Statistics show that 70% of jobs are landed through networking. Chances are you’ve heard of at least one friend or classmate getting recruited from LinkedIn, or scoring a job at a hiring event.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to building your professional network, and strategies often vary based on the hiring landscape of a particular field or industry. As a future teacher, or even a seasoned teacher searching for your next career step, you may discover that what works for a professional at a large corporation or a technology start-up may not work for an educator. That being said, networking is a critical, valuable and empowering piece in a teacher’s career plan.
Let’s explore some strategies to guide you in transitioning from classroom to career.
Job fairs: In a job market where the vast majority of applications are submitted online, it’s easy to feel like an anonymous applicant in a sea of resumes. Job fairs present a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with school administrators, spark a conversation about your skills and achievements, and kindle professional relationships at schools you’re interested in working for.
Every spring, National Louis University hosts an Educator Job Fair showcasing a number of schools and a wealth of career opportunities. Certain school districts, like Chicago Public Schools, also host their own hiring fairs throughout the year.
To make the most of a job fair, be sure to research the attending schools beforehand, come prepared with copies of your resume, and spark the conversation with a personal branding statement or “30 second commercial.” Don’t forget to ask for business cards so that you can follow up with your new contacts.
Tip: Be sure to attend NLU’s Educator Job Fair on March 1st from 1:00-4:00pm at the Lisle campus. Check out more information here: http://www.nl.edu/studentservices/careerdevelopment/careerevents/
Informational interviews: Don’t let the word “interview” intimidate you! These meetings are an opportunity to make valuable professional contacts and learn more about your field. Make sure you come prepared with a list of well-researched questions to lend structure to the conversation. Questions about the school’s overall work environment and advice about breaking into the field are excellent conversation starters.
In addition to adding contacts to your network, informational interviews are also a great way to learn more about a particular job or organization. For example, if you’re unsure of whether a public, private, or charter school is the best fit for you, you can schedule an interview at each so that you can explore what working at each type of school is like.
Tip: Make sure to send a “thank you” email within 24 hours of your interview.
Professional organizations: Associations are an excellent resource for professionals at any stage of their career, but especially newcomers. First and foremost, these groups give you the chance to meet seasoned teachers and school administrators from a variety of different schools. You also have the opportunity to show off your skills by taking on leadership roles or spearheading projects. Additionally, many professional groups offer conferences, workshops, or other professional development opportunities, so you can continue reaping the benefits of your membership throughout your career.
Tip: For teachers, professional organizations are typically focused on a particular discipline, such as Social Sciences or Math.
Social media: The key to social media is to use it strategically. Don’t overly rely on the Internet to find you a job, and don’t passively set up a profile or personal website with the expectation of getting recruited. Instead, use social media to enhance your overall networking plan. Make smart, proactive connections at schools or districts where you are interested in working. Connect with teachers and principals you met during your student teaching days, and college classmates who have landed jobs as full-time teachers.
LinkedIn is a great place to start, but personal websites and electronic portfolios are also quite popular. On LinkedIn, you can use the group search function to join local organizations that host in-person meetings. This helps you transform your online connections into face-to-face professional relationships. Other groups worth checking out are the NLU Alumni group and the Teachers Networking Group.
Tip: Join the NLU LinkedIn group and start connecting with alumni — http://linkd.in/1BWUfSP
Next steps: Now that we’ve explored networking strategies for educators, where should you begin? The best place to start is with a list of schools or districts that interest you. These are your targets. Then use the above strategies to begin building your contacts at each school. A personal recommendation from a teacher in your target school, or a conversation with a school administrator over coffee at a monthly professional meet-up can go a long way in making you stand out in the stack of resumes on the principal’s desk.
Remember: Networking doesn’t end when you secure a job. Continue to expand your professional network, and remember to keep your old contacts fresh. More than likely, you will change jobs or seek a promotion at some point during your career, and having a vibrant group of professionals on your side will ensure you make the most of your future opportunities.