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.

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