Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Using a School District's Website to Your Advantage

As you begin a job search, it is tempting to follow the “one resume fits all” approach because it is easier and saves time when you have a variety of jobs to apply for. However, mass producing your resume and sending it to every school within an hour’s drive is definitely not the way to go. The best approach to apply for any job is to individualize your resume and cover letter for each position within a school or district.  Once you have decided what schools you want to apply to, the next step is to visit the school or district website before completing your application documents. It contains information you can use to your advantage as you prepare to start your job search. The following three tips will help you analyze and extract valuable information from a school’s website that you can use to increase your interview chances.

  1. Data –Most schools will include the previous year’s performance data on their website. As an applicant, you should look for the grade issued by the state, along with the current results of the state standardized testing. If it’s not listed on the website, you can find this information on your state’s Department of Education website. Select an area where the school did well (perhaps their reading scores increased) and an area of deficit (maybe their mathematics scores dropped) and incorporate that data into your cover letter. Be sure to compliment the school on what they have done well and then demonstrate how hiring YOU can help them overcome their current challenges and achieve success for next year. 
  2. School Improvement or Mission Statements – Every school will have a mission statement or school improvement plan on their website which drives next year’s performance goals. Investigate these goals and incorporate them into your resume and cover letter. If possible include performance metrics in your documents to show your experiences or successes in these areas. A school will find great value in you as an applicant if you can demonstrate student performance growth in their areas of need.
  3. Networking – Often times it is difficult for teachers to network within a school unless they have the benefit of substitute teaching at that school. One alternative is to find the “Staff Directory” on the website and isolate other faculty members who can assist you. Look for the “Department Chairperson”, “Curriculum Leader” or “Team Lead” for the grade/subject you want to teach. These team leads are the next best thing to meeting with the principal. They know their departmental needs, budgets and open faculty positions. Contact them via e-mail or phone and request to schedule a “job shadow” day or an after school meeting. Use this time to ask them questions about the school, any teacher questions you have and if they think there is anticipated growth in their departments. Leave a copy of your resume with them and express your interest in future openings. Be sure to follow up with a thank you note within 24 hours. If you’ve made a positive impression and a position opens up, the lead can approach the principal with your name and contact information. Remember, you will need to be fingerprint cleared to job shadow a teacher during the day. If you don’t have clearance, set up an after school meeting instead.

Once you have used the above tips and created your resume and cover letter, don’t forget to send it to WGU Career & Professional Development for review.  We’re happy to provide suggestions and feedback for making your application documents the best they can be.  Visit www.wgu.edu/careerservices to schedule an appointment with one of our Career & Professional Development Specialists.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 Professional Development Resources Every WGU IT Student & Alumni Should Know

The pace of change in Information Technology is faster than it has ever been and professional development can help you keep current with emerging standards. Below are four resources for Information Technology professionals to stay up-to-date and engaged.  These informative sites can enhance your knowledge and the skills needed to ensure continued career success.

  1. Dice - Dice is the leading career site for technology and engineering professionals. In addition to the over 82,000 tech jobs posted on Dice, Dice provides tech news, insights, advice, and talent communities. Dice Talent Communities bring together like-minded techs in specific fields and serve a place to follow industry news, access focused job postings, and learn best practices and industry trends.
  2. IT Communities - As an IT professional in the digital age, it is important to tap into and engage with resourceful IT communities. There are numerous communities to choose from and we've listed just a few that might be worth checking out: Bytes IT Community, CIO, Mashable, Github, IT Managers Inbox, ReadWrite, Reddit Technology, TechRepublic, Spiceworks, and Stack Overflow.
  3. LinkedIn - LinkedIn includes thousands of IT-related groups covering networking, applications, hardware, and security. Potential groups to consider joining include: WGU Students and Alumni Official Group, Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network, Cloud Security Alliance, Desktop Support Professionals, The Enterprise Architecture Network, and IT Specialist Group. 
  4. SmartBrief - SmartBrief delivers free, targeted business news and information by industry directly to your inbox. You can subscribe to as many "briefs" as you'd like. Each email brief contains headlines and news relevant to the topic of your choosing. SmartBrief can help keep your finger on the pulse of everything technology. Smart Brief IT subscriptions include: News for IT industry professionals, News for software and services professionals, and Education insights and advances in technology.

Our professional staff is dedicated to your success! Let us help you achieve your career goals. Please contact WGU Career & Professional Development.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Confidence: Your Most Compelling Qualification

You sent your resume and cover letter in for a review to WGU Career & Professional Development and your resume is now beautifully formatted, your credentials are front and center and you have crafted the perfect accomplishment statements. You’re all set for your interview, right? Well…almost. Before you go into that interview, you want to make sure you have your most compelling qualification in place: confidence. True confidence has an amazing way of bringing attention to you as an individual in a way that your qualifications, credentials and past experience on paper, simply cannot. Now don’t get me wrong – of course an employer needs to know that you can do the job and have the proper credentials to back it up – but those are the preliminaries. During the actual interview, it becomes more about the rapport that a hiring manager feels or doesn’t feel as you answer questions, and that rapport deepens when you share who you are and what you have to bring - with confidence. It’s true that some people have a natural confidence but confidence stems primarily from a sense of worth and overall preparedness and so it is a skill that can be developed.

So, if you struggle in the area of confidence, be encouraged! Here are some key strategies to help you engage more effectively with employers and make you a strong contender in the job market.

Do not focus on what you don’t know, what you don’t have or what you consider a weakness. There will always be something you don’t know or don’t have and dwelling on that is a confidence-stealer. Focus on what you do know, what you are proud of accomplishing and what stirs your heart. Write it down, look it over, and speak it out, over and over again. WGU Career & Professional Development has some great tools to help guide you in the process. Take advantage of our free self-assessment tools designed to help you in determining of your strengths.

Be prepared. The more prepared you are the more confident you will be. Preparation means that you have taken time to know who you are and what you value in addition to researching the specific industry, company or role. It means that you have selected popular interview questions, actually prepared answers for these questions and practiced those answers in front of the mirror, friends, family or a career advisor. You have contacted professionals in the field, you read articles, books or blogs daily – you have basically immersed yourself in the thing that you are preparing for. This constant focus and dedicated practice will give your confidence an incredible boost.  The Career Center has several resources that can help you prepare.  Check out the Interview Question Library for a sampling of questions to prepare and then utilize the Practice Interview Software to record an interview. It’s a great way to observe how you look and sound during an interview and identify areas for adjustment. For additional feedback, you can email your recorded interview to careers@wgu.edu. In addition to interview resources, WGU Career & Professional Development offers employer research resources to find relevant articles or company information and informational interview resources to use as a guide to setting up and having conversations with professionals in the field.

Learn from setbacks. An article by Fast Company on job search strategy confirms that how you view setbacks in your job search can impact your overall career success. If you choose to view a setback as a learning opportunity, you can go back over the process and identify areas for improvement. Some key lessons could include reviewing and refining your answers, having a friend or WGU Career Specialist do a practice interview with you using the new information you have acquired and doing a little more research on your selected company. Taking these positive, forward-thinking steps will ensure that you are even more prepared for the next round. So settle in your mind that you will continue to press forward, even after setbacks, and create your own future. This will make it easier to relax and just be yourself, which is a natural breeding ground for confidence and success!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Be Successful at a Virtual Job Fair

We do most things online these days. We shop, we search for recipes, we even look for love through virtual dating services. Why not attend a job fair from the comfort of your own home? Virtual job fairs allow you, the applicant, and employers with open positions, to meet just like at a traditional job fair. Instead of booths or tables, you might meet in a chat room. These chat rooms are provided by online services specifically designed to manage these networking events.

So, let us help you get your career to where you want it to be. Here are some tips:

  1. Research: After registering for the job fair, you’ll probably have immediate access to the companies who will be attending. Take the time to research the company’s background and be knowledgeable about the jobs they’ll be featuring. This will help you to answer any specific questions the company representative may ask and allow you to show your qualifications. 
  2. Stay Connected: As part of your preparation, make sure that your electronics are working well. A day or two before the job fair, check that your internet is solid and strong, your webcam (if using) is up-to-date and works well. Give it a test. 
  3. Prepare Your Space: Make sure that your room or home-office is in order. Get rid of any “visible” clutter from in front of your webcam, just in case the company wants to conduct a meet and greet. Not every company will require camera time, but it’s best to be prepared. 
  4. Look the Part: Again, just in case you’re on-camera, dress professionally. No whites or pastel colors. No patterned tops or shirts or loud ties. Keep it conservative and simple by wearing black or navy, white or cream-colored tops. Accent colors are ok but avoid patterns and any bright, loud colors. They just don’t do well on webcams. Business casual is always a good rule of thumb. 
  5. Go with a Companion: Prepare your “companion documents”. Have your resume reviewed through the WGU Career & Professional Development Center so that you have all of the relevant information at your disposal. You will also want to have any research notes organized and easily accessible. 
  6. Work Your Network: Remember, this is a networking event. Don’t expect an on-the-spot interview. This type of event, like any other job fair, is more about gathering information and building rapport. 
  7. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude: Make sure that you send a thank-you to the company representatives that speak with you. Get their name and email address. In today’s techno-world, email thank-you notes are growing in acceptance. In a survey of more than 500 HR managers, 87 percent have said that an email thank-you is an appropriate method of reaching out to employers after networking events. 
  8. Follow-Up: One great way to stay connected and to follow-up with the companies is to connect with them on LinkedIn. This will allow you to interact with the companies after the job fair, and help grow your professional network. Remember, that the WGU Career & Professional Development Center staff can help you with your LinkedIn profile. Just request an appointment to get started! 

Good luck and happy job hunting!