7 Teacher Resume Tips: First, Skip the Smart Board…

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I’m generally against resume rules.  I heard one podcast this year where HR folks vowed to never read a resume more than one page in length.  That is a particularly dumb rule and a good example of why people should take all resume advice with a grain of salt –ultimately, it is your blank page (or pages) to tell your professional story.

Now with that disclaimer aside, there are seven tips that would help make stronger many of the teacher resumes I see.  This is pretty specific to educators, but some larger principles apply to anyone’s resume.

1.  Skip the Smart Board.  A bullet point saying that you successfully utilized a Smart Board in your classroom doesn’t tell me much, except that your classroom had good resources.  By itself without any context, this kind of detail suggests that you might think that a relatively minor technological addition to a classroom makes a big difference in a teacher’s effectiveness. Which of course is rarely how teaching works.  Remember, there is limited space on a resume, so what you chose to include over all other possible details telegraphs what is most important to you.

2.  No Substitute Teaching Without Detail.  Just saying you were a sub for a certain amount of time just tells me you were on a sub list.  Describe the length and nature of your assignments, how you integrated into the team, and what challenges you overcame in this difficult role.

3.  Skip Blah References From Ed Professors.  I know a lot of amazing education professors, but I have yet to meet one who does not give an over-the-top positive reference for any of his or her students.  Letters of recommendation that are not specific and balanced is just more paper for recruiters to skip.

4Don’t Tell Me You Create a Safe and Nurturing Environment.  This is a worn phrase that has become somewhat meaningless on a resume and it is also something I already assume that you do, or assume that you think that you do.

5Include Examples of Creative Problem Solving. Not easy to communicate in the quick format of a resume, but doable.  For example, are there specific instructional or classroom management strategies you developed, refined and/or mastered that you can quickly illustrate with a description of where your classroom began and the better place where it ended up?

6.  Tell Me How You Went Above and Beyond.  Specific examples of working with families, in community, or on school-wide initiatives with specific results are impressive.  But emphasis on specific –simply being a mentor or sitting on a committee does not tell much of a story.

7.  Outcomes.  The best for last here.  The more specific you can be about outcomes the better.  This does not have to be just academic performance data –tell me about social/emotional progress, or specific progress you made on classroom culture.

What tips am I missing?  Please jump in and let me know in the comments!

How to Volunteer Your Way To a Job

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A frequent piece of advice for out-of-work folks looking for a job is to volunteer.  What else are you doing all day, right?  Plus, more networking!  However, there is more to think about here than the amount of free time you have and your need to network.  As a volunteer who wants to give back and is also motivated by career goals, this needs to be an intentional effort.  You don’t want volunteer work on your resume to sound like a token effort or the result of limited options.  So, do two things if you want to volunteer your way to employment: (1) carefully select the non-profit or cause that matches your passion and skills, and (2) make as long-term and substantive a commitment as possible to the volunteer opportunity.

Where to Start?

Take you time researching different non-profits to see which ones align with your passions and ethos.  If you are not yet much involved in volunteering, talk to friends who you know are more plugged in.  Next, touring non-profits and volunteering for small projects –stocking shelves in a soup kitchen, for example, or distributing meals– can get you more familiar with the work.  Wait for the right organization to capture your interest and give you the right feeling that you can connect with the staff and clients.

Work Out the Role, and Treat it Like a Job

The next step is to make a real commitment.  You will want to start a relationship with the point person at the organization for volunteer coordination.  If you have a good amount of specific experience, identify yourself as a skilled volunteer, and define how much time per week and for how long you’d like to help with a specific project.  This can lead to work that can be challenging and add to your skills, and in ways that translate to other industries: project management, relationship management, process improvement, communication, etc.  The key is to be realistic on how much you can give, and not to flake out if an employment opportunity comes along.  Any time conflicts down the line would need to be carefully negotiated, so keep this in conversations with future employers if you are discussing promising employment opportunities.  This commitment will only demonstrate further to potential employers that the volunteer work is substantive and that you are reliable.

Too Green for That?  Find a Service Program

If you do not have enough experience to offer yourself as a skilled volunteer, look at formal service programs, like AmeriCorps.  These are commitments of about one year where often a stipend or living assistance, plus other perks, come with full time or part time opportunities for a particular role in an organization, sometimes in a contract form.  Often, these service programs provide great leeway at the host non-profit for what work is possible, so with some initiative there is great potential to develop some of the same transferable skills mentioned above (project management, process improvement, etc).  The commitment piece of programs like AmeriCorps are huge, however –you need to have an honest evaluation as to what you would do if a good job came along that you could only take by breaking the commitment.  If you are not sure you could stick with it (and AmeriCorps is typically an 11 month term), it is not the right choice.  Non-profits invest a lot into training service program participants, and often can only select a small number per year.

These bigger volunteer opportunities can provide a different perspective, a new network, and a substantive piece for the resume where otherwise there might be a gap.  They also come with commitment and therefore some risk, but can be enormously rewarding personally and, especially in the long view, professionally as well.

ABC’s “Nashville” is Killing My Recruiting Game

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Nashville’s city council is getting ready to approve another big incentive package for the ABC tv drama “Nashville” to film in and around town for another season. Everything I read tells me that the concensus is strong: the show is a great extended commercial for the city –an opportunity to get our brand out there for potential tourists, business and talent.

I disagree. I recruit talent in Nashville, often times trying to lure smart people to move here from other cities. This stupid TV show is not helping.

It is shiny and there is a lot of Nashville in it, but this show also reinforces a lot of negative stereotypes about the city and, more importantly, is doing us a real disservice in attracting a diverse and well-rounded workforce. I admit I only have seen a few episodes. But what I remember is a lot of white people driving SUVs between McMansions and country music performances. I have not seen anything in the show about our growing immigrant populations. Characters who are people of color or gay seem like token after-thoughts to the plot. The overall concept for the show is formulaic and safe. Comparisons to the ancient TV series “Dallas” do not help it feel more up-to-date.

Unfortunately, many people outside the South still associate Nashville the city with a boring suburban culture, out-of-date conservative sensibility, and lacking in diversity and inclusion. I need all the help I can get dispelling this stubborn reputation of our actually quite interesting and progressive city. Job candidates from other parts of the country, especially the east and west coasts, almost all ask me about the diversity and culture of Nashville out of concern that they might not feel comfortable here. Much of their impressions are probably from our state’s bizarre politics. But I have found a lot of it is also from more subtle impressions of our culture –people out there often think of Nashville as a city for white, straight people who wear cowboy hats. I will say that the show has painted a more dynamic picture of our town in later episodes compared to the beginning episodes. I hope that if it stay on the air, it delves more deeply into the diverse communities and work happening in Nashville.

The College Major and Your Career

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How does choosing a major impact your career?  I broke it down with some new students at Nashville State today with a discussion about choosing a major.  More than anything, we talked about majoring in something that you are passionate about.  The day gave me a chance to listen and think more about how central the passion thing is for this decision.

First, if you are passionate about your classes, good grades should follow.  GPA can be important early in your career: there might not be much more for employers to go by if you don’t have much work experience.

And the passion goes hand-in-hand with forming strong relationships at college, especially with professors.  The sooner you find a major and courses you are passionate about, the easier it will be to find a favorite professor or two.  Professor relationships = jobs; in terms of on-campus jobs, giving great references, as well as their great networks.  You will find student-professional associations and clubs related to your major too, as well as fellow students and recent alumni from your major who will help jump start your career.

And that network may lead to a job opportunity you would not have imagined.  Often a major does not translate directly into a specific kind of job, so don’t be afraid of the liberal arts majors if that is what interests you.  I speak from experience as a proud English major!

And keep in mind, people change their mind about majors and careers with great success.  So it’s not something to get too stressed out about, just to be thoughtful about.