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How to Nail It at the Job Fair

Jordan Catapano

 

This is the season for visiting job fairs and putting yourself out there in hopes of landing that ideal teaching position. Are you ready? These types of events can be long, arduous, and even a little depressing. After all, once you see that you’re just one of thousands who is competing for a handful of positions, your confidence and patience will feel tested. But hang in there – if you apply a few simple principles, then you have a chance at standing out from among the throngs.

Before the Job Fair

Preparing your resume. The most important document for you to bring is a perfected, polished resume. Make sure that you receive feedback from trusted sources on the information and format of your resume. Also use special resume paper, not the standard plain printer paper.

Preparing your teaching portfolio. You should have an impressive, portable version of your portfolio available. Give it a professional cover, and make sure that you know what’s inside of it very well, so that you can easily flip to any page and show a potential employer your samples. Include a diverse range of examples that showcase your experiences, talents, and work.

Practice your teacher interview questions and answers. The readiness is all. You don’t know exactly what each potential employer will ask; but you can rehearse answers to a variety of teacher interview questions and answers. This warms up your mind and increases the chance that you will have plenty of good responses to anything the interviewers throw at you.

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Prepare a short introduction. “So tell me about yourself” is a likely opener to your conversation with interviewers. Before the job fair, prepare a 20-30 second summary of yourself. Practice delivering it to make a positive, strong first impression.

Prepare questions. Don’t ask anything you can find on the employer’s website. Think of thoughtful, deep questions that showcase how professional and insightful you are.

Plan your strategy. Most people who attend job fairs report that they wish they had planned their time better. Take time before the job fair to study which schools will be there, identify your priorities, and plan out your schedule. This will help you maximize your time.

At the Job Fair

Dress for success. Dress like a professional. Your appearance needs to make a strong, positive impression right away.

Prepare for some long lines. For all of the hype and excitement that comes with a job fair, the majority of your time there will unfortunately be spent standing in just a few long lines of ideal employers. That’s OK – stay positive, make some friends, and wear comfortable shoes.

Be flexible. Despite mapping out a strategy ahead of time, it’s OK to make decisions based on the circumstances. Maintain your priorities, but go with the flow, too.

Network. Everyone around you is involved in the teaching profession in some way, and you never know who you’ll meet. Strike up conversations, exchange contact information, and put yourself out there. It could lead to unexpected advantages down the road.

The Interviews and Introductions

Smile and mind your manners. You need to demonstrate that you are a mature, responsible professional. From your handshake to your smile to your words, make sure that you carry yourself with confidence and politeness.

Have something to stand out. You need to “go that extra mile” to show employers just how desirable an employee you are. Technology is a great way to demonstrate this. I recommend taking time to build an online portfolio, your own website, blog, or other digital medium to show off your ability. Also be a person who works with education in a variety of ways. Most applicants will have rather similar backgrounds – if you have done something that’s powerful and unique, do it and let your interviewers know about it!

This is your opportunity. Remind yourself that every interview is your opportunity to truly make an impression. Other than the short conversations you’ll share with potential employers, their only means of knowing about you is your resume, which is just one in a big stack. Work those interpersonal skills to make personal impression that goes far beyond your resume.

After the Job Fair

Stay optimistic. There’s no reason to get down in the dumps after a job fair. Good work putting yourself out there! Now begins the waiting game – so smile, know your worth, and hang in there!

Say thanks. One small but significant way you can stand out after the job fair is to contact each of the individuals you spoke with and thank them. Sending them a handwritten note is a good approach, but also a polite email does the trick, too.

Job fairs are long, challenging events that often drain your energy and hopes. But they are also brimming with opportunity. If you don’t feel like you hit it off with one employer, there are plenty of others to talk to. It was my attending a job fair that led me to eventually get hired by my dream school: I shared a five-minute chat with one woman from that school, and a few days later received a letter inviting me to come and interview! It can happen to you too!

Are you attending a job fair soon? Ask some questions or share some advice in the comments below! We’d love to chat with you.

Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also sits as the District Leader for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com