the countless applicants I have interviewed, I only got two hand written thank you cards.”
Point noted. I circled this. I highlighted it. I wrote down each of the directors’ names and (afterward) looked up every board of education’s address. I would be at the top of those resume piles…come hell or high water.
I wrote personalized, hand-written notes; not generalized e-mails stating a half-hearted thank you. I was genuinely grateful for their advice, and I was certain to include a bit of their advice within the edges of my thank you notes.
You know what happened?
The director of employment of Cobb County reached out to me. He and I scheduled a meeting and I made a very valuable contact. Did I get employed within the district? No. But sometimes, it is all about networking. After all, you never know when you’ll need a contact in a different district. Also, within the world of education, you never know who knows each other. We work in a very small world professionally; your reputation can become an asset or a liability. I’ll talk more about this next week.
I began to attend job fairs and the other directors recognized some of my insignia, as I included my own business card (that matched my website) within my hand-written thank you note. They began to show an interest in me the moment I began talking to them because I was the only one who wrote a thank you note.
How crazy is that? Ten minutes of your life can really make all the difference. We live in an age of instant gratification. We live in the ‘information now’ era. Those that hire us still remember the time when a hand-written note was standard protocol. They remember it and they miss it.
Think about it: is there anything more exciting than receiving a letter in the mail? Even if it is just a letter of thanks, I get a flush of excitement any time I see a letter that has been specifically addressed to me. There isn’t a coupon in sight; just words from someone you love to you.
Here are three ways I’ve found that have helped me ‘look good on paper.’
1. Print out business cards. Sound silly? It isn’t. I am going to write more about (literally) hitting the ground running in your job search next week. Having a business card handy at all times can help you have your website, phone number, and other pertinent information ready to distribute to people you meet at workshops, job fairs, or even in the walls of the school where you have your internship. It shows that you’re forward thinking, prepared, and driven. I can’t think of a better first impression (even before you get an interview) than that.
In addition to keeping some in my wallet/purse, I put a card in each of my hand-written thank you notes as well as paper clipped to my resume. Like I mentioned earlier, it helps you build a consistent brand for employers to remember you. Remember that you are a unique brand; not just a generic teacher. You should market yourself that way. Your teaching style is totally different than mine, which is what makes education so great.
2. Hand written thank you notes to EVERYONE. If I stopped by a school (again, I will talk more about this next week), I didn’t just write a thank you note to the principal. After all, schools do not sustain themselves simply by the leadership of one person. Likely, you’ll meet a secretary, a teacher or two, or a janitor. Take the time to write a thank you note to EVERYONE you meet. This shows a few things. First, you recognize the simple truth that everyone is valuable to the success of a school. Every. single. employee. Principals are the leaders, but janitors keep order; secretaries manage the chaos; and teachers are in the trenches. If you meet someone, chances are, you may be working with them. Also, you never know how much pull a secretary or a teacher has over a hiring decision. If that teacher is respected and the same teacher gets a great vibe from you, chances are, they will take the time to talk to the principal about you.
I would make a habit of writing thank you notes immediately after a job fair, pop-by, or interview. It doesn’t matter if you’re the right fit for that particular position or not, you will begin to establish a positive reputation for yourself if you simply write out a note of thanks.
3. Always have a resume packet ready. My resume includes my job history, reference list, and business card. Because my business card points to an online portfolio, I do not include sample rubrics in my resume packet. Although, if you are called in for and interview, print out screen shots of your digital work, have student samples ready, as well as project rubrics.
Again, we live in a digital age, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking good on paper. Take the extra time and go the extra mile. It makes a difference…trust me.