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Job Search Tips for Experienced Teachers

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The Career Corner blog received two questions related to job search woes from highly experienced teachers.

Question: I am a mid-fifties professional with seventeen years of experience in special education and math who is currently unemployed. I was squeezed out of a district with a mandate to hire young, cheap, local talent. I know that math, science, and special education teachers are in high demand. What can I do to make myself more marketable in California, where budgets are tight and experience is a synonym for expensive?

Question: I am an educator of 15 years with my masters in education. I moved to a new state 5 years ago and cannot find work. Principals tell me that I am too expensive and that they can only hire teachers with 3 or less years of teaching experience. I sub but that is not fulfilling or much of a pay check. What do over qualified teachers do in this situation and economy?

Response: Both questions focus around the idea that experience equals expense and that school districts are finding themselves forced to make hiring decisions that are seen as the most low-cost for their districts, which would equate to hiring teachers with less experience. In considering these questions, I would suggest: a) broadening one's job search to include bigger districts; b) considering non-traditional positions; and c) taking a new look at networking.

As noted by two school district HR representatives, who are members of AAEE, expanding the job search to include larger school districts may help to increase chances of success for a more experienced teacher.

* I think the answer will depend on where to concentrate your job search. Smaller districts may have to look at the budget in selecting candidates; however, most large districts are still looking for the most qualified candidate available, regardless of cost. In my district, the person who interviews and selects is different from the person who figures salary and offers the position. I would recommend that you concentrate your job search in large districts where cost may be viewed differently. - Jack Kronser, Aurora Public Schools, CO

* Both cases are very dependent on local situations. In most of the larger districts the principals (those interviewing and recommending the hire) don't know what salary their teacher will make because that is the responsibility of HR. Most districts will, however, limit the number of years they will accept depending on the position. If you feel that your opportunities are limited because of economic situations you may have to broaden your search for a job to areas where more opportunities exist. - Todd Fukai, Cherry Creek Schools, CO

Beyond expanding the job search to larger districts, a more adventurous option may be to explore non-traditional career paths. Having significant experience in education is an asset and has likely allowed for the development of a wide variety of transferable skills that would be relevant in many professional settings. Consider doing some self-reflection on your strengths and career interests and conduct some research on education-related career paths you may be interested in, such as corporate training. Explore different career paths through previous blog postings on this site; use O*Net online (try the advanced search tab to search careers based on interests or skills). Additional options may inspire a broader job search, or simply reinvigorate your education-related job search with some added self-knowledge and a feeling of versatility.

Finally, as many have alluded to in other posts on the Career Corner Blog--networking is key! Subbing may be frustrating as far as pay, but may house a wealth of networking opportunities that can help provide some insider information when a new position opens up. Plus, in working in a district you have a chance to make a positive impression. Treat each day like an interview, and one day it might become one. No matter what, own your experience. Having years of experience and/or an advanced degree is not a liability--it is a testament to your hard work and is part of the value you can contribute in a teaching position. Articulate solid examples from your previous experiences that highlight the great skills you can bring to a classroom. Have these examples ready to share--you never know when a networking opportunity will pop up. Also, keep evaluating yourself. What new skills might you develop and what opportunities are available to help you develop these skills? Maybe it means volunteering for a cause you are passionate about or presenting at a conference, but even when you have significant experience there are still opportunities for growth. Sometimes it is the effort of putting yourself out there in a new way that can refresh your resume or lead to an unexpected job opportunity.

-Kristin Nisbet-White, Assistant Director
Career Center, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois

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