Seven Steps to Landing Your First Teaching Job

Hello teacher friends! Are you or someone you know looking for a teaching job? Can you believe that back in the early 90s it took a total of eight long years to finally land the public school teaching job I have now? Every summer, instead of relaxing, I was consumed in what I jokingly referred to as THE GREAT JOB SEARCH. But really, it was no laughing matter at all!!! 

Securing your future and finding your first teaching job is serious business. I am here today to share some words of wisdom and helpful tips that I give to my student teachers to help them land their first job. Some schools are beginning to hire NOW so I hope this will be a great starting place for new grads or those looking for a different teaching position.

It’s no secret that getting a teaching job can still be pretty tough, but great positions do exist and they are waiting for YOU!!! Here’s how to find them and make yourself stand out from the thousands that are actively applying!

Following these seven tips can help you secure the job you’ve always dreamed of!

Teaching is a profession unlike any other for the simple fact that you usually have one narrow window of opportunity each year to get a job or you are basically unemployed. You are beginning your great job search with realistic expectations but are hopeful anyway and you should be!

Even though the competition for teaching jobs is fierce, many districts are growing and many are hiring as a result of teacher retirements. Start your search looking in the district where you did your student teaching, but then move on by looking for school communities with new construction or in areas that have many veteran teachers employed. Most schools post their positions on their district website or via a portal so check them as often as you can. Apply EVERYWHERE for each position you find that you are qualified to teach, even if you think you don't stand a chance! Once you go through the application process- be ready!

When the time comes, it will be important to WOW interviewers with your experience, knowledge, positive personality, enthusiasm and your outstanding credentials. Create a fabulous resume and cover letter, gather up transcripts, certification documents, exam results, letters of recommendation, student work samples from your placements, a philosophy statement, creative lesson plans, photographs of your activities in action and anything else your university recommends that will help establish your qualifications.

Your portfolio can be your chance to SHINE so be sure it’s a masterpiece. Even though you may have spent countless hours putting it together, not every employer will ask for it or even care to see it. Consider a digital format or leave your portfolio behind for a few days so interviewers can browse through it at their leisure. Bring loose copies of your important papers and a few extra copies of your resume in a leather folder or a nice case. Often it is a team interview and they appreciate when you have enough copies for everyone present. 

Tip: Have your interview outfit planned and ready in advance if possible. When deciding what to wear, choose a professional looking outfit that makes you feel confident and fabulous! It should be something you can be comfortable in and be able to wear again. Think about what you might put on for an open house, conferences or an awards night and that would be perfectly acceptable interview attire. 

Good things are worth waiting for but that also means not waiting around for something to come your way. Starting each day with a “great job search” TO DO LIST is the best way to stay focused and be productive. Make a list of tasks you want to accomplish each day, whether it involves networking, viewing job postings, attending job fairs, or submitting applications.

Sometimes it is who you know that puts your application at the top of the stack. Keep in touch with teacher friends and administrators from your student teaching and field placements. When you get wind of a possible position, a good word on your behalf from a colleague might just open some doors. 

Tip: If you have a chance, hand-deliver your resume to administrators at schools nearby and introduce yourself. Some principals may discourage this, but others will appreciate your initiative. You may even be interviewed right on the spot!

Is it your dream job? Probably not…but substitute teaching enables you to stay connected with school administrators and fellow teachers, and offers perspective employers a glimpse of your teaching abilities. Being a guest teacher in a variety of classrooms will give you more insight as to how other teachers organize and structure their day and lessons. Adding subbing to your list of experiences also demonstrates that you are flexible, have a good handle on classroom management and that you are able to work with students of various ages.

If you do sub, leave a business card as a calling card. Many teachers have the ability to request their sub. Being a familiar face around a building is a great stepping stone to getting hired.

Tip: Collect ideas and activities you like from the classrooms you visit. Jot them down in a notebook or keep a hard copy for your files.

Teachers are lifelong learners so you will want to continue to develop your teaching skills and learn as much as possible about current best practices and successful strategies! While you wait to land that ideal job, attending professional development or seeking additional certifications will make you stand out as a candidate.

Tip: Learn all that you can (for free) from teachers you admire. Ask to sit in on a lesson every now and then. You can also read blogs and tutorials from teachers who share their experience and expertise.

You may have fallen in love with the district that is close to home or the one in which you did your student teaching, but try to be open to other options too. Certain states are aggressively recruiting teachers. Seek them out and be open and ready to relocate if necessary. 

Consider applying to a small private, religious or charter school. These positions typically pay less, but the experience you will gain is priceless! 

Tip: If you have the option to relocate, choose wisely because you may find yourself there for the length of your career.

The key to successful interviewing is to be confident and relaxed. Panel interviews are common so be mentally prepared to walk into a room with several teachers and administrators. Answer questions honestly and be genuine and sincere. If there is something you cannot answer, be truthful about it, but be sure to let interviewers know that you are resourceful and motivated to learn. When it comes down to choosing between equally qualified candidates, administrators often consider which person would be the best fit for their student population and staff. While speaking professionally, let your eyes sparkle and your personality shine!

Most school districts structure interview questions around specific topics—such as differentiated instruction, best practices, lesson planning, technology integration, and classroom management. Be ready to discuss them and be able to answer WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF…scenarios. Ask teacher friends who have interviewed recently which questions you might expect. Be prepared to demonstrate your teaching skills by presenting a lesson on the spot or at a follow-up interview. This practice has been growing in popularity with administrators.

Do your homework! Make sure you’re well-informed about the school and district where you’re interviewing. Research things like test scores, school ranking, per pupil funding, demographics, special needs programs, enrichment programs, extra-curricular activities, points of pride and level of parent involvement/support. It is also helpful to show familiarity with the local community and surrounding neighborhoods.

Tip: After each interview, get out a notebook and jot down the questions you were asked, especially those that may have been challenging to answer.  The next time you interview, you can reread them and think through your responses in advance. Yes! You may have several interviews if you are lucky! Always send a thank you letter. 

You didn’t get into teaching for the money of course—but having a job you enjoy that actually pays a decent wage would be nice. With the job market being somewhat saturated, often times, new graduates find themselves accepting positions that are a foot in the door so to speak. 

If you do not land your first teaching job right out of college, consider accepting a position as a substitute teacher, a paraprofessional, a tutor, a child care supervisor or the coach of one of the school’s teams or clubs. Volunteer in classrooms, at after school events or help out with special programs in your local school. Better yet, initiate the start of a NEW program!

 Out of sight sometimes means out of mind… so be visible as much as possible! Whatever you decide to do to make ends meet, be sure that you continue to work with children or young adults in some capacity. 

So... as you begin your job search for the upcoming school year, it is important to be prepared, be informed, be confident, be flexible, be focused, but be patient! Disappointments may happen along the way, but with determination, you will eventually land the job of your dreams!
Follow your heart and keep at it!

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