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Stand out with E's (appropriate at Easter time)

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Several teacher candidates have asked me, "How can I stand out from the hundreds of other candidates?" "Should I try brightly-colored resumé paper or different-colored clothing?" Of course, these ideas may make you stand out in the wrong way!

To consider the factors that help you 'stand out' as a teacher candidate, keep in mind the missing letter E that has been passed over in the traditional A,B,C,D,F grading scale. You will stand out through your E's - Endorsements/Education, Experience, connection to Employers, Extended Effort, Expertise, and through your Evidence/Examples.

Endorsements /additional Education - You may need to implement "lifelong learning" now and take additional college courses to add an endorsement in a marketable field. (Some of my students have taken just five additional courses for special education certification.) Consider earning 18 credits at the masters level in an academic discipline, so you are qualified to teach dual enrollment courses (through which students earn college credit while in high school), which can help you gain employment in some high schools. And yes, for some districts, excellent grades can help you stand out.

Experience - Candidates demonstrate their excellence through their experience. Of course, your student teaching experience must be highly successful, but what other types of experience can you offer an employer? Perhaps after graduation, you will have to work as a teacher aid or substitute teacher or fill maternity leaves or teach summer school to gain experience on your resume.

Employers - You will stand out to an employer if you have been referred by someone the employer respects, so developing and utilizing contacts and connections in school districts is crucial. Networking is often the most important aspect of your job search, and some tips are given in the previous blogs.

Extended Effort - Several of my students who have successfully landed positions have been extremely hard-working in their job search. They pushed themselves to pursue positions relentlessly over an extended period of time, and it paid off. They researched and knew about all of the local job openings in their field, attended most of the applicable job fairs, applied in a timely manner for district openings, networked with fellow students and professionals, followed-up on every lead, etc, for about a year. For some types of positions in my region, the effort may extend over several years!

Evidence/Examples - As a teacher candidate, you can't just claim your strengths, you must prove them with examples, especially in your interviews and portfolio. Cite examples from your experience in your online application essay answers, and in your brief interview stories or vignettes be sure to use the SOAR or STAR method of describing your situation, obstacle or task, action and result. In some cases, pictures provide the evidence. One of my students was selected to be the 1st grade teacher from among 20+ internal candidates due to the pictures in her portfolio of resources she uses to help students succeed.

Expertise - Gain knowledge above and beyond what you learn in college classes. Research best practices in your subject area or level, and be thoroughly familiar with the latest buzz-words. Even as a student, you should get involved in professional organizations, (ie. National Council of Teachers of English) to learn more in your field and to network with those already in the field. Many organizations have student rates.

One more E that may help you get a job is Expand - Expanding the geographical boundaries in which you are willing to work can make all the difference in gaining employment, as was discussed our blog a few weeks ago regarding being willing to work further from your home (even out of state or overseas).

After reading this, do you earn a grade of 'E'? How will you plan to elevate your E's in order to stand out?

Sara Dahms
Career Counselor
Concordia University Chicago

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