Part of becoming a great teacher is getting a decent job in the first place. There have been a wake of major strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and elsewhere that only seem to be spreading. This raises the question of why anyone might desire to be an underpaid teacher working in poor conditions without appropriate resources while enduring the ire of pundits and provocateurs. If you’re on the path to becoming a teacher or even if you’ve been one for some time, you should ask yourself why you want this job. If your answer includes summers off or health care and has little mention of a deep abiding love for children or a penchant to serve and educate, you really should look into something else both for your sanity and the well-being of your future students. If somehow you’re still interested though, you’ll want to do all you can to get the gig. So at the behest of some fellow teachers, I’m sharing what I have done to create a quality résumé and get the attention of the administrators and educational leaders I wanted to work with.
Where To Begin
Let’s start with the fact that there isn’t really any blanket perfect résumé except for the one perfectly created to garner the attention of the intended reader. That means to get that attention you need to know a bit about the people who will look at it. Find the schools/staff you’re interested in working with and research them to know what they find most important. Yes, you should do this before an interview, but you should really do it before you write or put out any information. Don’t waste your time or that of a prospective interviewer by pursuing opportunities that wouldn’t interest you even for the sake of basic interview practice. So that should illustrate that a résumé is like Step 3 in a 10 part process of getting a decent job. There is some general information you should keep in mind regardless of the institution or the role.
Making It Right
I begin this feeling it is necessary to explain there is a difference between a résumé, a CV, a cover letter, and every other piece of information you may share with a prospective employer. Each has their own purpose. A résumé is meant to function mostly likely a personal highlight reel. It is not meant for you to list every skill you ever learned like playing the piccolo in high school marching band (unless you are applying as a music teacher-see specificity). Save those anecdotes for the phone call, interview, or cover letter, if appropriate. Separately, a CV means they want you to tell more of a story. Feel free to include your personal reflections on the role of a teacher. The cover letter gives you the opportunity to personalize your information even more and why you can say what excites you most about that job and you are personally the most awesome choice for that role. With those in mind, understand that my suggestions are specifically for that respective résumé purpose and that they are merely suggestions based on my experience. You may have a personal interviewer tell you the exact opposite.
- Know the Job You Want – Like I said, a lot of this is relative, but you should put forth the résumé for the kind of job you want. Don’t try to fit yourself in a box or be something you’re not to fit into a job or system that you would likely be unhappy in any way.
- Review for Errors – Seriously, any educator résumé that has spelling or grammatical will rightfully end up in the circular filing cabinet. You should also make sure it’s in a format that’s readable. If this is a challenge for you either get Grammarly or find a friend who knows what to look for.
- Make It Professional – It should generally have a modern, professional look with a clear header and appropriate font and styling choices. You may think creative selections of fonts and arrangement set you apart, but they could just as easily make you seem infantile. Also, you shouldn’t include a photo with a standard résumé. Granted, if you are applying for a creative role then be creative.
- Make It Stand Out – In some ways this is in direct opposition to the idea of professionalism above, but it is possible to accomplish both. How you do that depends on the audience. It doesn’t (nor should it) mean using outlandish color and font choices.
- Make It Relevant – If you’re applying as a teacher, your 3 years working as bartender probably aren’t relevant or helpful. Also, if you are applying as a history teacher in a standard high school, your experience (as awesome as it may have been) potty training preschoolers or setting up remote learning at a university don’t need as much detail. As much as I don’t want to write this sentence, you should try to include the buzzwords of your industry to show yourself knowledgeable whether that is 21st-Century Learning, innovation, IEP, FAPE, or FERPA. Don’t go overboard, but make it clear you know what you’re talking about.
- Tell Your Story – A list of details can be informative, but employers are looking for people they can work with not a list of skills. And as for that list, make sure it only includes essential highlights and not how you kept your pencils sharpened. You want your passion for teaching to be clear above all else.
- Be Honest – I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people getting a job based on white lies they stuck in to boost their appearance, but it only sets a precedent that is likely to catch up with you in the interview or beyond especially when they can see on your Facebook profile that your Doctors WIthout Borders experience is only some poorly Photoshopped pics.
- Exemplify Essential Skills – For teachers, this may include certain technologies, but it definitely will need to include an indication that you are competent in communication (writing, speaking, and listening) as well as the ability to collaborate with coworkers. You’ll also want to show-off your creativity and adaptability, assuming you are all of these things. If not show what you are good at whether it’s curriculum expertise or your work at continuing your education. Discuss any special training you’ve had or, even better, have led. Experience with special education and ESL populations are increasingly sought after.
- Make It 1 Page – Like with any rule, there are exceptions, but this is a rule you should generally stick to. If trimming it to a page causes you to leave out crucial information or switch to 8 pt font, by all means, use two. For most though they would do better with selective pruning of information. Also, understand that it may not get an immediate thorough reading, so make sure what is on it is consequential.
- Cultivate An Online Presence – This means a couple of different things. First and foremost it is about not posting anything you wouldn’t mind a prospective employer seeing or get really good about privacy settings and make sure your connections know. Secondly, it means including relevant social media information on the résumé since they person hiring is likely to check online for you anyway. It is also about creating a network of connections that you can draw upon directly to see what’s available but also to see what is being promoted as important across education so you can keep up with those trends. LinkedIn and related sites can function as résumé, portfolio, and social connection platform in one. Use them.
There are many other steps like nailing the phone call and the interview that I may also address in future posts, but your résumé is about putting your best face forward and garnering the attention of the people you would want to work with. Below are some examples I’ve used that have successfully gotten me in the door and were meant to emphasize my creativity and proficiency with technology. Some of them I got the idea for after seeing similar attempts online, and they all, of course, link to a more traditional résumé for those that would want it. As far as logistically, I used Apple’s Pages software which allows for a lot of creativity in document creation. Hopefully, they can inspire you to get the teaching (or other) job you want.