I landed my first ever lead teacher job at a job fair in Portland, Oregon. I traveled a few hours, got a hotel room and was at the convention center bright and early on the first day of the job fair. Attending this job fair was a great choice for me because the world was my oyster and I was able to get a job before I even left the event.
Job fairs are excellent opportunities for student teachers to connect with school districts, ask questions, and learn about the school district.
Here are a few tips I can offer for job searching at a job fair.
- Plan Ahead: Register ahead of time and get your resume uploaded if the website allows this. Registering ahead of time will allow you to maximize your time and not waste it waiting in line to pay and get admission into the event. A recruiter might reach out to you to set up an interview during the job fair if they are able to access your resume ahead of time.The fair website will tell you (most) of all the school districts participating in the job fair. Plan which districts you want to connect with before you go. Most likely you will be standing in line to drop off your resume at each district’s designated area (usually a few tables) and have a minute or two to talk to a representative for the district. Planning ahead will ensure you spend your time wisely at the job fair.
- Come Prepared: Bring many copies of your resume. Most of what you will do is drop your resume off at different districts so make sure you have more than enough copies ready before you go. Also bring copies of letters of references, a portfolio or e-portfolio link. Examples of lesson plans, and even videos of you teaching on a tablet or laptop. If you catch the eye of a job employer, they may set up an interview that day or the next day. Make sure you have all of your materials ready so you are prepared to interview on the spot or shortly thereafter.
- Dress Professionally: A nice pressed suit is good for both men and women or a conservative looking dress, skirt and blouse will also work well. I made the mistake of wearing high heels to one job interview which was located in a huge convention center with cement floors. After a few hours of standing in line and walking around, my shoe choice started to take its toll. If I were to do that over again, I might slip a pair of flats into my bag for a quick change.
- Lead With A Positive Attitude: You may be the teacher with the most experience at the job fair, but one thing you can control is your attitude. Lead with enthusiasm and an open-minded attitude. Stand out among the hundreds of other teachers by being bold, allowing recruiters to get to know a bit about you and that you would be a great, positive addition to their teaching team.
- Follow up: Shoot an email to the HR manager immediately after an interview or meeting and hand write a letter to him or her. A hand-written letter stands out; even if you were unable to get the job, you might in the future when you gain more experience.
- Cast A Wide Net: If you have flexibility to move for your first job, then do it. The best thing I did was move out of state for my first job. My home state wasn’t hiring teachers due to a recent ballot measure that had just been passed. As a single, unattached young woman, I decided to take a leap of faith and move for my first teaching job. I was able to get a job teaching in Palm Springs Unified and spend my first year “cutting my teeth” in the desert as they said down there. Many of my peers who stayed in their small district were not able to get teaching jobs for 1-2 decades. They remained substitute teachers or teacher assistants while they waited for a job to open up. If you are unable to make a huge move, then cast as wide of a net as you can. Look at neighboring districts. You may have to drive a bit your first year or two and the experience you get will help you work towards landing your dream job in your dream district when the time comes.