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Okay – I know I have failed already with one of this year’s target for this blog, but things have changed and because of this so have my priorities. I’m currently trying to develop more of a split between personal and work life, mainly for my own sanity, but also because my activities with my game streaming and the radio station are taking up loads of my time away from work and I don’t really want to complete writing for this blog while ‘away’ from work. Because of this, I am trying to write and hopefully record my waffles at work since essentially I see this blog as part of my professional work life. I’ve planned some time into my calendar and hopefully, if my bosses allow it, I will be able to contribute more regularly once again on this site. It seems strange to be waffling while I am at work, but I am currently taking a break from writing references to eat my ‘wraps’ and write this. This actually leads me onto the topic of this waffle – no, its not about wraps – its about jobs. As I have been writing references it has got me thinking about what would be my advice for searching out, applying for and succeeding in securing that elusive first job.

Near the end of every university year I sit down and write references for the trainee teachers which I have worked alongside with as their academic tutor for the three years of their degree. Gaining that first job is so important and there is a whole plethora of advice out there including templates for personal statements, formulated responses to interview questions and probably, although I have yet to stumble over the website, advice as to what to wear. What I am going to present here is my own humble advice which I have gained through being involved in the interview process for a variety of posts. These are, in fact, only my personal recommendations and should not be seen as a series of steps to definitely securing the job. That is, of course, down to your own suitability for the post but hopefully, these steps might allow you to shine and actually get one step closer to signing on the dotted line.

  • It’s what you know not who you know – Information is, in my opinion, key to applying for a job. We are all individuals and not all jobs are suitable for us. It is so important to ensure that you are applying for jobs which suit you and in which you will be happy working. We might not choose perfectly every time but it is important to initially base your choice of job on this criteria. With teaching, it is important that you match your way of teaching and your philosophy about education to the school/job you are applying for. If you are a creative practitioner who enjoys engaging with the outdoor learning environment within your lessons, then you need to find a school who has a similar attitude to learning. If you are keen on technology then find a school which mirrors this passion. It is possible that the school might actually be looking for someone to lead on a certain element of education. For instance, the school might not be engaging with technology but really would like to and would be looking for a suitable candidate to fulfill this role. This is why it is really important to visit the school and read any information about it. OFSTED reports and websites are a good starting point, but actually visiting the school and talking to the head teacher is so important. It allows you to get a ‘feel’ for the school and also to ask questions about how things work. It also presents the opportunity for hints to be given to you so that might make you be successful at interview. An example of this might just be a small comment such as – “…we are planning on developing this outdoor area in the future…”. When I am talking to prospective trainee teachers at open/visit days, I always get asked the question, ‘Why should I come to YSJ?”. My response is always the same and is actually still applicable for applying for jobs. For the students I pose a question – ‘As you walk around the campus, is this the place you imagine yourself spending the next three years of your life?’ – for you, as you apply for a job, I would recommend that you engage with a similar thought process but relate it more to whether or not you can see yourself teaching in the school for the next three years. If you can, then you definitely need to get an application in!

  • Make it personal – With the number of templates for personal statements flooding the internet all claiming to support a successful applicant, it is sometimes hard to resist the urge to download and find and replace pronouns and surnames in order to create your own personal statement. When I have been shortlisting in the past, it has been so interesting to see how many personal statements actually follow not only the same format but also the same wording. When you are presented with numerous statements to read it is important that you get a feeling that the statement is what it is meant to be – personal. When I read a personal statement I want to get that feeling that I actually want to meet the person it is describing. As I read through the paragraphs I am completing the same thought process which I mentioned in the previous paragraph – can I visual this person working in the school? In order to achieve this personal approach I have some recommendations. First, relating this specifically to teaching jobs, ensure that you include all the ‘important’ aspects of teaching. For me this would include sections on how you like to teach, how you plan, how you assess, how you engage with other adults and how you successfully manage behaviour. It is easy to say how you would do this and even say you would do it in response to the essential and/or desirable criteria from the job application but what really stands out for me, when I am reading personal statements, are the examples which people provide. There is something very appealing when someone states that they believe it is important to use technology since it has a positive impact on learning and then immediately provides one or two examples of their own practice supporting the statement. These examples also mean that I want to meet the person, especially if I would like to know more. Finally, in this section, make sure that you are mentioning what you can contribute to the wider life of the school. This will go some way to make you more appealing and, using a term which was used a lot when I was within the primary sector, what your ‘value added’ is. I used to play the piano a lot in school and I often wondered, before the advent of singing along to CDs occurred, how many times being a pianist actually went some way to getting an interview or even the job.

  • Be bold, be strong – I have many flaws in my personality although one of my biggest ones is my pessimistic attitude to my own ability. I never acknowledge that I am good at anything (mainly because I am not) and rarely agree with positive praise of any sort. To evoke a stereotype, it might just be an English thing, but when it comes to applying for jobs it is not the time to be a shy wall flower at the disco. You need to be bold and strong and put forward your positives and ignore the negatives. Think carefully about the words you use within your personal statement. I’m not suggesting for one moment that you should lie, I’m saying be careful with your choice of words. Vocabulary is open to interpretation and teachers are very good at it – we write children’s reports – what more do I need to say! Avoid words like ‘sometimes’ ‘could’ and even ‘never’ while favouring words like ‘consistently’, ‘effectively’ and ‘positive’. You might, at this point, be saying that you don’t like blowing your own trumpet about your achievements but before you succumb to that way of thinking, consider the following. All the other applicants might have read this waffle (I wish!) and have changed their language and are presenting themselves in a positive manner. Where would that actually leave your application form in the pile for short listing? If you can’t do it yourself, get someone to read it for you and give you their opinion. I always do this and frequently I get the response that not only am I putting myself down but I have also missed out a lot of positives which could help to seal an interview!

  • I could probably write a similar waffle about my thoughts about interview techniques and advice, but I think I have waffled on enough for this post. I do have one very important thing to say however, before I drift back off into the ether of the internet. Never take the job application process personally. Yes I know it is difficult not to, especially when you are applying for jobs and getting no where, but remember the people employing you don’t know you completely, they only know what you communicate to them on a piece of paper or what you say at an interview. That’s what they are forming their judgement on not you personally. Also, and this is important, if they don’t see you working at their school, then you probably would not thrive there due to the differences in philosophies and values. Plus, you never know, the next job which comes available might be the job for you and when you get it, you will be saying how pleased you are.

    Have you been through the application process? Have you employed a number of people? Do you have any advice for people who are applying? I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun and I’ll catch you later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!


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