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Laid-off teachers and first-timers alike

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Question from a reader: With school budgets tight across the country, what are specific things that recently laid-off teachers can do to better their chances of getting one of the few jobs available?

Dear reader,

Several school district human resources administrators who are affiliated with the American Association for Employment in Education (AAEE) have offered responses to your question. Here is a summary of their responses:

A recently laid-off teacher would need to do many of the same job search tasks as a first-time job seeker.

Do your homework - process matters
Research the job openings, but as a part of your research, try to determine the process a district uses to fill their teaching positions. Districts vary in their recruiting and hiring practices. Some rely primarily on the online application system, some recruit many candidates from specific job fairs, and others actively seek referrals from their current teachers. In some cases, principals are the first to interact with candidates, prior to the human resources professionals.

Be the best
Determine who can help prepare you to become the most knowledgeable candidate in the field. You may have experience, but you always have more to learn. School districts strive to hire the best.

Who you know can help
Utilize your connections developed during your time as a teacher, and look for opportunities to build your network with people and districts.

Continue working in the profession or a connected field
Substitute teach, volunteer in some capacity, take a para-educator job or work at an independent learning center. It is important to remain connected to the profession. Your skills may get noticed or you may be in the right place at the right time when a job opens up.

Also consider taking a job in a connected field. Examples include an elementary candidate taking a daycare position or a science teacher working in a laboratory setting.

Willingness to relocate
There are some states and areas that have teaching opportunities in greater abundance. Todd Fukai, Director of Human Resources at the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado, suggests: "Expand your search. Most people only apply within 50 miles of where they are currently living. If you are willing to relocate you might have more opportunities. Smaller school districts may have fewer openings, but also less competition."

Retooling
Some of my first-time job seekers that did not find success during their initial job search have retooled by adding an endorsement in a marketable discipline or teaching area, which opens up additional job opportunities.

Assertiveness versus aggressiveness
As a teacher with experience, you may have seen ways to get around the system. Taking resumes to the building works in some cases, but not others. One school district administrator warns that although you may feel desperate, try not to be too aggressive. You may go from the middle of the pile to the bottom of the pile. Be kind to everyone you meet along the way, no matter what their position may be.

Attend to your needs
A teacher who has lost a teaching position may be dealing with some challenging circumstances, including feelings of loss or rejection, lowered self-esteem or confidence, frustration, financial insecurities, etc. It is important to maintain or seek support (social, spiritual, etc.) and to be realistic about and confident in your true abilities as a teacher or worker in another capacity. Persistence and patience are paramount as you work toward a fulfilling position in teaching or in a different realm.

--Sara Dahms,
Career Counselor
Concordia University Chicago

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