Posts Tagged 'job search'

I Applied to TFA…and Got Rejected

Teach-For-America-Logo.pngBy Amanda Szramiak – I know what you’re thinking. I’m writing for the Marquette University Educator Blog, and I applied for Teach for America. I’m a disgrace. A teacher failure. Before you make your judgments, let me explain my thought process.

I too, struggle with Teach for America as an organization. A program that allows anyone to be the teacher in a classroom? I don’t think so. I’ve spent the past five years preparing to be an effective educator. My coursework coupled with over two hundred hours in an actual classroom have prepared me to successfully teach…or so I thought.

During my inquiry in contemporary issues course last semester, we had to research a topic in education and write an op-ed about our opinion of the topic. I decided I would research Teach for America because I felt so passionately about it being an insult to teachers. I thought this would be an easy topic to research and discuss because I knew I was against it. Well, my research and a few conversations with a fellow MU education student made me rethink my adamant opinions.

A dear friend and colleague of mine (who attends Marquette and is currently student teaching) applied and received a Teach for America position last semester. We were having a conversation about our research topics, and I told her all about my woes with Teach for America. Ironically, she told me she just accepted a position with them. Embarrassed of voicing my opinions thinking hers, as a fellow educator, would be the same, I asked her why she decided to join TFA when she could more than likely get any job teaching without the organization. She explained the struggles she faced when applying for TFA, which resembled mine. We discussed her TFA plans, and once I heard them, I knew it was going to be hard to be so against the program like I once was.

Like all research, you learn a lot. Once my research was done and I had to write my op-ed about the program, I was stuck. While I don’t agree with the fact that a TFA teacher receives six weeks of training, there were some aspects that were appealing to me. I could teach full time while simultaneously getting my master’s degree. Their core values of closing the achievement gap by providing educational equality completely align with my opinions on education. Not all those applying to TFA have the background I do, so I really would “Be the Difference” in the program. I decided the pros in applying outweighed the cons so I started my application.

I became so immensely excited about all the things TFA could bring to me. I know I want to teach in an urban setting, but I want to get out of the Midwest. With TFA, that could easily happen. TFA and their relationships with master programs could help me narrow down what I want to specialize in. When you apply for something, you become invested in it, and I became excited about being a Teach for America teacher.

Once the application part was over, I was invited to a phone interview. It seemed to go well despite the awkward interruptions of being on the phone and not seeing the other person. I had to wait a week to see if I was invited to a final interview, which I unfortunately was not.

Getting an email saying that I was not cut out to be a TFA teacher was definitely hard to swallow. I began to question myself not only as an applicant but also as a teacher. Even though I used to be strongly against TFA as an educator, it was difficult to accept the fact that I wouldn’t be one. I eventually realized the competiveness of the program, and I decided to not let it affect my ability to teach. I still want to be a teacher and provide excellent education for all, and my rejection from TFA only strengthened my desire to do so.

Professionalism in Education: Much more than dressing for success

dress-for-successBy Joel O’Brien — A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with sophomore education majors about the importance of professionalism in and out of the classroom, as they prepared to begin their field experiences.

During this presentation it became clear that professional dress is the first item that students link with professionalism. While dress can play a significant role in establishing a professional image, it is only one of several factors that make up professionalism, below are FIVE additional factors that every educator should consider, as they begin their teaching career.

1)      Make a good first impression to other constituents in the school. Make sure to utilize good eye contact and a brief, firm handshake when introducing yourself to others. These factors demonstrate a sense of confidence. Additionally, putting a smile on your face and simply acknowledging people in passing exudes a sense of positivity, which can go a long way when building professional relationships with colleagues. Additionally, provide yourself with plenty of time to ensure that you are on-time or early to your field experience.

2)      Show initiative; do not wait for your cooperating teacher to always ask you to do everything.  This is a fine line for new teacher, but it is important to always be asking your cooperating teacher “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”  Such questions are indicative of motivated individuals that want to learn and do a job to the best of their ability. However, make sure to always ask what the instructor needs assistance with in order to avoid “going rogue” and offending your cooperating teacher.

3)      Utilize effective communication both verbally and electronically when interacting with teachers and administrators. If you do not understand a procedure within the classroom or school, make sure to ask the cooperating teacher or a school administrator, as this is an important tool in learning and developing professionally.  To learn more about appropriate email etiquette visit the following MU Career Center Blog.

4)      Monitor your online presence. Do not assume that anything you post is private, especially in the age of camera phones, where you can be photographed or video-recorded and on the Internet without even knowing it. Whether it is fair or not, perception is reality so make sure to use good judgment when determining which social situation you choose to put yourself in. Conducting a Google search of your name is a solid method for evaluating your online presence.

5)      Express appreciation toward your cooperating teacher. Most cooperating teachers do receive much compensation for being a mentor. It is important that you express appreciation for the experiences that they allow you to gain while in their classroom.  Whether you viewed the experience as positive or negative, a small gift or handwritten thank you note is always appreciated.  Furthermore, these small acts can be beneficial when asking individuals to serve as a positive reference during the job search.

You Were a Student Leader… So What?

So whatBy Joel O’Brien — While at the Midwest Association of College and Employers Annual Conference in Chicago last weekend, I had the pleasure of interacting with colleagues from across the region and discussing best practices in career services.

Following the conference, one specific conversation and phrase about articulating previous experiences stuck in my head when a fellow colleague inquired, “So what?”

During career counseling appointments, I enjoy reading resumes and cover letters that highlight the wealth of leadership, service, and work experience that students accumulate while attending Marquette. While students are generally able to describe these experiences well on paper, the greater challenge occurs when I question students about the significance of the position. For instance, if you are the president of student government do not assume school administrators will automatically connect it with transferable skills such as communication, organization, and leadership.  Even if experiences look great, one must ask what value this experience will provide during their next job. You might also imagine a school administrator asking, “So what?”

While this might sound a bit direct and to the point, it can be helpful when considering the relevance of experiences and the specific skills associated with them.  I experienced this challenge firsthand when making the career shift from secondary to higher education.  Rather than breaking down the specific teaching skills that would be beneficial as a career counselor, I mistakenly assumed that higher education administrators would know what a high school teachers does…. They were all in high school at one point, right?  Wrong…. After a couple of unsuccessful interviews, I reflected more about how my previous experiences enhanced my skills and made me a viable candidate for career counseling positions.  Rather than simply presenting myself as a former secondary teacher, I also made sure to focus on specific skills that I developed while teaching and provide context through examples.  Highlighted skills included:

  • Communication and collaboration skills when working with students, parents, and colleagues
  • Presentation and facilitation skills implemented during classes and staff meetings
  • Creativity and effective decision making skills when planning and executing lessons
  • Integrating technology (e.g. iMovie, Google Documents, and MS PowerPoint) into the curriculum in order to maximize student engagement and presentation skills.

You might be asking yourself, what made me focus on these particular skills?  To put it simply, these skills were desired qualifications listed in the job posting.

  • Able to work effectively in a team environment and collaborate with on-campus constituents
  • Experience with delivering presentations and creating effective programming
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office (e.g., Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)

Through carefully reviewing job postings and reflecting upon your own experiences, you can confidently respond to “So what?” by intentionally articulating your skills and past experiences in a way that directly relates to the desired job. When implemented effectively, such strategies will eliminate questions in the minds of administrators, as to why you are the most qualified candidate for the position.

10 Costly Mistakes Commonly Made By Teaching Candidates

MistakeBy Joel O’Brien

At the surface level, the job search process appears fairly basic in terms of submitting a resume and cover letter.  However, there are additional underlying factors evaluated by administrators during the job search process. As a result, candidates unknowingly make costly mistakes that eliminate them from consideration. Below are 10 mistakes routinely made by teaching candidates during the job search, as reported by Wisconsin school administrators.

  • Answering questions dishonestly/omitting criminal background violations and misrepresenting certification and licensure qualifications.
  • Making a one generic cover letter that you submit for all teaching positions.
  • Inserting “see resume” when filling out application questions.
  • Failing to proofread or update job application materials.
  • Using unprofessional email addresses (e.g.,
  • Going into an interview without first researching the school district(s).
  • Submitting resume without including or describing student teaching experience.
  • Dressing casual for interviews or career fairs (Dress for Success- Suit is best option).
  • Posting inappropriate information on social media.
  • Including academic buzz words without concrete examples / understanding of concepts.
  • Failing to follow-up with employers after an interview (Send Thank You Note/Email).

Hopefully you are now more aware of the criteria utilized by school administrators to evaluate teaching candidates and can avoid making these mistakes yourself.

Going to the Source: School Administrators’ Advice for Teaching Candidates

Top-10-Primavera-Interview-questions-and-Model-AnswersBy Joel O’Brien — Throughout the course of my first-year working at Marquette, I have been privileged to sit down with several area school administrators and discuss the skills and qualifications that they are seeking in teaching candidates. While answers varied slightly based on the individual school administrator and the specific needs of their districts, below are action steps they consistently recommended for teaching candidates:

  • Your application must be complete. Failure to do so will eliminate your candidacy.
    •  Read and follow application instructions (e.g., required documents)
  • Update your application, so it reflects your current experiences.
  • When completing your resume, include key information such as your certification, teaching experience, leadership/diverse experience, and technological skills
  • Application materials should contain NO SPELING ERRERS
  • Language used during application should be student-centered, focusing on the impact of your actions on others rather than simply stating what you did.
  • Be careful with copy and pasting….  Address documents to the correct district
  • Do your homework, know information about the school districts, and demonstrate thaknowledge by customizing your cover letter and resume accordingly.
  • Experience descriptions should highlight key words such as desired skill sets.
  • Tell an authentic, consistent story about your experiences and philosophy as an educator rather than disconnected brief answers.
  • Field experiences are appropriate to include, especially if the experience is unique.
  • Highlight specific experiences, skills, and programs avoid generic language and buzz words.
  • Positive references from administrators are very valuable (Develop rapport)
  • Reach out to individuals (e.g., friends, family, teachers, and administrators), informing them about your job search….  You never know who may be able to help you!

Hopefully these insights give your application the competitive edge during the summer job search!

If you have additional questions about the teaching job search, Marquette University students and alumni can schedule career counseling appointments or mock interviews with the Marquette University Career Services Center at (414) 288-7423.

Little Things Make a Big Difference: Positively standing out during the teaching job search

stand-out-in-the-crowdBy Joel O’Brien — As another academic year and student teaching comes to a close for graduating seniors, I cannot help revisiting my graduation six years ago.

For many, this period of transition is filled with uncertainty, anxiety, and excitement.  It was no different for me as I wrapped-up an undergraduate career filled with learning, relationship-building, and professional growth.  While graduation brought closure to my undergraduate experience, it also meant directing my full attention to the teaching job search, which had been in motion since February.

Throughout this blog, I will discuss three strategies for standing out during the job search process and earning interviews.

1)      Utilize Effective Language, Never Assume that Administrators Know Your Experiences

When reviewing teaching resumes, it is common to see words such as “worked, helped, and assisted.”  While these words do not seem harmful at first glance, they can be quite detrimental to candidates’ chances of being selected for an interview.  They do not allow administrators to see the skills developed and implemented by the educator in the classroom. Instead, consider utilizing strong action verbs such as led, managed, created, and collaborated, which provide specificity to skills demonstrated during an experience.

Similarly, remember that every other candidate applying for a teaching position has student taught. Do not assume simply including student teaching will make you standout. Consider incorporating items such as teaching strategies implemented, technology used, parental contact and involvement, and student assessment into your bullet points. Providing brief, but specific examples within your resume and cover letter is essential to developing the credibility necessary to earn an interview.

2)      Maintain Relationships with Mentors and Administrators
In his April 13th Marquette Educator blog, Matt Olinski offers very sound advice about networking with administrators and collecting letters of recommendation. While it is crucial to establish relationships and obtain references from individuals that can speak positively and specifically to your skill sets and experiences, it is equally important to maintain these relationships both during and after the job search.

This could mean sending a monthly email or grabbing a cup of coffee to touch base and update your references and other contacts within your network. With this being said, never assume that networking will directly result in a job being handed to you, but it can significantly increase your chances of being selected for an interview, which is essential in a competitive job market.  Put yourself in the position of an administrator, would you be more likely to interview a candidate that you know only on paper or someone who you personally know their background and strong skill sets?

For individuals searching for teaching positions during the summer (like I did), it is crucial to make sure that you have the best contact information for each reference once the school year ends. For many references, home (cell) phone and address may be preferred over school contact information, make sure to ask their preference. It is difficult for someone to speak positively on your behalf if administrators are unable to reach them.  Most importantly, remember to thank references for their time and efforts, as they are not obligated to speak on your behalf, but voluntarily do so on their own time.

3)      Get Involved: Volunteering, Coaching, and Substitute Teaching
Despite being later in the semester, one of the best ways to positively stand out is through becoming involved within districts of interest. For those currently student teaching, the best opportunities may exist within your current school district. There are few things that an administrator values more than a candidate’s willingness to demonstrate initiative. It is irrelevant whether the opportunity is paid or unpaid. Rather focus on skills developed and demonstrated when describing experiences to administrators. Great opportunities exist through literacy and after school programs, music/art departments, athletics, etc.

For past graduates, substitute teaching is a great way to develop additional experience and versatility through teaching a variety of grade levels and subjects. Furthermore, substitute teaching can also be a great audition for anticipated full-time teaching openings. Occasionally, individuals gain long-term substitute teaching experience, which can occur for a variety of reasons (e.g., illness, maternity leave, etc.). These experiences allow teachers to instruct the same classes for extended periods of time and are great opportunities for building relationships with faculty and administrators while also gaining credibility within a building. In addition to versatility, these experiences show commitment to the school district and its mission.

Hopefully you find this information to be beneficial. If you have additional questions or are seeking career counseling, Marquette University students and alumni can schedule a career counseling appointment with the Marquette University Career Services Center (MUCSC) by calling (414) 288-7423.

Online resources for education majors are also available on the MUCSC Webpage.
joelobrien_BlogPrior to pursuing his Master’s of Science degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education, Joel O’Brien taught American history and government while also coaching basketball and golf at a Catholic high school in Iowa. As a graduate student, he completed multiple practicum experiences in career services and academic advising while serving as a graduate assistant within academic support.  Upon finishing graduate school, Joel joined the Marquette University Career Services Center Staff. As a career counselor, he enjoys empowering students with the self-knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to take ownership of their career exploration and job search process, and find meaningful employment.

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.


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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