The Complete Guide to Finding Your First Teaching Job
Teachers have an extremely desirable skill set, but new graduates without much teaching experience must convey their potential with an engaging application package and strong interview skills in order to land their first teaching job.
Here’s a guide to help first-time teachers line up everything they’ll need to enter the field of education.
Have a teaching application package ready to customize
Before you even begin the hunt, it’s important to put together a solid application package comprised of the following:
- Cover letter
- Teaching portfolio
Your cover letter should be specific to every job you apply for, but you can create a template with some constants you want to communicate to all future employers: your strengths, your philosophy of education, and your passion for teaching.
Your teaching resume should lead with the most relevant parts of your experience. For new teachers, that’s your education and teaching credentials. Standard resume advice applies to teachers as well: keep descriptions of jobs and related experience concise; use action verbs; and make sure your font, format and text are professional-looking and free of errors.
In addition to teaching experience, DePaul University suggests including interactive field and education-related experience on your resume. Interactive field experience is any classroom activity where you worked with students, and related experience can include tutoring, coaching, or working as a nanny.
You will also want to highlight any secondary certifications, professional organization memberships, volunteer experience, or professional development that helps you stand out from other applicants.
The teaching portfolio you created as an education student can grow as you build a career. Your portfolio should contain a teaching philosophy statement and a variety of documents that demonstrate that philosophy and its results. These can include:
- Descriptions of courses or subjects you’ve taught
- Lesson plans
- Student evaluations
- Handouts and assignments from classes you’ve taught
- Students’ essays or creative work
- Professional development courses
- Workshops you created or helped present
Washington University in St. Louis advises keeping a large amount of portfolio material on hand and making selections from it to fit each job you apply for.
Be prepared to modify these documents to reflect specific minimum and preferred qualifications of the jobs for which you apply. A specifically-targeted resume, teaching philosophy, and cover letter can significantly increase your chances of landing an interview. Future employers like to see how well you might fit in their organization, so be prepared to tailor your qualifications to their exact needs.
Teaching job search: Research and networking
Gathering background information on a school — as well as a little networking in the area — can give you a deeper understanding of what these employers might be looking for. Knowledge of a school’s unique challenges or strengths shows an employer your eagerness to participate in their school culture.
Once you have your application package, consulting the wide variety of databases for open teaching job postings will help you find open positions, but don’t be afraid to rely on a network of contacts as well. If you’ve substitute taught in the past or have a variety of contacts in different area school districts, spread the word about your job search. Networking can open doors or establish contacts and references you may not have considered before.
A new teacher’s secret weapons: Substitute teaching & professional development
New teachers may want to consider substitute teaching during their job search. It’s tough work and often offers only per-diem pay, but it will help you establish administrative and teacher contacts, expand your teaching experience, and familiarize an administration with your abilities, flexibility, and overall qualifications.
It’s also important to consider what type of certification or professional development makes you a unique candidate. This information will be included in your resume or teaching portfolio, but it is also something you can continue to expand during your job hunt. Be prepared to share specific learnings and applications you’ve made during professional development.
Including outside training or certification will increase your attractiveness as a candidate, particularly if it translates into specific value in areas a school or district might focus on such as technology, retention or team teaching. If you see a particular skill or teaching area emphasized in several job posts, consider taking a related massive open online course (MOOC) or other free teaching resource to add value to your application package.
Preparing for your first teaching job interview
Once your resume and teaching portfolio are in their best possible shape and you’ve established a solid network, you can prepare aggressively for the interview process. Confidence is essential during face-to-face interviews for teaching jobs, and solid preparation with deep knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses is essential. When future employers ask questions, be prepared to give specific answers to a variety of topics like classroom management, technology, differentiated instruction, and your vision of your place in their school.
While content will certainly be a part of the interview, employers will also be looking to see how you can fit into the school culture. If the interview includes a teaching demonstration, be sure to speak to your demonstration in your interview. For the demonstration itself, ensure that you are comfortable with your presentation and illustrate your ability to extend learning to every type of student in your future classroom.
Looking for a teaching job is daunting, but ensuring that your application packet is well-prepared and that you are ready for interviews increases the likelihood of landing a full time job as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to consult your school’s career center for further help or to call upon the knowledge of professional friends and acquaintances – in addition to helping you establish networked connections, they can help you through the difficult task of applying and landing your dream job.
Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.