Tuesday, February 24, 2015

5 "To Dos" Before Leaving DT

As you approach the final weeks of your DT, your excitement is no doubt starting to set in.  You’re almost done your field experience, graduation is right around the corner and you now have some tangible experience to put on your resume.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be almost finished with your requirements!  That being said, now is a good time to reflect on your DT experience and start thinking about your career.  You’ve spent the last nine weeks taking care of your students.  Now, you need to start thinking about what YOU need to help you obtain a teaching position upon graduation. Here are five recommendations for you “to do” before you leave DT:

  1. Collect recommendation letters: Make sure you leave your DT experience with a minimum of three to four recommendation letters in your professional portfolio.  Make a list of faculty members who have seen you teach and can attest to your success in the classroom.  Consider asking your host teacher, clinical supervisor, team teacher, department chairperson, administrator, literacy specialist, guidance counselor, etc.  Assuming your DT is a twelve week experience, ask them for a letter around week nine and follow up with them two weeks later.  Their letters should include commentary on your professionalism, your classroom management, your demeanor with students, your creative lesson planning and your overall presence as a teacher.  Be sure to collect these letters before DT is finished and then write each person a sincere thank you note.  Don’t ever accept a letter of recommendation that you haven’t seen.  If the person can’t openly give you a positive reference, then they probably won’t be a good reference to a prospective employer.
  2. Invite administrators to your classroom:  Be confident enough to invite the principal to observe a great lesson you’ve planned!  After the observation, ask him/her for a quick meeting to discuss the pros/cons of your lesson and ask them what you could improve on.   If they give you positive comments, ask them for a recommendation letter.  If they give you some things to work on, make those improvements, invite them back for a second observation and request a recommendation letter at that time.  
  3. Journal: Take the time each week to write down one or two stories you remember from the week’s events.  Perhaps it will be about a great lesson, a classroom management issue you successfully solved, or it might even be something you wish you could do differently.  As you start to interview, principals will ask you for anecdotal stories to share about your classroom experiences.  Reading your journal the night before your interview will equip you with real experiences that showcase your strengths and also remind you of how you corrected your weaknesses.
  4. Gather Professional Portfolio Contents: It is wise to create a professional portfolio of your educational career to take with you to interviews.  During your DT, there are many opportunities to gather important documents to begin assembling this portfolio.  Some documents to consider: your formal and informal observations, recommendation letters, kudos from parents and students, student work samples and corresponding lesson plans, professional development trainings, photographs of your classroom and bulletin boards, your updated philosophy of education and your updated resume.
  5. Practice Interview: Be sure to schedule a practice interview with your principal before you leave your DT school.  This is your chance to experience real interview questions and to see how you perform under pressure.  At the close of the interview, ask the principal for feedback on your performance. You should also take this chance to ask him/her about their anticipated staffing needs for next year to get an idea if an opening might be available.  If you would consider working at this school as a full time faculty member, be sure to share that enthusiasm with the principal and keep in touch with him/her throughout your job search.  

Before you start applying to school districts after your DT is complete, you should get a professional resume critique from the WGU Career and Professional Development Center.  You want to have professional resume that showcases your best self when you are applying to school districts.  Request a resume review today: www.wgu.edu/careerservices

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Highlight the Value of Your Degree from Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU) continues to prove itself as a forward thinking, reputable, and accredited university that is leading the way in competency-based education. However, there may still be a few employers who have misconceptions or negative opinions regarding online education. Below are a few tips to help address any concerns that may arise.

  1. Share that WGU is regionally, NCATE (teaching), CCNE (nursing), and CAHIIM (health informatics) accredited (depending on your program). Regional accreditation is through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, one of the major accrediting commissions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation given to institutions.
  2. Point out that WGU has nationally recognized programs. For example, in the Teachers College, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recognized WGU’s secondary teacher program as number one out of 2,400 programs.  Also, Accounting Today listed the top 5 affordable online bachelor's degrees in accounting and WGU's accounting program was listed as #1. Even if you are not pursuing your degree in teaching or accounting, these recognitions lend to credibility. Keep an eye on the WGU Newsroom  as there continues to be numerous articles written reflecting the success of WGU programs and the online, competency based model. Pulling tidbits from these articles can be helpful.
  3. Create a portfolio that contains some of your harder tasks and projects worked on demonstrating what you accomplished across different content areas.
  4. Print out a copy of the letter explaining WGU’s grading policy available on the WGU Career & Professional Development website to address any concerns regarding a lack of GPA. 
  5. Highlight that WGU is a nonprofit university and is not in the business of making money. Tuition rates have not been raised for 7 straight years. 
  6. Several programs have you earn industry certifications in addition to your degree. Emphasize how your education through WGU prepared you to successfully achieve the certifications in addition to your degree.
  7. Remind employers how WGU has partnered with several states to help state residents obtain access to quality education.  
  8. Focus on the self-discipline and transferable skills required to earn your degree such as prioritization, time management, goal attainment, and love of learning.

Western Governors University continues to grow and the quality of its students and graduates becomes more and more evident. Employers are seeking WGU graduates rather than questioning the degree.  For those few skeptical employers that remain, hopefully these tips will help you get your foot in the door and provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate how much you have learned! For additional career guidance and support, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Goal Setting: Open Up Your Imagination

It’s the first of the year and many people take this time to reflect on their life and also to think about how to make this year better than years before. New Year’s resolutions abound as people think about health, relationships and careers. I am among that reflective group and as I have done for many years now, I sat down to reflect on the past year and to set new goals for this year in my journal. My philosophy in journaling is that life is already trying to impose limitations on me, so when I write down my visions and goals, I always take the limits off and just write it out the way I see it in my imagination. Your thoughts and imaginations really do influence the course of your life and my life is a prime example. As I went over all my old journal entries, I was simply amazed at how many of the things that I had written down had come to pass. I can clearly see many of my goals and aspirations from my journals in my life today.

At the Career and Professional Development Center, we work with students daily, helping them with proper methods and techniques for creating the perfect resume or cover letter. I advise students everyday on the best way to do a job search or how to connect to other professionals on LinkedIn. These are all very important career tools, however, I find that sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the right methods and techniques and really miss out on the opportunity to let your imagination have some space. There is definite value in actually taking the time to imagine what type of career you want and then setting a goal to reach for it.  A recent article from Mind Tools confirms that two people can have a similar education, ability and opportunity, yet see very different results in their lives and careers. Why the difference? The difference lies in the fact that successful people take the time to think about what they really want and then they take the initiative and set goals that will equip them with the necessary knowledge and tools needed to achieve that success.

So, here are some simple tips that will hopefully inspire you to let your imagination have some playtime and help you get a little closer to your goals and aspirations!

  1. First, take a note pad (or your computer, if you prefer) and just begin writing down what you’d like your career to look like without consideration for any limitations. This is your brainstorming session so let yourself really get into it
  2. Next, write down 3 or 4 things that would need to happen to make your goal a reality
  3. Find a place to put your goal where you are sure to see it over and over again
  4. Every step toward your goal counts, so take a minute to  congratulate yourself every time you find yourself reading an article, checking out a lead or talking to someone who can give you insight into obtaining your goal
  5. Let your dissatisfaction with your current situation be your fuel and keep you motivated
  6. Get it settled in your heart that not making the goal the first or even the fifth time does not mean you won’t make it
  7. Don’t just write it down once. Keep writing your goal and updating it at least yearly and more often if possible
  8. Watch as your goals begin to materialize with each step!

This is the simple method that I used to see many of my goals come to fruition. I always wanted a career in coaching, so every year I would write down in my journal that I would go to graduate school and ultimately get into coaching. I didn’t know exactly how it would work out because there were so many demands on my life but I wrote it down anyway and reviewed it every single year. Each year when I looked over those goals, I would get inspired and I would read a book or look into my company’s tuition reimbursement plan or talk to someone already working as a coach. Writing the goals down every year and then reading it over always inspired me to take some action, no matter how small. I am happy to share that I have achieved success in both of these areas and you can do the same! Yes, there is time and effort involved- as with anything that is worth doing, but the satisfaction of creating the life and career that you have imagined makes it worth it! Happy New Year!

About the Author
Adenike Makinde is a career specialist for Western Governors University. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Social Media Blogs to Enhance Your Career

Social media and networking online can be intimidating. Even trying to find blogs that explain blogs can be like chasing your own tail. Below are a few blogs that will help bring some clarity to the social media chaos. The various sites below were chosen to specifically help WGU students and graduates understand the use of social media when it comes to both job searching and managing your professional profile. Be sure to explore the WGU Career & Professional Development Center’s own homepage for other tips and insights to Social Media mastery!

How to Use Social Media to Land a Job
“I’m not very techno-savvy”, “I don’t want to put myself out there on the internet”, “I’m a private person”. If these are some responses to why you’re not using Social Media as part of your job search, you may be missing out on a huge piece of the action. Many recruiters today use Social Media to network with possible candidates. Miriam Salpeter, who writes for US News & World Report, offers tips on how to use these tools successfully.

Social Media Do’s & Don’ts: 10 Tips for Keeping Your Profiles Professional
Recruiters and hiring managers are now using the web and Social Media to vet candidates for jobs. What will they see if they “Google” your name?  Megan Ruesink is a freelance writer for Rasmussen College and she gives some do’s and don’ts when it comes to your professional presence on social networking sites.

35 of the Most Influential Career Sites for 2014
Here’s a link of a comprehensive list of some of the best career, interviewing, job search and recruiting blog sites. These are long standing sources that are consistently updated and have shown significant expertise in the field.  Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement and a contributor to Forbes.com. He has collected these sites for job seeker’s convenience.

How to Use Social Media for Professional Development
Devika Arora is a professional writer currently focusing on the extensive domain of job search and career building. She contributes to Social Media Today. This blog demonstrates how various social media platforms can help both job seekers and working professionals develop and leverage “personal learning networks (PLNs)” to advance their career goals.