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How to Stand Out Among the Competition

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If ever there was an industry where you needed to distinguish yourself from your peers, it is education. Nearly everyone has identical experience because of state credentialing requirements. Student teaching alone is insufficient because every applicant will have it.

Don't worry though. There are some strategies you can use to stand out. Begin by considering the needs of your readers. For example, many districts emphasize 21st century skills. Make a list of the qualifications districts will look for in an ideal candidate. Then identify the ways your academic journey or professional background can demonstrate your ability to meet these needs. The following questions will help you identify the unique attributes and accomplishments that you can showcase.

1. What is unique about your university's education department? Did you complete more practicum hours than the students at other institutions? Did it included an innovative mentoring program or outreach to rural communities? Did you complete relevant elective courses or a research project? Visit with your professors or advisors to brainstorm some possible attributes that you may emphasize.

2. What was unique about your student teaching? Did you incorporate technology or collaborate on an interdisciplinary team? How did the lesson plans you developed differ from your peers? Did it emphasize multiculturalism or hands-on learning?

3. What feedback have you received? Did your cooperating teacher rate you exemplary in specific areas? What written comments have you received from your instructors, colleagues, parents or students? Include these endorsements in your application.

4. Where have you worked or volunteered? Do not limit your experience to paid employment. It can also include volunteer positions, student organizations and practicum hours.


  • How will school districts benefit from this experience and what will they learn about you? Were you promoted quickly or asked to train new employees as the result of your reliability or leadership? Did you take initiative or make things more efficient? What were you solely responsible for? What problems did you solve? How did you advance the mission of your employer? Provide proof to demonstrate that you not only completed the listed activities, but that you excelled in your performance.

  • Remember to emphasize transferable skills when you describe your work experience. For example, if you were a waitress you will lose your readers if you mention your ability to take orders and deliver food. Mention instead your ability to build rapport quickly with others or to work in fast-paced environment. These activities relate directly to teaching and hold value to your readers.

5. What awards or honors have you earned?

6. Who have you helped? Did you assist an at-risk population that mirrors the demographics of the school you are applying at? Many schools desire individuals who are passionate about helping English language learners, special education or academically disadvantaged students. Mentioning this experience demonstrates your dedication to these students.

7. What work samples do you have? Review your portfolio to confirm that you have included every possible accomplishment.

8. What extra-curricular activities can you lead?

9. Finally, how can you organize your resume to immediately capture the interest of your readers? Can you cluster your classroom activities into a section called "Teaching Experience?"

10. Once you have prepared a draft of your resume, share a copy with an instructor, advisor, or a staff member in the career services office of your campus. They can help you identify any additional accomplishments and give you individual feedback that will maximize your marketability.

What other techniques have you used to increase your marketability? Post a comment below.

Billie Streufert
Director, Career Services
University of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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