Use Your College Career Center!
Many, if not most, of the postings to this blog recommend at one time or another the use of the career center at your college or university. That's such an important suggestion that it merits its own post - so here it is!
The career advisors at your college know what employers look for, because they interact with employers on a regular basis. They exchange ideas with employers and with other career professionals. They are constantly seeking new ways to help you connect with the employers of your choice.
Here are three of the many things that you should take advantage of at your alma mater:
You can find all kinds of resume tips and tricks on this blog and thousands of other locations on the web. Much of that advice is very good. Your local career experts, however, are in constant contact with employers in your area - geographic and professional - and can advise you about some of the likes and dislikes of your target population. Take your resume and an example of your cover letters to your career center (even if you are an alumna or an alumnus) for a career advisor to review with you.
Don't miss the opportunity to practice interviews with a career advisor! If you are still a student, you may have multiple chances to do mock interviews. Many career services offices sponsor mock interview events where employers conduct the mock interviews and provide constructive feedback to the candidates - with no job on the line. This is the kind of practice you want. In addition, career advisors usually conduct mock interviews by appointment as well. In many cases those mock interviews are recorded so that you can see and hear yourself as you review your performance. It's sometimes painful, but that's part of the value. At my university, mock interviews are woefully underused, and I think it may be the most helpful thing that we do.
Most universities sponsor some sort of networking event for educators, some through consortia. These may be receptions, fairs, or interview days. At my university, there is an interview day every semester, consisting of pre-scheduled interviews for positions with school districts. They're the "real thing" (which is why you really want to practice interviewing before you get to the last semester). This event is the chance for our candidates to have multiple interviews in one day with districts of their choice. Your university may hold a similar event.
Fairs, which are more the "meet and greet" type of event, allow you to present your credentials to multiple employers in a limited amount of time, with the hope (or sometimes promise) of interviews at a later time. In any case, keep an open mind about where you are willing to teach. Almost invariably we have a candidate who changes his mind after interviewing with a district he had not previously really considered. Take the opportunity to explore.
So as you begin or continue your search for meaningful employment in education, don't ignore what your career center offers. We do these things for you - students and alumni. Use us.
Kent McAnally, Director of Career Services
Washburn University, Topeka, KS