How Are You Different? Tips for the job search

By Matthew Olinski — As we enter the homestretch of the university school year, many people are about to leave Marquette to begin careers in their chosen fields.

Consequently, this time of year makes me think back to my days as an undergraduate student — and the ways in which I built up my own resume.

differentiation-fish

As a social studies education major–and there were plenty of us from schools across Wisconsin — it was vital that I make myself stand out as the candidate that would be the best choice. I remember going to job fairs and standing in line with copies of my resume in hand, and then sitting in front of someone for a relatively quick interview with a long line of people behind me.

What could I do to make myself stand out as the person they wanted to hire?

To be completely honest, I didn’t succeed in making this happen in the majority of situations.  But, I did put resumes out to numerous districts. Ironically enough, after accepting my first contract as a middle school social studies teacher, I was subsequently offered two other jobs.

The first piece of advice I want to give to job seekers is: do something that makes you stand out and that is important in your field.

My examples included being trained and up to date in CPR.  This is always a beneficial skill to know when working with others. You never know when or if you will need to use it (and hopefully you never will), but it is something I did to make myself more marketable to my employers. I also had experience, beyond student teaching, in instructing both children and adults through a Parks and Recreation class.  I made sure to reference these additional experiences in my interviews, selling them skills that fell outside of teaching social studies.

A second piece of advice: as I learned over the course of my field work and through time talking to administrators, you absolutely need to get to know the school district you are applying to. 

If you are in the interview, and they are asking you questions about specific teaching strategies, apply them to the school district to which you are specifically applying.  Every district and every school has a web page. Look at it a few times to examine their mission statement is and learn about their philosophy on education.  Not only does this information prepare you for an interview, but it offers you a preview of whether or not that school and that district is really a place you want to work.

Third: Get your letters of recommendation early, and get them in order. 

Someday you’ll be a teacher, and students will ask you for letters of recommendation. When high school students ask me for this information, I request that they give me more than a few days notice.  It is only right that you do the same for the people you are asking.  Not only are they likely to be very busy people, they probably have multiple people asking them for letters of reference.  Also try to get a variety of people for your references. Your professors, your field work teacher, and a principal at the school are all good choices.

All in all — get out there. Differentiate yourselves. And put your best foot forward. You’ll be glad you did when the job offers begin to roll in.

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