I’ve been job hunting nonstop for four years. With my nomadic life, whenever I found a job, I always knew it was only a matter of time before I’d have to pack up and leave. I always wanted to be a step ahead, preparing for the next stop in my travels. So even as I graded papers and planned lessons, I was always job-hunting, too. Always.
In every place I’ve lived (six states in five years), I’ve not only found work, but I’ve been blessed enough to stay in my chosen career field despite all my moving. Teaching is not supposed to be an easily mobile profession, and yet I’ve done it. Not all the jobs were ideal. Some were stressful and out of my comfort zone. Others were amazing and heartbreaking to leave.
Now that my nomadic travels have come to an end, I’m glad to finally hunt for a job that I might get to keep for a while. I don’t claim to be an expert. I’m sure there are researchers and expert human resource departments out there that could tell you the real statistics and tips for increasing your chances of finding work. All I can you is what I did, what I know worked for me. So here you go – the job-hunting, career-building secrets of Mrs. Roberson.
- Google Maps.
I plugged in my address (or my next residence, if I was preparing for a move) and hit “search nearby.” I would search for schools, tutoring centers, YMCA’s, and any other search term I could think of that might be interested in my teaching and youth work skills. I copied addresses into a word document, visited the linked websites, and studied commute options. From there, I targeted potential employers to send my information.
- The Unsolicited Résumé.
Based on the results of my Google Map searches, I sent out waves of résumés, whether the potential employer had an open job posted or not (most didn’t). I invested in nice paper and envelopes. I spent hours and many quarters at the library printers and copy machines. I researched each school’s website carefully, and if they posted guidelines for applications, I made sure to carefully follow their instructions. I can attribute at least two jobs to these unsolicited résumés, both at schools that hadn’t posted their openings, but needed a teacher anyway. (Keep in mind, though, that I sent out a lot of résumés. This method is definitely a hit-or-miss strategy with way more misses than hits. But all I needed was one hit to get the job, and that happened twice for me.)
I know, I know. Craigslist can get a bad rap for creepy stalkers and whatnot, and most schools do not post actual teacher openings there. Honestly, though, I actually preferred Craigslist to job-posting sights like Monster.com. Yes, I had to sift through a lot of postings that didn’t apply to me, but I never really found the narrow search functions on sites like Monster very helpful. I found three jobs through Craigslist – jobs that were still in the field of education, helped build my résumé, and paid the bills while I looked for my next big teaching job. Specifically, I connected with The Princeton Review, the educational department of Kelly Services, and one other small tutoring center through Craigslist. I also landed a few other interviews for jobs that I chose not to pursue through Craigslist.
- Drawing Extra Attention to My Applications.
For both Kelly Services and The Princeton Review, I filled out their online applications and sent in résumés in response to Craigslist ads, but in both instances, I’m fairly certain I actually landed the jobs because I called them, too. Sometimes it’s better to really speak to someone to get them to take a second look at you. (That being said, I only did this for jobs that were clearly posted and advertised. When I sent out unsolicited résumés, I didn’t follow-up with phone calls, like some people suggest. I felt that might be overkill for a school that wasn’t looking to hire anyway. Instead, I chose to let my résumé do the work. If they were interested in me, they would contact me. Two did.)
- Social Networking
No, I don’t mean the internet this time. I mean actually using my social life as a networking option. I landed two temporary jobs simply because I talked to people and they knew I needed work. In both cases, they actually didn’t know me very well when they helped me get a job. In Seattle, a friend of a friend landed me a maternity-leave fill-in job at her office. In Miami, a school principal I met at church asked me to come in help at her school for a few months. It’s important to note that this method doesn’t leave any room for pickiness. Niether situation was ideal to my training or interests, but they provided a paycheck and built my résumé. I am thankful for both situations, and for the people who helped me get them.
- Being Bold
I’ve learned the best thing I can do is just put myself out there. I’ve lived through uncomfortable jobs and imperfect situations, and I know I can survive them. I’ve also been absolutely blown away by some incredible experiences in the last four years – experiences that I would have missed if I had played it “safe” during the job-hunting phase. So I just go out there and do what I can. I walk into random high schools and ask to be put on their sub lists. Sometimes the answer is discouraging, and sometimes I jump to the top of their sub list within a week.
OK, this was a last resort, but I’ve used it successfully a few times. I walked away from consistent employment in 2009, right when the economy was tanking, and I needed the extra cash. SitterCity is a website designed to help potential nannies and babysitters match up with parents in need of childcare. It’s free for a babysitter to set up a profile, but if you pay the website $10, SitterCity will run a background check on you and post an icon on your profile letting parents know the results came back clear. Parents like that assurance, and the fee pays for itself after one babysitting job. I landed a few random families that I regularly babysat for in both Seattle and Boston, as well as a part-time nanny position for a few months. Sometimes the only spending money my husband and I had was what I made babysitting, so I really appreciated this resource.
It’s now the end of June and I do not yet have a teaching job lined up for the fall. I won’t give up hope yet, though. There’s still all of July for a school to realize they really do want to hire me, and sometimes I’m convinced that God waits until the last minute to answer my prayers just to make sure I give Him credit. That being said, I do know there’s a very real possibility I won’t be teaching full time. Yeah, that prospect is a little disappointing, but I know I can do more than survive it. I can thrive. I’ve been job-hunting for four years, so what’s one more year? 😉