Learning the lessons from teaching job hunt
Q: I qualified as a primary school teacher last year. I’ve spent the last few months sending out CVs, but to no avail. Some of my friends are saying I should call into schools, rather than sending on CVs, but I think that might only make a nuisance of me to the principals. I’ve only got a few days subbing along the way. Even though I have applied for about eight longer-term positions (maternity leaves, mainly), I have only got called for one interview, and I didn’t get the job. I’m beginning to despair. Any tips? (DR, email)
A: It is a very frustrating time for newly-qualified school teachers who are trying to get by on a day here and a day there - but I suspect from the tone of your email that you haven’t really accepted the reality of the current situation for people in your position.
From my experience of dealing with newly-qualified teachers over the past number of years, the ones who are getting on are the ones who are getting out there. I would disagree with your decision to send your CV via the post rather than calling to schools in person: I think nothing beats the personal touch in this area.
You can call into a school, and make an impression, particularly in smaller schools, without becoming a nuisance. Teachers I have dealt with in recent years say they generally get a very warm and positive reception when they call to a school with their CV – and, in many cases, the few minutes interaction in the corridor or schoolyard can lead to a few days of subbing work, and later to snagging a prolonged role covering a maternity or sick leave.
Your CV might be the best CV ever written – though your strike rate would suggest otherwise to me – but it’s still only a CV. There’s little to beat the impact of meeting someone face to face, shaking their hand and commenting positively on their school, and asking them to bear you in mind if they need any subbing cover.
Know something about the school (the name of the school and of the principal would help, at the very least, but you should extend your knowledge beyond that – nothing that you wouldn’t learn by some googling of the school night before). Build rapport in those few minutes and you could be onto a winner.
Tell them you are available for a day’s subbing at the drop of a hat. Let them know if you get the call, you will be there, no ifs or buts.
Some things to avoid:
• Don’t over-stay your welcome – principals are busy people and they haven’t all day for talking to you;
• Don’t come over all ‘woe is me, tá mo chroi briste’ – in those few minutes, it is better to convey the impression of someone who will bring light, not darkness, to the school environment;
• Don’t beg – respect the principal’s right to contract whoever they so wish for subbing days.
Building up your subbing days is crucial. It stands to you when you compete for longer periods of work. I also believe you need to have your CV looked at: it may be doing a bad job for you. Is it too short or too long? Does it under-sell or over-sell you? Are relevant pieces of information left out? If you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘CV checklist’ in the cover line, we will send you a useful checklist that will guide you through the process of getting your CV into better shape.
Sli Nua Careers (www.SliNuaCareers.com) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883), Mayo (Crossmolina & Ballinrobe), Dublin, Limerick and Athlone. Their services include CV preparation, interview training and career direction. For more details, visit www.slinuacareers.com/galway