New Teacher Advocate — Summer 2013
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Preparing For Your First Job
Diana Brannon

Graduation comes sooner than you think! It is wise to begin preparing for your first job at least one year before graduation, because there are many things to do. Your preparation will include:

• Preparing a résumé and individual cover letters;

• Requesting letters of recommendation or references;

• Networking with friends, family members, teachers, and administrators with whom you have worked;

• Registering for and taking state-mandated certification tests;

• Writing a philosophy of education or teaching statement;

• Compiling and completing your portfolio; and

• Practicing for future interviews.

In addition, you will want to begin checking out school and district websites to learn where you might like to apply and their application processes. The more information you gather before actually applying, the easier it will be for you to be efficient in your job search. Avoid becoming overwhelmed looking for a job while student teaching.

On résumés and in interviews, candidates usually note the traits that principals desire in new teachers. These traits include knowledge of content area, ongoing professional growth, teamwork, willingness to learn, cooperation, good social skills, flexibility, good communication skills, organization, instructional leadership ability, and involvement in the school community.

Administrators often ask current teachers to review résumés, write interview questions, conduct preinterview screenings, and participate in interviews. Their recommendations are usually taken seriously, because they will work closely with the new candidate.

In a survey of 70 elementary and secondary teachers, both elementary and secondary teachers rated oral communication, professional conduct, enthusiasm, and interpersonal skills in the top five traits. Rounding out the top ten for elementary teachers were listening skills, teaching knowledge, confidence, writing skills, references, and appearance. The rest of the top ten for secondary teachers included teaching knowledge, listening skills, confidence, poise, writing skills, and leadership potential.

Neither group placed high emphasis on experience or credentials. However, these criteria most likely influence whether a candidate is granted an interview. Appearance ranked higher than qualifications with both groups.

Go to an interview prepared. Pay attention to what you say and how you say it. Professionalism is key! Be a good listener who is able to ask and answer questions confidently and knowledgeably. Practice explaining your educational philosophy, reviewing your teaching experiences, and discussing skills and strategies that reflect your content knowledge. Time spent preparing today will help you get a job tomorrow!

Learn more about résumés, letters, and networking from the webcast Insider’s Guide to Getting the Job You Want by Dr. Peter Leibman at

Dr. Brannon teaches elementary education methods and literacy courses at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, IL. Her research interests include parent involvement, teacher education, and literacy practices. This article, as appropriate today as it was in the Winter 2008 issue of NTA, is being reprinted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of New Teacher Advocate.