- Describe your dream house and where it would be, etc.
- What will be the reason you quit this job if you ever do?
- What do you need from our school in order for you to be a success?
- What would you be doing if you were not a teacher?
- Paint a picture for me of a student-centered environment without using the word student or centered.
- What do the best virtual teachers do to ensure their students are learning?
- If you could redesign one thing about schools, what would it be?
- What question haven’t I asked that you would like to answer?
- How do you think culture impacts learning and what have you done about that in your career?
- What famous person would you like to have a coffee with and what would be your first question?
Sorry I haven’t written in awhile. Been super busy transitioning to a new amazing team of educators in a very special country.
No matter how much I write about the unique experience of seeking a job in international schools, I always learn something new that has helped me and hopefully will help you as you venture into this perilous (and exciting) phase of your learning journey.
So, here’s my job seeking primer for 2018. Good luck. And remember, you WILL get a job.
1) The fairs are done before they start. I think you know this by now, but most jobs are filled by January and the top schools are done by Oct./Nov. You should have built a relationship with a school prior to the fair. By the time the fair rolls around, meeting people is usually a formality.
2) Design a clean, clutter free CV that tells a story, not just a list of mundane tasks like everyone else. More text with 10 font is not a better story. There’s no reason you can’t organize your experience by headings such as “Innovation,” “Experiential ed,” or “Personalized Learning,” that matches the mission of the school instead of something that looks like a common app. It takes more work, but if you really want to work at a certain school, they will be impressed to see the alignment of your experiences with what the school values.
3) Check the school web sites that you’re interested in, not just the search agencies. Desirable places like the UWC network and some of the other top schools don’t bother to advertise.
4) Non profit vs. For profit: There’s an expression that the difference between profit and non is that one is resource rich and community poor and the other is the opposite. That’s a pretty good analogy as for profits can be ruthless when it comes to the bottom line, but that doesn’t mean that non-profits are perfect. Make sure you understand the culture of the organization you are joining before you jump in. Speaking to current employees (not just managers) usually is a good indicator.
5) Job jumping=low rating. Yes, there are a lot of teachers that are in it for the travel. From a recruiters’ perspective, a string of 2 and 3 year gigs (or less) is not a good sign no matter your excuse. You should build up a solid foundation of several 4-5 year gigs or longer to establish yourself as a desirable candidate.
6) Social media matters: We all know this by now, but keep an eye on your digital footprint and make sure that it’s compatible for working in schools. Child safeguarding is job #1 of professional school environments and they check.
7) Always give your direct supervisors as references, even if it’s hard. Good schools are going to call the Director or Head even if you didn’t list them as a reference. It’s a red flag when your only references are colleagues, past directors, or department heads. Have the hard conversations if you have to, but list the direct managers.
8) No surprises: Be up front with anything that might be an issue. If you have a child with disabilities, a partner to whom you’re not married, or anything that could be an obstacle for securing a work permit or a job, be up front even if it may cost you the offer. There’s nothing worse for an employer than finding out deal breaker issues after you’re at the contract stage.
9) Visit schools during your holidays just to say “hello” and introduce yourself, even if there’s not a job. As a Principal, I love it when traveling teachers want to visit and see what we’re all about and have a chat over coffee about their experience. Some of my best ‘interviews’ have been with folks on their holiday. They’re real.
10) Be willing to take a pass. Don’t be desperate. Watch for the signs of a bad deal. If a manager gives you five hours to think about an offer or if they don’t let you speak to current employees or are vague about the health insurance, etc. then wait. If you’re good, you WILL get a job. Trust me, it somehow works out, especially if you love what you do and want to make the world a better place. God only knows we need you.
Good luck. I’ve been on both sides of the table and it’s humbling. Keep your friends close, be yourself, don’t be afraid to turn down something if it doesn’t feel right, and don’t ever, ever give up.
This is a difficult and glorious time of year. And I’m not talking about going home and dealing with the family you haven’t seen since summer or gift shopping in Dhaka. I’m talking about those of you looking for work in the next phase of your international adventure.
It’s hard. It’s really hard. Especially as the number of the schools in the world grows exponentially and the education landscape is more complex than ever and schools are grabbing people up like Halloween candy.
Take a breath. A deep breath.
First of all, enjoy the holiday. I know many of you are making a quick holiday exit to one of the January fairs, but take some time away from that email and focus on the most important reasons you are living the life you lead besides job searching. The hunt goes on well into March and even April. (And that doesn’t include hiring in North America or other parts of the world).
So, here’s my survival guide for you staff and teachers and even administrators looking for that next post. I’ve had lots of experience on both sides of the proverbial table and have learned truly what it feels like.
So, here goes…
1) Be clear about who you are and what makes you special as a teacher. In other words, stand for something. This seems a bit odd for #1, but I read a LOT of CVs that seem to say the same thing over and over. Accentuate something that you’re really good at and passionate about and drive it home.
2) Stop job jumping. I know there’s not a lot you can do about that now, but I (and many Heads) skip right past the 2,2,3,2,2, years at posts. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be at a place that you feel is a big mismatch, but you only get one, two max on that one. Otherwise, you really need to come up with a better plan to stick around at a school or have a very clear reason why you are moving on. It’s okay if it didn’t work out but you need to differentiate yourself from the teacher tourists. And if you are a teacher tourist, you are at the end of the line!
3) Personalize your experience by telling a STORY. Don’t just talk in generalities about your skills. And be honest in that story, about your mistakes, your setbacks, your ability to overcome, your generosity of spirit, the who you are and how you handled it. Recruiters love that.
4) Do NOT interview or apply to a place that you cannot envision yourself at for FOUR YEARS minimum. That’s right. Four years. It’s not fair to you, it’s not fair to the kids that deserve the BEST teachers in the world. If in your heart you cannot imagine yourself at the school for a minimum of four years, then find a way to get out of the process. It’s better for everyone.
5) ALWAYS include your Head of School or Principal as a reference. I know it’s hard sometimes, but we recruiters get really suspicious when your only line managers are department heads and coordinators. That sends off a red flag and we call the Head anyway. Yes, we know that there are some mean directors and principals out there, but the reality is that you need to get on good enough terms to put them down on your list.
6) At LEAST read the mission statement of the school and tailor your candidacy towards what you believe the school stands for. I know that a lot of the statements are the same, but you need to familiarize yourself as best possible with how the school presents itself and how you put yourself towards it as a match.
7) Don’t fall in love. Whatever you do, don’t fall in love with a school. If you REALLY want a job, act as though you don’t, or at least that you have other options. Keep calm, present yourself in a light that is balanced and enthusiastic, but not desperate. In other words, SKIP the recruiter/candidate mixer. I’ve seen too many people embarrass themselves at these awkward events and you need to keep yourself together.
That’s all. Best of luck. Stay focused. Remember that if you are good, you’ll definitely get a job. And ALWAYS remember that everything you do is about making the world a better place for future generations, not so you can go mountain biking or skiing.
Best of luck, and here’s one of my favorites to keep you balanced in the search…
So I went for a ski today in my backyard (which happens to be in the Swiss Alps)
and it got me to thinking, as being in a beautiful place can do.
So much happened. So much tragedy. So much triumph. I watched that video above five times and couldn’t get through it without a lump in my throat. Is that what your school year felt like? Was it inspirational? Did it have new beginnings? New frontiers? Or was it just another year with pretty good I.B. scores and relatively happy parents?
After five years in the Alps, I have decided to move on. There were plenty of new frontiers since 2009, many new beginnings, a few triumphs, and definite tragedies. It was a lifetime lived. When I went to see my boss, I told him my goal four years ago was to ‘work myself out of a job,’ to make the people around me better, to hire the best talent I could find, and then to let them go. It was not easy at all, but we finally reached that zenith.
And now after twenty years in the business, I am taking the time to reflect not just on the next position, but the purpose. This is not an easy thing. It’s akin to stepping off a moving treadmill. I’ve been on many interviews and a finalist at three. But something is missing. Everyone seems so earnest and hard working. But the questions keep coming back to the same themes.
“How do you improve I.B. scores?”
“How do you take a good school and make it great?”
“What part does God play in your leadership?” (Yes that was an actual question)
“What are your thoughts on performance pay?”
I guess these are all legitimate questions but in my mind their purpose did not inspire me (even the God question). There is so much going on in the world that is moving so fast, we need something other than the same but “better.” I recall a recent lecture I heard on innovation refer to this as ‘sustainable change.’
Believe me, this is not easy. It is so easy to stay comfortable in international ed. It’s a pretty nice gig. You choose the country, target a few schools, and enjoy a decent lifestyle with pretty good kids. Who wants to change that?
I guess I do. So, while I walk the idyllic, evergreen lined roads of the Alps, wondering how on Earth I could walk from such a comfortable lifestyle, I listen to podcasts like Education Next and Ted Talks Education as well as The Meet Education Project and they get me to thinking…A lot of us are doing our best. But it’s not enough.
I had good answers to the above questions. But it spoke to the position, not my purpose.
Good luck to those of you attending the job fairs this year. Keep that purpose in mind. I know that the beach and those mountains are beautiful. But the students and what they need to make a difference in this crazy world are far more important.
Make it count. The world needs this generation too much. Do it because you have purpose.
I’ll leave Bono and Mary J to say the rest. Have a purposeful 2014.