Becoming a School Music Educator

[A quick summary, portions reprinted from the April 17, 2019 posting on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/becoming-school-music-teacher-paul-fox/]

One of my goals after retiring from 35 years as an educator and administrator in the public schools was to reach-out to college music education majors and offer some tips and techniques for preparing for this honorable career.

I have assembled a library of blog-posts on a variety of topics at my website (https://paulfox.blog/), and invite you to peruse the section “Becoming a Music Educator” at https://paulfox.blog/becoming-a-music-educator/.

If you are a junior or senior in college, assigned to field experiences or student teaching, or a recent graduate or transfer looking for a job or otherwise unemployed, I hope I can help you!

Please review the following categorized outlines of links to articles and other resources.

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Student Teaching

First stop: Tips on Student Teaching.

Also check out these past issues of PMEA Collegiate Communique:

 

“Secrets” for that First Year

  1. maestro-3020019_1920_mohamed_hassanDiscounted NAfME + PMEA first-year membership: only $90. (If you are a recent college graduate in your first year of teaching, or if you are the spouse of a current or retired NAfME member, contact NAfME at 800-336-3768 or email memberservices@nafme.org) to find out if you qualify for a reduced rate.
  2. PMEA Mentor or other state’s MEA support program for new teachers.
  3. R3 = Retiree Resource Registry for PA music teachers.
  4. PMEA Webinars.
  5. NAfME Academy of numerous videos (only a $20 annual subscription).
  6. Professional development credits just for reading an article in NAfME Music Educators Journal
  7. Model Curriculum Framework (Have to be a PMEA member)
  8. What a deal! PMEA summer conference  as little as $30/person. Check out your own state’s MEA discounts and offers for collegiate members and new teachers!
  9. Numerous helpful blog posts from NAfME Music in a Minuet and paulfox.blog.

 

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Everything… Including the Kitchen Sink

Check out the online resources on the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention website, free/open to all music teachers. Especially take note of the supplemental links on a variety of topics posted here.

 

Job Seekers

A summary of my re-occurring themes on marketing your professionalism and a few “pet peeves” include the following:

  1. Create a multi-media digital portfolio, video recording excerpts of your memorable solo, chamber, and ensemble performances, teaching experiences, and other opportunities you have had in working with children of all ages. To the interviews, bring both a printed version and jump drive (the latter to leave with the screening committee) of these artifacts and a list of your other activities, awards, accomplishments, mission/vision, transcripts, music education and class management philosophies, recommendations, etc.
  2. Take the time to assemble “the stories of your life, work, and teaching experiences” (both successes and the “glitches” or “snags” along the way which you had to resolve) that demonstrate your competencies, relationships with students, personality traits, acquired skills, problem-solving, and maturity.
  3. woman-613309_1920_jsotoBring to any employment screening your resume, business card, and an e-portfolio referencing a professional website which archives everything in #1 and #2 above.
  4. Avoid one-word responses or short answers to most interview questions. Instead, seek ways to incorporate the anecdotes you have made ready at your fingertips (#1 above) that model those characteristics a prospective employer is seeking in a music teacher.
  5. If you want to be the one “in control” of the possible jobs that may come your way, avoid marketing your skills as a “music specialist” (e.g. band director or elementary music teacher). Most degree programs prepare the students for teaching certification in “Music Grades Pre-K to 12.” If you are looking to expand your opportunities, don’t limit your capabilities or options upfront. You CAN teach all forms and levels of music!
  6. music-818459_1920-thedanwClean-up and curate your social media sites, treating your Facebook pages as another “personal branding resource.” Experts recommend that “your profile information should reflect integrity and responsibility… You should expand or add content that projects a professional image, shows a friendly, positive personality, demonstrates that you are well-rounded with wide range of interests, and models… great communication skills.” Source: https://paulfox.blog/2019/03/01/collegiates-clean-up-your-social-media/.
  7. How to your get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! How do you ace your interview? Practice, practice, practice! Put yourself through “mock interviews” and record and later assess your “performance.” Sample questions are posted at my blog-site.

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 Collegiates, welcome to the profession!

“Break a leg” at your employment interviews!

PKF

 

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com:

 

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© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Job Interview Rubrics

Sample “Assessment Keys” for Teacher Candidates

How do “they” judge prospective educators? What skill-sets are wanted and scored?

Here is a sampling of the rubrics or evaluation tools that employment screening committees may use to rank (and eliminate) the applicants they interrogate. Sources listed below, these were found online and represent a wide variety of benchmarks.

Here’s your opportunity to practice answering interview questions – alone, with your college roommate, friends, or peers in music education methods classes or the NAfME collegiate chapter.

This blog-post should be used in conjunction with these past articles on tips, criteria, and questions suitable for hosting mock interview practice sessions:

Be sure to record your mock interview and assess your performance using these forms. Alternate the evaluation with different rubrics. Remember: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!

Good luck! PKF

 

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#2

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#3

Workplace Learning Connection

 

#4

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#5

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#6

Edl.io 2009

 

#7

Baltimore Public Schools (TNTP) Sample Final Eval Form

#8

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Special thanks to the contributions of these institutions:

  1. University of North Carolina Wilmington
  2. West Virginia Department of Education
  3. Kirkwood Community College
  4. North Dakota State University
  5. University of Scranton (National Association of Colleges and Employers)
  6. Edl.io Interview Rubric 2009
  7. Baltimore Public Schools (TNTP)
  8. Davidson School Center for Career Development

 

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

 

 

 

Interviews

READY TO HIRE: Strategies to Land a Job

For all future music teachers everywhere, especially members of a PCMEA or NAfME collegiate chapter, we post these handouts from past NAfME and PMEA music teacher conference sessions, all moderated by Scott Sheehan, Immediate Past President of NAfME Eastern Division and Past State President of PMEA.

As a tradition at the annual state conference, the session “Ready to Hire: Interviewing Strategies to Land a Job” has offered “tried & true tips to assist promising music education majors with developing interviewing skills to successfully land their dream job.” One of the features of the clinic is the set-up of a “hot seat” where volunteer candidates are put through one or more questions in a “mock interview,” and then assessed on their “performance.” The guest panelists often distribute a “takeaway” with valuable tips on interview techniques and questions, and developing personal branding, networking, and marketing skills.

These suggestions are offered as a way to “practice” taking employment interviews.

Best wishes on your job search. Now go out there and “nail” the interview!

 

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NAfME Biennial Eastern Division/PMEA State Spring Conference

April 4-7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA

 

Sheehan: Interview Session Handout

Metelsky: Interview Worksheet

Pearlberg: Ready to Hire Interview Strategies

Fox: Job Interview Playbook

 

 

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Pennsylvania Music Education Association Annual Spring Conference

(various years)

 

Basalik: Ready-Set-Interview

Baxter: Music Interviews

Fox: A to Z Job Interview Checklist

Fox: Marketing Your Professionalism

 

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Additional Resources

PMEA Job Board

NAfME:

Sullivan Interview Strategies that Work

Older blog-posts at this site:

 

Acknowledgments:

  • Sue Basalik
  • Howard Baxter
  • Marc Greene
  • Susan Metelsky
  • Alicia Mueller
  • Henry Pearlberg
  • Kathy Sanz
  • Scott Sheehan
  • Jill Sullivan
  • Lucy White

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

All rights reserved by the individual authors of this material

Collegiates – Clean Up Your Social Media

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Getting Ready to Apply for a Job? It’s Time to Curate Your Social Media!

[Portions of this blog-post were first published in the January 31, 2019 issue of the Collegiate Communique sponsored by the PMEA State Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention.]

 

Have you ever gone on the Internet and searched for your name? Have you assessed tree-1148032_1920_geraltwhat your image (and “personal brand”) say about you on all the social media platforms?

According to a McAfee family safety blog, in anticipation of future employers researching you and everything with your name on it, you should make a concerted effort to “launder” your online presence.

People are watching you right now. Like it or not — agree with the intrusion or not — you are being Googled, judged, and analyzed by the body of content you’ve posted online. Whether you are applying to a college, for a summer job, or even currently employed, you can bet someone who matters to your future is on your digital trail.

 “10 Easy Ways to Clean Up & Curate Your Social Media” by Toni Birdsong

 

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Also recommended by Birdsong, the new “best practice” is to A) clean up any questionable content from all social profiles and B) design your social content in a way that “reflects your best self.” This means you should delete permanently from Facebook and other platforms:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos, or posts
  • Posts or photos that include drinking or using drugs
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.
  • Content that complains about a previous employer or colleague
  • Posts that are overly cynical, grumpy, or mean

notebook-614213_1920_firmbeeInstead, your profile information should reflect integrity and responsibility, so you should expand or add content that:

  • Projects a professional image
  • Shows a friendly, positive personality
  • Demonstrates that you are well-rounded, with wide range of interests
  • Models that you have great communication skills

Think the whole “future employers checking your social media accounts” thing is just an annoying urban legend? Think again.

It turns out that one in three employers have rejected candidates based on something they found out about them online.

“How to Clean Up Your Social Media During the Job Search” by Lily Herman

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The McAfee blog really does a good job summing up ten steps to a better online presence:

  1. Make a hit list
  2. Think like the decision maker.
  3. career-3478983_1920_mohamed_hassanStreamline your selfies.
  4. Review past blogs.
  5. Google yourself.
  6. Inventory all social profiles.
  7. Edit your Twitter feed.
  8. Secure names and URLs.
  9. Change your online persona – for good.
  10. Start a career-focused Blog.

There are many samples for that last tip, my favorite from a former student of mine freely sharing his professional website at daviddockan.com. (Use “Music” for the password.) David included his resume, philosophy of music education, employment history, and photo/video samples of his teaching… a very powerful digital portfolio and marketing/branding technique… and of course, he landed his first music teacher job immediately after graduating from West Virginia University!

online-3412473_1920_kreatikarIf you need more than ten suggestions or a lot more detailed instructions based on the specific social media platforms, check out 30 Quick Tips to Spring Clean Your Social Media Presence” by Yvonne Dutchover.

Related articles previously posted at this site:

 

Employers can learn a lot about you from your resume and interview, but sometimes it takes a little bit more to sell yourself (although there’s a delicate balance between selling yourself and being transparent in the hiring process). Take advantage of the benefits of social media – it’s an often-needed extra step to show what you bring to the table, a way to add flair to your application, and make a lasting impression on your potential employers.

– “How to Clean Up Your Social Media Presence Before the Job-Search” by Lauren McAdams

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In short, keep it clean and professional! “Police” your social media image and brand. And, as they say, “break a leg” at your interviews! Good luck in job hunting!

PKF

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “social media” by Alexas_Fotos, “banner” and “tree” by geralt, “laptop” by JESHOOTS-com, “notebook” by FirmBee, “personal” by geralt, “career” by mohamed_hassan, “online” by kreatikar, and “job” by Tumisu.

Transitioning from Collegiate to Professional – Part III

The Final Leap from Pre-Service to In-Service:

The Metamorphosis and Integration of Philosophy, Maturity, and Teacher Preparation

trumpet-1495108_1920_congerdesignTo “wrap-up” our final segment, we will review the development of a professional “marketing plan.” This is blog #3 out of 3. (Be sure to also check out #1 and #2, too.)

These are three critical skills you need to foster in the search for a school music position, marketing yourself, interviewing, and landing a “good” job:

  • Personal branding (who are you, what makes you unique, and what do you have to offer?)
  • Story telling (anecdotes) of your positive attributes and personal brand, including a record of your habits of “engagement” in music education, and
  • Networking (associating with other professionals and getting your positive stories “out there”).

 

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branding

Personal Branding

“Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging… Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.”

– Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_branding

What is the difference between marketing and branding? According to some, “marketing is what you do, branding is what you are.” (www.tronviggroup.com/the-difference-between-marketing-and-branding/)

phone-2840244_1920_RobinWiggins13Shama Hyder posted “7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand” at http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamahyder/2014/08/18/7-things-you-can-do-to-build-an-awesome-personal-brand/, including the following outlined summary:

  1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand
  2. Audit your online presence
  3. Secure a personal website
  4. Find ways to produce value
  5. Be purposeful in what you share
  6. Associate with other strong brands
  7. Reinvent

During these waning months for college music education seniors, now is the time to finalize the preparations for personal branding and beginning the employment search! Personal branding is critical to help you “stand above the rest,” showing that you have what it takes and would be a major asset to a prospective employer, and defining and marketing your own unique qualities that would make you “a good fit” for the specific job openings.

Steps to Personal BrandingThe branding process involves first developing your philosophy of music education, archiving your awards and accomplishments, documenting your grades and ok-3061659_1920_RobinHiggins12experiences, and collecting stories/personal anecdotes of your strengths. The next steps include the creation of a written and electronic portfolio, business card, resume, and website. Finally, you must compile/assemble everything together and practice (and self-assess) your “story-telling skills” to answer those important questions at well-rehearsed “mock interviews.”

You will likely not have enough time to complete all of these tasks during methods classes or student teaching seminars. That’s okay. If you are serious about prepping yourself to find a great music teaching job, the valuable links (see below) and articles are out there… just manage your time and start reading.

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networking

Networking

According to the article “Network Your Way to Secure a Teaching Job” at https://resumes-for-teachers.com/job-search-help/teacher-network/, many people are unaware of the basics of networking and how to use them it to their advantage in securing a job:

“Networking simply refers to finding job-related contacts. Most teachers who are just beginning their careers may feel that they have few, if any, networking contacts in the teaching field. It is important to consider the many different areas of networking as you create your own group of networking contacts to help you secure a teaching job. It is interesting to note that many of the teaching positions that are filled each year are filled by those who came to the attention of personnel managers by recommendation.”

“Always think about adding to your teaching network. When meeting new people, be certain to add them to your network. Talk to them about your skills, education, experience, and learn about their jobs. Make sure that you always ask for a business card.”

Do you have a business card? Is your résumé updated and available online on your professional website?

young-3061653_1920As I laid out in a previous blog “Networking Niceties: The ‘How-To Schmooze’ Guide for Prospective Music Teachers” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/, the concept of networking is two-way communications. Just like collective sets of nerve synapses, two-way connections are expected to fire repeatedly in all directions. That’s actually the science behind memory. For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school HR managers and secretaries, administrators, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and YOU – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits.

pcmeaThe above blog-post also explores setting up a good organizational system to manage your professional contacts.

If you are a Pennsylvania collegiate member (PCMEA), I heartily recommend the article “Networking 101” by Dr. Kathleen Melago, PCMEA State Advisor and Associate Professor of Music Education at Slippery Rock University, published in the Summer 2017 issue of the state journal PMEA News (pages 40-42). Here are several quotes from her work:

“One of the most common ways music educators can plan to network is at conventions. First, try to avoid interacting only with people from your school or people you already know from other schools. Go to sessions that interest you and look for opportunities to meet people there. Before the session starts, introduce yourself to people sitting around you. Use your social skills to assess whether they seem like they want to engage in a conversation or not. After the session, go up and meet the presenter.”

“Of course, social media is another great way to build your network. Networking with professionals already in the field can help you see what they are doing and help you build ideas of what you would like to do in your program someday.”

“Sometimes, you might find yourself networking unexpectedly. For example, you might go into school to work with their clarinet section during band camp and just happened to meet the choir teacher. That is networking!”

“To help your networking be most effective you need to have good communication skills. When interacting with others in a networking situation, be sure to focus on the person with whom you are speaking. Avoid looking off into the distance as if you were to anticipating someone else more important coming by. But your cell phone away and be present to the conversation.”

“Be yourself in your networking interactions. If you pretend that you are someone you are not, you will either end up unhappy or you’ll be discovered is someone who is not genuine.”

Dr. Melago goes on to provide a myriad of excellent examples of networking skills and opportunities.

Another resource specifically for networking at music teachers conferences is posted at https://nafme.org/getting-music-conferences/.

 

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engagement

Engagement

Here is an excellent definition of “professional engagement” from “Domains of Teaching” of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership at https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/understand-the-teacher-standards/domains-of-teaching.

Teachers model effective learning. They identify their own learning needs and analyze, evaluate and expand their professional learning, both collegially and individually.

Teachers demonstrate respect and professionalism in all their interactions with students, colleagues, parents/carers and the community. They are sensitive to the needs of parents/carers and can communicate effectively with them about their children’s learning.

Teachers value opportunities to engage with their school communities within and beyond the classroom to enrich the educational context for students. They understand the links between school, home and community in the social and intellectual development of their students.

Engagement for prospective music teacher may include synonyms like “participate,” “enroll,” “join,” “be active,” “volunteer,” “seek experience,” and “make a difference!”

Are you a member of your professional music education associations?

  • NAfME National Association for Music Education
  • PCMEA Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Educators Association, or another state’s local NAfME collegiate chapter
  • pmeaPMEA Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, or another state’s NAfME-affiliated MEA
  • ACDA American Choral Directors Association
  • ASTA American String Teachers Association
  • NBA National Band Association

Did (or will) you attend your state music teachers’ conference and local workshops on music education and professional development?

To prove you are “professionally engaged,” I would expect to see a consistent record of modeling in the following areas:

  1. excited-3126449_1920_RobinHiggins9Self-reflection of the professional’s teaching practices and modification of these as needed to match changes in the environment and circumstances
  2. Self-assessment of the professional’s methods and approaches, as well as the progress of the students’ learning, using both formative and summative methods for constant and ongoing improvement
  3. Identification and planning of professional learning needs.
  4. Unsupervised (or unplanned by school administration) goal-setting and self-guided implementation of opportunities for professional development
  5. Association with professional learning communities, school and community meetings, and other collaborative projects
  6. Volunteer service in music and music education
  7. Membership and subscription to music education journals and participation in online professional community discussion groups

Many have said that aspiring to be a music educator is a lot like a calling. One school superintendent I know said he expected prospective new recruits to show high energy, enthusiasm, sense of purpose, and dedication during the interview… even a supposed willingness to “lay down in front of a school bus” or “do what ever it takes” to make the students (and the educational program) successful. That’s engagement!

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In summary, becoming a music educator is about finding your inner confidence, a mindset that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re ready for that real world experience. You’ve learned those essential skills in conducting, piano accompaniment, arranging, student behavior modification and discipline, music diagnosis and remediation, and even how to market your professionalism. Now… drum roll, please! Here’s… a master music teacher!

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In closing, here are supplementary materials to help you to “get your feet wet,” all free and available online. The following lists, although not comprehensive, are a good place to start (courtesy of https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Collegiate-Communique-No11-022218-2.pdf):

Good luck!

 

Personal Branding, Marketing, and Networking

Business Cards

Résumés

Portfolios and Websites

Interview Questions, Techniques, and Skills of “Story-Telling”

 

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “tutor” by nrjfalcon1, “trumpet” by congerdesign, “skills” by diwou, “phone” by Robin-Higgins, “OK” by Robin-Higgins, “feedback” by geralt, “young” by Robin-Higgins, “music” by ricardo-vasquez, “excited” by Robin-Higgins, and “classical-music” by pexels.

Body Language & Interviewing for a Job

More Sources to Prep You to Make a Good Impression at Employment Screenings

If you have been closely following this section of the https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com blog-site on “Marketing Professionalism,” you have consumed a lot of advice on numerous topics for preparing for the job search, developing your personal brand, and especially “conquering” employment interviews, such as:

body-language-3-1240767This article’s focus will be on the seemingly intangible… “body language!” Many say that during the interview, first impressions are critical — “the first ten seconds will create the interviewer’s first judgments about you, and then after four minutes, it’s all over.” The research also suggests that during the interview, the evaluation of your merit is based 7% on what you say, 38% on your voice or how you say it, and 55% on our facial expressions and non-verbal cues.

A good starting point to the introduction of “nonverbal communication” was posted by Jonathan Burston in his Interview Expert Academy website: http://www.interviewexpertacademy.com/body-language-the-3c-triangle/:

Using a triangle to symbolize his concepts, the “3Cs of Body Language” are:

  • Context of the situation/environment you are in… with friends (relaxed) or the boss (more stressed)
  • Clusters or groups of body language signals that you give off unconsciously
  • Congruence or links between what the person is saying, the tone of their voice, and the signals their body is giving off

He summarizes, “The 3C Triangle will help you understand the core parts of reading body language. Next time you’re with someone, either a friend, family member, work colleague or an interviewer, remember to use the 3C’s. Keep practicing.”

Probably one of the most unique presentations on this subject is a TED talk filmed in 2012: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy. Check out the transcript at http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are/transcript?language=en.

“Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.”

Although some of her findings referenced in her talk are an ongoing debate among social scientists, Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we may be able to change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — by simply changing body positions.

body-language-6-1240752Some of Cuddy’s assertions:

  • “When we think about nonverbal behavior, or body language — but we call it nonverbals as social scientists – it’s language, so we think about communication. When we think about communication, we think about interactions.”
  • “What are nonverbal expressions of power and dominance? …In the animal kingdom, they are about expanding. So you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space, you’re basically opening up.”
  • “What do we do when we feel powerless? We do exactly the opposite. We close up. We wrap ourselves up. We make ourselves small. We don’t want to bump into the person next to us.”
  • “We know that our minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change our minds? And when I say minds, in the case of the powerful, what am I talking about? …I’m talking about thoughts and feelings and the sort of physiological things that make up our thoughts and feelings, and in my case, that’s hormones.”
  • “Powerful people tend to be, not surprisingly, more assertive and more confident, more optimistic. They actually feel they’re going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to think more abstractly…They take more risks.”
  • “Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes… Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors… Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don’t leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn’t show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.”

From Monster website, a very comprehensive article worth reviewing is “Body Language Can Make or Break a Job Interview” by Robert Ordona at https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/body-language-can-make-or-break-a-job-interview-hot-jobs. He cites several body language experts. “You could be saying how great you are, but your body could be giving your true feelings away,” says Alison Craig, image consultant and author of Hello Job! How to Psych Up, Suit Up, & Show Up. Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language, agrees with Craig – and with the highly regarded Mehrabian communication study, which found that “if what’s coming out of your mouth doesn’t match what your body is saying, your audience is more likely to believe your body.”

Ordona’s blog-post sections provide the “nitty-gritty” of nonverbal communications:

  • Your “Great Entrance”
  • Showing your “good side”
  • First impressions
  • Handshakes
  • The walk to the interview
  • At the interview
  • The art of departing

Excerpts from Craig, Bowden, and Ordona’s work, here is a “top-ten list” of body language do’s (green) and don’ts (red):

  1. Be aware that the interview may start in the parking lot… you never know who may be observing you from a window or standing near you in the hallway. Regardless how you feel (inside yourself), model an attitude of outward calm, purpose, and confidence. This is no time to be frantically searching for your copies of your resume.
  2. The receptionist or secretary in the office may be informally assessing you (and the administrator may ask their opinion), so let them “observe you without letting on that you know they are watching.” Whenever possible, sit at right angles or offer your profile to them. “It makes them feel comfortable, and if they’re comfortable, they’re more likely to form a good impression.”
  3. While waiting, sit with good posture, back straight, and your chest open – additional signs you are “confident and assertive.” Don’t hunch your shoulders or tuck your chin into your chest, which may imply you are “closed off.” Don’t try to appear to comfortable or informal, for example “elongating your legs or throwing your arm across the back of the chair,” as it might make you look arrogant.
  4. If you can tell, try facing the direction from where the interviewer will come; “it’ll make the greeting more graceful.” Also, “don’t have so much stuff on your lap that you’re clumsily moving everything aside when you’re called.”
  5. body-language-5-1240757Practice handshaking with a friend before taking interviews. Avoid “the overly aggressive or death grip” as well as “the limp handshake.” Since you are going to shake with your right hand, arrange your belongings on your left side. “Offer your hand with you palm slightly up so that your interviewer’s hand covers yours,” a sign that “you’re giving them status.”
  6. Even the walk to the interview room is the perfect to time to use good body language: follow the hiring manager or assistant “to show you understand the protocol” (“I follow your lead”), mirroring that person’s tempo and demeanor, showing “you can easily fit into the environment.”
  7. Once in the interview room, it’s okay to place a slim portfolio on the table, “especially if you’ll be presenting its contents,” but place your other belongings on the floor beside you. “Holding a briefcase or handbag on your lap will make you seem as though you’re trying to create a barrier around yourself.” Again, it is recommended you sit a slight angle to offer your profile, avoiding creating a defensive barrier.
  8. Sit up straight and display your neck, chest, and stomach area, a signal to the interviewer that you’re open. “Avoid leaning forward, which makes you appear closed off.”
  9. Sit about a foot away from the table and keep hand gestures at a level above the desk (or slightly lower) and below your collarbone. Your goal is to communicate that “you’re centered, controlled, and calm – and that you want to help.”
  10. The final advice at the end of interview: “Gather your belongings calmly, rise smoothly, smile, and nod your head. If shaking hands with everyone in the room isn’t convenient, at least shake hands with the hiring manager and the person who brought you to the interview space.”

Another interesting online resource is Forbes, “10 Body Language Interview Mistakes” at http://www.forbes.com/pictures/lml45lide/10-body-language-interview-mistakes-2/#76cf48105767. Eleven slides illustrate suggestions about eye contact, the way you fix your hair, crossing your arms, and other “physical slip-ups in your next interview.”

Finally, Yohana Desta offers “9 Simple Body Language Tips for Your Next Job Interview” on Mashable at http://mashable.com/2014/11/17/body-language-job-interview/#UZoXdE1FEsqB.

“Job interviews are notorious tightrope walks. You want to be confident, but not obnoxious; intelligent but not a know-it-all. Trying to find a balance and also explain why you deserve a job is hard enough. But what if your body language could help you out?” – Yohana Desta

body-language-8-1240743Although “the experts” are not always in consensus, especially on the subjects of eye contact and leaning posture, Desta’s tips summarized below provide additional enlightenment on how to use body language to promote a positive image:

  1. Sit all the way back in your seat.
  2. Don’t go for direct eye contact.
  3. Use hand gestures while speaking.
  4. Show your palms.
  5. Plant your feet on the ground.
  6. Work on your walk.
  7. Nod your head while listening.
  8. Lean in.

In a challenging job market with limited openings for public/private school music educators in many geographical areas of the country, there is great competition in the screening and evaluation of the applicants. Hopefully these suggestions from “the experts on body language” will help you better prepare for employment interviews… and land that job you always wanted!

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

Picture credits: Photographers John Evans and Henk L. at http://www.freeimages.com

21st Century Job Search Techniques

“New Age” Employment Tools for Music Teachers

Portions of this blog-post reprinted from “Job Searching in the 21st Century – The 5 W’s of the Application” in the Summer 2016 issue of PMEA News, the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educator Association. Special thanks goes to contributor Joshua Gibson, PMEA State Director of Member Engagement. PMEA members should go directly to the website, download and read the entire insightful article: http://www.pmea.net/resources/pmea-news/.

Hello and welcome to all collegiate music education majors and prospective job seekers! Here are a few more suggestions to help you go out and find the perfect public school music position, especially in Pennsylvania. But first, if you have not read my past blogs on this subject, please click on the above link “Becoming a Music Educator.”

Are you a PCMEA or PMEA member?

pmeaThe number one “tool” for finding a job is not a tool at all – it is all about modeling professionalism, networking with other college students and music teachers, and becoming actively engaged in your state/national music education associations (click on the acronyms to go to their websites) – National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) and Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Education Association (PCMEA). Interaction with others in your field is essential to build and maintain connections to what is “state-of-the-art” in curriculum/instruction, innovations in teaching and technology, news, trends, and other information related to the field of music education, and even “leads” to possible openings in PA school districts via job banks and conversations with other colleagues at state conferences and meetings. If you are not already a member of NAfME and PCMEA, you are walking away from numerous opportunities and benefits that could help you land a job!

The Mobile Resume

Much has been written about the curriculum vitae (CV) or employment resume. One recommendation is for it to be constantly updating, adaptable, flexible, and “very digital.” dockan1Your “travel document” (paper copy you bring to the interview or “one-of-kind” attachment in response to email application) should be easy-to-modify based on the specific job posting to which you are applying. Your philosophy, goals, education, and teaching experience should focus on and reflect your competencies in alignment with the requirements for the music position. Your professional website and online resume should be more “general” and not rule out being considered for employment assignments outside your major. The PA teaching certificate states you are licensed to teach music in grades pre-K to 12… which means you should be qualified for any opening in elementary, middle, and high school general music, band, choir, jazz, keyboard lab, and strings, right?

If your professional “contacts” (or the school district’s website) help you discover more specifics about the type of music position to which you are applying, you can include on your resume past performances and interactions with students even remotely related to this subject area, as well as become better prepared for the questions and a demonstration lesson at the interview. For example, the school district from which I retired recently began looking for a middle and elementary school band director and high school assistant marching band director. Even if you majored or emphasized in voice, piano, or strings in college, “if you really want the job,” you should be able to revise your resume to include such experiences like playing the flute in your HS marchingdockan2 band for a year, conducting a small instrumental ensemble to accompany your youth church choir, giving a few summer lessons to the bell players in the local drum line where you live, etc. In addition, prior to the first employment screening and mock lesson at the interviews, you could “bone up” on your instrumental methods, suitable middle and elementary band warmups/literature, the meaning/concept of “middle school education,” and perhaps even pull out and brush up playing a few scales on that flute (or whatever) in your closet.

Electronic Business Card

Past blogs (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/) discuss personal branding, the set-up of a professional website, business cards, and networking. Have you thought about placing a Q code on your business card that scanning would go directly to your e-portfolio and sample recordings, perhaps displaying an excerpt from your senior recital and several videos of your teaching or conducting?

Check out these online resources that are “pro” using a Q code:

To be fair, these sites recommend against placing a Q code on your card:

At the every least, you need to print on your business card the URL listing to your website or LinkedIn pages… access to find “everything you always wanted to know about” you as a candidate.

dockan3

Where Are the Jobs? Websites and Online Hiring Agencies

PMEA State Director of Member Engagement Joshua Gibson shared his research on using the Internet to search for music teacher openings posted in Pennsylvania. (PCMEA and PMEA members should read the entire article, “Job Searching in the 21st Century – The 5 W’s of the Application Process” on pages 62-63 in the Summer 2016 issue of PMEA News.)

With descriptions printed in the journal, you should become familiar with these sites:

PMEA Educational Entities Map

pcmeaAnother great reason you should be a member of your professional association (PMEA or PCMEA) if you are looking for a job in PA is… the PMEA Job Board. Many PMEA members have relied on the Job Board for the most recent information when it comes to available PA music teacher positions.

Adapted from Google Maps, Gibson recently created/unveiled the latest interactive tool to facilitate a hunt for PA musical jobs: PMEA Educational Entities Map. His explanation:

The PMEA Educational Entities Map will “allow anyone to be able to search jobs in any geographical area in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. You can sort by Public School Districts (red), Charter Schools (blue), Career and Technology Centers (green), High Education (yellow), and Intermediate Units (orange).”

The job seeker can also use a specific PA county overlay to outline a specific area, as well as correlate with the PMEA District and PMEA Region maps.

In summary, “Once you click on the specific entry, you will be given the name, address, phone number, website, the employment website, and county of residence.”

For more information about the PMEA Job Board, go to http://www/pmea.net/job-board/. Gibson invites comments or questions for using the PMEA Interactive Map at jgibson@pmea.net.

dockan4

Break-a-leg! Hopefully these 21st Century marketing hints will do the trick! Best wishes on starting (or restarting) your music teaching career!

Photo credits: David Dockan, my former student and graduate of West Virginia University. Check out his professional website: http://www.daviddockan.com/.

Additional Blogs of “Tips and Techniques” for Getting Hired

 

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Networking Niceties

The “How to Schmooze” Guide for Prospective Music Teachers

key-to-success-1307591Do you have a business card, e-portfolio, resume, and professional website?

There are three critical skills you need to foster searching for a school music position, marketing yourself, interviewing, and landing a job:

  • Personal branding (who are you, what makes you unique, and what do you have to offer?)
  • Story telling (anecdotes) of your positive attributes and personal brand, and
  • Networking (associating with other professionals and getting your stories “out there”).
In previous articles posted in this blog series, we have discussed the essential need for the development and constant revisions of a professional e-portfolio, resume, and website. If you have not read them, click on the following:

connected-people-1165937Merriam-Webster defines “networking” (noun) as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”

The concept of networking is two-way communications. Just like collective sets of nerve synapses, two-way connections are expected to fire repeatedly in all directions. That’s actually the science behind memory. For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school administrators, HR managers and secretaries, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and you – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits.

Business Cards – One of the Earliest Known Methods of Networking

Do you know the history of the business card? How long ago was it introduced?

You might have guessed it was first “kicked-off” in the 1980s, the decade that corporations expanded on the adoption of the 3.5 by 2-inch rectangle business card format we know today.

However, according to Design Float Blog [Source: “A Brief History of Business Cards” posted at http://www.designfloat.com/blog/2012/04/02/history-business-cards/], its origin can be traced back to 15th century China. They were first known as “visiting cards” and used to announce one’s intention of meeting with another individual.

king-louis-at-versailles-1553663During the 17th century, especially during the reign of Louis the 14th, the “calling card” made its heyday in Europe. “…An individual’s success or failure in society often depended on the strength of their personal promotion.”

Etiquette was involved in the deployment of “acquaintance cards” in the 17-18th century.

“…A strict protocol existed to ensure that calling cards were employed correctly. If a gentleman wished to call on a lady, he had a lot to think about. On making a first call, he had to make sure there is a separate card for each lady of the household. Alternatively, he could fold his card down the middle to indicate it was meant for all members of the household. Cards had to be left with the servant; admission to the house would only be permitted after the hostess had examined the card. Calling cards were to be collected on a small tray kept in the hallway, which would be presented by a servant on the palm of his left hand. While a gentleman may carry his cards loose in his pocket, a lady should use a card case. If the gentleman received no acknowledgement of his card, he had to accept that there would be no continuation of the acquaintance. And on no account was it ever acceptable to sneak a peak at cards that had been left by other callers.”

Later in the 17th century, London merchants used “trade cards.” At a time when street numbers were not in popular use, these cards were crucial in promoting the business and hands-3-hand-holding-a-card-1440323informing customers of its location and services available.

So how do you collect and distribute your business cards? What methods do you use to record and store the contacts you meet on a daily basis? How is your contact information given out to every professional you meet, especially at conferences, mass employment screenings, or job fairs?

Business Card Basics

Today’s professionals still exchange this “old-fashioned invention” called a business card as part of employment and business networking. (Who knows? Maybe someday we will be doing this electronically. Perhaps, our new “super-smart phones” will automatically talk to one another and seamlessly pass on our contact information.)

According to Ivan Misner, contributor to the online Entrepreneur website (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/159492), “The business card is the most powerful single business tool – dollar for dollar – you can invest in. It’s compact, energy-efficient, low-cost, low-tech, and keeps working for you hours, weeks and even years after it leaves your hands!”

He outlines what it does in support of person-to-person networking:

  • The business card tells people your name and the name of your business.
  • It provides prospects a way to contact you.
  • business-card-1525590It gives others a taste of your work, style and personality.
  • It can be so unusual or attractive or strange or charming or funny that it tends to stick in the memory of the prospective employer like a great radio or television ad.
  • It can be reused, passes from person to person, giving the same message to each person who comes in contact with it.

What data should be shared  on a business card? The quick (and obvious) answer is your name, mailing address (street, city, state, zip), cell phone (and if you still have a landline telephone number), email address, and extremely important – a link to your professional website (and password if needed).

Your Personal Brand Displayed on a Piece of Cardboard

Huffington Post provides some insightful recommendations on the design of business cards (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/12/designing-a-business-card_n_997449.html):

  1. Your card should look professional and project your image.
  2. Do not use clip art.
  3. Consider printing a QR code with direct access to your webpage.
  4. Resist a cluttered business card layout.
  5. Do not try to save money and buy cheap business cards.

Like it or not, your business card will convey (accurately or inaccurately) your image – possibly an instant snapshot of your professionalism, proficiency, and personality – to potential HR people and the decision-makers that hire future staff. What do you want to business-card-1237839display… traits of artistry, collaboration, commitment, discipline, even temperament, goal-minded, initiative, leadership, mastery of music and music education, organization, positive outlook, style, tact, and/or teamwork… or just the opposite?

Check out the unique examples and design elements (size, shape, color, style, materials, effects, printing methods, etc.) at http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/06/how-to-design-your-business-card/. A wooden business card? How crazy do you want to be? Just remember, educational leaders are generally very “conservative” in the search for filling teaching positions in the public schools.

Readability and clarity are important (#4 above). After retirement, I had a lot of fun designing a new business card. Many retirees (myself included) lean towards putting more information than what is generally needed on their card. I was also guilty of printing a hodgepodge of all of my past school positions. Ironic, isn’t it? The business card is not really the device to archive past successes, especially for a retiree who is not trying to find PaulFox_Logoa new full-time job!

I even went as far as to hire a professional layout artist to create a new personal logo. Can you tell my focus areas and favorite composer from the image to the right?

The Act of Sharing

When you meet someone for the first time, the unspoken code/decorum of networking and professionalism directs you to flash your most charming smile, look the person in the eye, introduce yourself (“hi, my name is…”), and offer/give a firm handshake. Repeat his/her name (place it permanently in your memory), and use it to strike up a short conversation to familiarize/update each other about where he/she works, and where you have most recently graduated or been employed.

First impressions mean a lot. Experts say that early judgments about you are made in the business-man-modified-1241003first ten seconds, and after four minutes, it’s all over. For employment consideration, others have written that you are evaluated by 7% what you say, 38% by your vocal tone, and 55% by your facial expressions.

Be very positive and be sure to closely listen to the other professional, responding to his/her questions or topics. Be outgoing and energetic (but not pushy) and friendly (but not overly personal). My former superintendent commented on a music teacher interview he experienced that did not go very well. The potential candidate did not seem to show personal initiative or self-direction, and lacked any overt displays of excitement or energy. Administrators want to see that you are truly committed to making a music program successful (“will go that extra mile”), have creative ideas to help “grow the program,” and love to work with children.

Before you close your “network connection,” be sure to swap business cards (have yours handy – nothing slows things down more than fumbling in your wallet or coat pocket), and make a promise to touch base with him/her again.

Gathering Data from Your End

One of the most important concepts about networking is how you use the information you collect. You need to “tag” or catalog the names of individuals with whom you come in contact, to help sort and create an easy-access index of professional resources.

stocking-for-business-1240257After the opportunity presents itself to exchange business cards, you need to save and organize his/her data in a way to be able to place/find the acquaintance for future reference. Why was this professional important to you to remember his or her name? How, when, and where did you meet? Reference the subjects you may have discussed, school affiliation, title, and locality of the contact, so at some point, you can lay your fingers on the name in your file; just search on the “key” word or phrase like “choral director” or “XYZ School District.”

As soon as possible, copy the new contact’s name, information, and subject areas into your smartphone’s (and computer’s) contact app. If he/she was a potential administrator, department head, or teacher in the district, you are well within your rights to follow-up with an e-mail. “Do you know of any possible future music positions (or retirements) in your district?” “Should I send a letter to the superintendent for his consideration?”

Now Get Out There and “Meet and Greet!”

According to Devora Zack in her blog “Ten Tips for People Who Hate Networking” (a great read, see http://www.careerealism.com/hate-networking-tips/), “…Real networking is about establishing mutually beneficial, lasting connections, one person at a time… This new and improved definition of networking means being true to you, capitalizing on your strengths, and tossing aside ‘rules’ that don’t match your temperament.” She proposes several unique “rules for the road” for making positive peer connections from the book Networking for People Who Hate Networking (Berrett-Koehler 2010):

  1. Be true to you
  2. Realize less is more
  3. interview-607713_1920Plan your first impression
  4. Volunteer
  5. Get in line
  6. Set challenging yet achievable networking goals
  7. Show, don’t tell
  8. Research
  9. Listen
  10. Follow-up, or forget about it

Another good resource for quiet/unassuming personality types is the online article “Twelve Tips for Shy People” by Meredith Levinson: http://www.cio.com/article/2437488/relationship-building-networking/how-to-network–12-tips-for-shy-people.html.

Conclusion

Take advantage of any chance you have to present your personal brand, “sell yourself,” and connect with colleagues in the field of music education. Practice a few “schmoozing” techniques, but really try to be open, positive, true to yourself, and well-organized. The business card helps you to “call on” and make a lasting impression to potential employers. Good luck, and happy job hunting!

business-card-1238267

Sources for this article and additional hints on the use of business cards and networking may be found at the following sites. Here’s YOUR homework for further reading!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Planning the “Perfect” Professional Portfolio

Prospective Music Teachers: Here’s How to Create an Online Employment Profile/Dossier

“In short, creating a portfolio involves reflection, collection, selection, and connection.”

Read more at: http://langwitches.org/blog/2009/07/17/digital-teaching-portfolios/

To quote Cheryl Frazes Hill in “A Portfolio Model for Music Educators” in Music Educators Journal, Vol. 95, No. 1 (September 2008), pp. 61-72, “The portfolio used in education is an organized collection of artifacts (examples of works) documenting a person’s skill and growth in an educational program and a career.”

First, you need to do your homework – a comprehensive collection of “all the good stuff!” To support this, number 7 in the MajorMusic.com blog of “Seven Things Music Education Majors Can Do to Make Themselves More Employable” is “Keep an updated list of your skills, relevant experiences, and training.” (Peruse the whole article at http://majoringinmusic.com/7-things-music-education-majors-can-do-make-themselves-more-employable-2/).

I have always suggested to my college-bound students that they reserve a spot on their computer’s desktop, a file (appropriately) named “ME,” and place in it a bulleted document with chronological descriptions and dates of special achievements, awards, and appointments. From time to time, more updates of “good news” should be added. In addition, archive (drag into the folder) accompanying scans/pictures of all music programs, congratulatory letters, certificates of achievements, newspaper clippings, etc. In college, this should be expanded to include documentation and anecdotes/stories/reflections about music and music education field experiences, accomplishments, and especially any problems identified and problems solved. All of this is perfect fodder for future interviews… Do you have “what it takes” to be a professional music teacher?” In your opinion, what makes you qualified (“a good fit”) to be hired for a position in our institution?”

According to The EDU Edge at http://www.theeduedge.com/top-five-must-haves-top-five-could-haves-your-teacher-interview-portfolio/, the following “must-haves” and “should-haves” (paraphrased) should be incorporated into your portfolio:

  1. Educational philosophy
  2. Résumé or Curriculum Vitae
  3. Letters of recommendation
  4. Artifacts of student work
  5. Classroom observation documents/evaluations
  6. Statement about class management theory (discipline) and the steps that you would take inside your classroom to create a safe and orderly environment
  7. Letters from parents commending the work you did with their children
  8. Pictures (A direct quote The EDU Edge: “We cannot emphasize the power of pictures enough when it comes to portfolios. During interviews, committee members are trying to get to know you and trying to envision you teaching. Don’t trust their imaginations to do so, give them pictures. Pictures bring it together for committee members and verify the reality that you are meant to work with children. For this reason we recommend photos or newspaper articles of you: teaching students in the classroom, with students on field trips, learning excursions or outside class activities, with children while you are serving in adviser roles, with your students at musical or athletic events, coaching or working with children in a coaching capacity, as a leader and role model.”)

To this list, I would add a copy of college transcripts, Praxis® exam results, teaching certificate(s), samples of student assessments/rubrics, and excerpts (short videos) of you performing on your major instrument/voice, solo and chamber recitals, piano accompanying, playing in college ensembles, and especially teaching in as many settings as possible: small and large group instrumental (band and strings), choral ensembles, elementary classroom lessons, extracurricular activities like marching band and musical, private lessons, etc.

An excellent overview on this subject is from “our number one professional music teachers’ association” – the National Association for Music Education (NAfME): http://www.nafme.org/do-i-need-a-digital-teaching-portfolio/.

Carol Francis offers “Sixty Clean and Simple Examples of Portfolio Design” for WordPress users at http://www.onextrapixel.com/2013/01/23/60-clean-and-simple-examples-of-portfolio-design/.

It is worth downloading “ePortfolios in Music Teacher Education” by Vicki Lind from Innovate: Journal of Online Education at http://nsuworks.nova.edu/innovate/vol3/iss3/4/.

Numerous college and universities across the country have their own requirements and recommendations in the development of online credentials. Take a look at the Penn State University School of Music site “Undergraduate e-Portfolios” at http://music.psu.edu/musiced/e-portfolio.html. Another excellent outline is provided by the University of Texas at San Antonio at http://music.utsa.edu/docs/DevelopingPortfolio.pdf. Finally, Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching site offers good models and information on “Teaching Portfolios” at https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-portfolios/.

In conclusion, take some time to examine the sample teaching portfolios (below) for more insights on design, style, and content. I also recommend you read my blogs on other subjects of “marketing professionalism” (click on the category link to the right of this article).

Good luck! PKF

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – Charles Caleb Colton

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing

Final Tips to Land Your First Music Teacher Job

“I hate interviews – but you have to do them.” – Jackie Chan

You just received that blessed, long-awaited phone call… “XYZ School District has reviewed your application and résumé, and would like to call you in for an interview.” Hooray!

A note pinned to a cork board with the text Interview!

Okay, but now what?

There is no perfect formula for “acing” a particular interview or clinching employment opportunities. Like music auditions, there are a lot of variables and factors even outside the control of the job seeker. One might say there’s a lot of “luck” involved in the inspiring a warm and productive chemistry/atmosphere at the interview, and “clicking” with members on the HR review panel. There is no magic “pill” or perfect process to communicate your strengths and experiences to the interviewer and matching them with the needs of the position.

When I ventured out the first time into the public school music teacher job market (1978), there were many more potential candidates than openings. The competition was very high. I had to be aware that selling myself as a “total music education professional” was essential, not allowing myself to be branded (and eliminated from the running) as a much more limited “music specialist” (string teacher, vocalist, band director, etc.). I had to “prove competency” and provide evidence (portfolio of my personal philosophy of music education, stories/anecdotes about my experiences, certifications, sample lesson plans, music programs, recommendations, and other documentation) that would support my mastery of the institution’s teaching standards, positive personality traits, and overall suitability for the job. I’ve said it before! This is everything about “getting noticed,” “making connections” with the interviewers, and demonstrating that you have “what it takes” and would be a “good fit” for their school district.

So, how do you get a job during hard times? Embrace and model the “five P’s” to employment success: Persistence, Professionalism, PR savviness, a “Powerful” organizational system, and (of course) Patience!

Hope these recommendations help! Feel free to share your thoughts. Let’s here from YOU!

DO THE PREP: A Thorough Sequence for Planning and Practice

“Rarely does an interviewer ask questions you did not expect. I have given a lot of interviews, and I have concluded that the questions always look alike. I could always give the same answers.” – Italo Calvino

Practice makes perfect, they say, and preparation is the name of the game.

man-showing-portfolio-1307850Trying to analyze and provide insight in developing the skill sets necessary for positive employment interviewing and “personal branding,” I have written several other blogs about marketing professionalism, formation of a unified philosophy of music education, current trends and “buzz words” in education, learning storytelling skills, the attributes of a “model” music educator and assessment of prospective candidates, and sample interview questions. At the bottom of this blog, please click on the links. (It is suggested to read the entire sequence in order for the best effect!)

DO THE GROUNDWORK: Research, Lead Time and Advance Leg Work

“Failing to prepare for your job interview is, in our experience, the most common reason why people fail at interviews. In fact, recent research found that 95% of job interviewers believe 90% of interviewees come to job interviews ill-prepared. You want to be in the 10% of interviewees who do prepare. Right?” – Catherine Jones, Recruitment Expert, at http://www.job-application-and-interview-advice.com/preparing-for-an-interview.html.
Research information about the school site, job posting, other music positions, and the academic (and arts) programs. If possible, find someone who works in the district, and get some background about…
  • The job opening and responsibilities;
  • Previous employees in this position;
  • General information about the music program;
  • School district’s mission statement and administrative support of the arts;
  • Work climate;
  • Community support.

man-showing-portfolio-1307965Discover in advance and/or ask a few of these questions at the interview:

  1. What do you know about this school district?
  2. What music classes and extra-curricular activities are offered?
  3. How many periods (not counting lunch) are scheduled daily?
  4. Are any specialties emphasized e.g. Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze?
  5. What is the average make-up of the community (education and socioeconomics)?
  6. What educational, cultural, and sport/leisure activities are available in and around the community?
  7. What position(s) is(are) open and what duties are required?
  8. What avenues of professional development exist?
  9. What percentage of students are in the music program?
  10. What percentage of the students own instruments, take lessons, seek outside ensembles, etc.?
  11. What indicators of cooperative parental and community support exist (concert attendance, private teachers, booster groups, community arts organizations, etc.)?
  12. What resources are budgeted (sheet music, music technology, field trips, piano tuning, instruments and instrumental repair, teacher in-service, festivals, etc.)
  13. How often is curriculum updated?
  14. What is the school district grading scale and music grading policy/practice?

Their website is an excellent resource to find out information. If the district has “teacher pages” or sections that the faculty may post information, review all submissions by the music staff and administration. Make sure you are aware of the mission and vision statements of the district and have a workable knowledge of the strategic plan, goals, and recent curricular/program innovations… almost always available as a public record.

Plan ahead! Learn the name, title, and level of responsibility of the administrator(s) and/or interviewer(s). Make a trial run to visit the site of the interview, observing first-hand any potential traffic or construction issues that could affect your arrival time. Arrive early, at least fifteen minutes prior to the appointment. (Punctuality is absolutely essential!) Dress to project an image of confidence and success. (Yes, this means wear a suit! If you are a guy, wear a tie!) Bring additional materials, such as transcript, portfolio, updated résumé, etc.

DO THE POSITIVE: Self-Confidence and a Self-Assured Mindset

“Emphasize your strengths on your résumé, in your cover letters and in your interviews. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people simply list everything they’ve ever done. Convey your passion and link your strengths to measurable results. Employers and interviewers love concrete data.” – Marcus Buckingham
“One of the most common mistakes for an entry-level job interview is to take the position: ‘What is this job going to do for me?’ You should be saying ‘Here’s what I can do and here’s what I want to do to help you.’ ” – Norah O’Donnell

Many say that first impressions are critical during the interview. According to Business Insider at http://www.businessinsider.com/only-7-seconds-to-make-first-impression-2013-4, “you only have seven seconds to make a strong first impression.” I have also heard that after four minutes, it’s all over!

Job_interview_0001The research also suggests that during the interview, the evaluation of your “merit” is based 7% on what you say, 38% on your voice or how you say it, and 55% on our facial expressions and non-verbal cues.

Do your best to relax and promote a calm, positive, and cheerful attitude. Share a warm greeting and firm handshake. Build rapport and demonstrate an attitude of openness and sensitivity to the interviewer’s style. Show a feeling of mutual responsibility for creating a comfortable atmosphere and establishing common ground.

Treat the interview process as an exchange of information between two (or more) individuals. Bring your questions! It is important you show you are motivated to learn about the details about the program and the position.

Be yourself, and demonstrate relaxed speech, posture, and body language. Angle your position so as not to sit directly in front of the interviewer. If possible, select the chair beside not across the desk, avoiding the creation of so-called “invisible barriers.”

Use the person’s name when talking. It is the best way to get/keep his/her attention.

A few more positive nonverbal cues to adopt include the following:

  1. Respond to the interviewer with an occasional affirmative nodding of the head.
  2. Sit erect in the chair with hands, feet, and arms unfolded, leaning forward slightly.
  3. Offer good eye contact and smile appropriately.
  4. Maintain a pleasant facial expression.
  5. Look interested in and listen to the interviewer.

Provide thoughtful, professional, and firm answers to the interviewer’s questions:

  1. Back up statements with specific examples.
  2. Share the outcome or solution to a specific problem.
  3. Summarize to emphasize your strengths.

man-jump-with-portfolio-1307845If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, be honest and admit it. Inexperience is not a crime! And, be sure to say what you mean! If you end up getting the job, you may be “stuck” with your own words!

Finally, it’s all about feeling and projecting self-assuredness – and remembering “the three C’s of interviewing” – be Calm, Concise, and Congenial. No matter how you feel inside, you need to show you are a confident and competent candidate worthy of their consideration.

Check out additional advice at “Acing the Interview” – http://www.myfuture.com/careers/articles-advice/acing-the-interview.

DON’T DO THESE BOO-BOOs: Bloopers, Blunders, and Bad Habits to Avoid

“I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews.’ The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day.’ ” – Jennifer Lawrence
Here are a few of the obvious no-no’s! Avoid these nervous habits, almost guaranteed to lower your rating at the interview.
  1. Repeated verbal pauses, or exclamations of “Umm” or “Ahhh” or “Like…”
  2. Unsubstantiated or unsupported statements
  3. Use of “weak words” that suggest a lack of conviction (“kind of” or “sort of” or “I feel like”)
  4. Failure to look directly at the interviewer(s)
  5. Verbal clutter (too many long run-on statements)
  6. Any form of fidgeting (tapping your foot, spinning a pen between your fingers, wiggling in your seat, etc.)
  7. 3221301604_ed4b6c1851_oFast talking or dropping the ends of your words
  8. Answers that are too casual, personal, or informal, or “flip” conversation
  9. “Bird walking,” changing of the subject, irrelevant or unclear responses to a question
  10. Touching of your hair, clothes, nose, mouth, or anywhere else on your body
  11. Responses that go overboard and/or volunteer too much
  12. Forceful, dominating, one-sided, opinionated views or arrogant attitudes
  13. Nonverbal cues that reflect nerves, insecurity or lack of confidence (slouching or poor posture, looking down, failure to smile, clenching or keeping hands in lap)
  14. Hollow, insincere, or disingenuous conversation

DO THE ANALYSIS: The Post Interview “Postmortem”

“I sometimes find that in interviews you learn more about yourself than the person learned about you.” – William Shattner
“I can count on one hand the number of people who wrote me a thank you letter after having an interview, and I gave almost all of them a job.” – Kate Reardon

After the interview, debrief yourself! (Do this on the same day – don’t wait for the memories to fade!) Write down everything you felt you handled right and wrong. Critique your “performance,” and document the details (including all names) for future reference. Learn from your mistakes. Look up the terminology or jargon on which you “stumbled” or with which you felt unfamiliar… so you will be ready for the next interview!

learning-1432359If you did well at the first job screening, you may be asked to come back for a second interview or “demonstration lesson.” In most cases, a member from the first panel or a music staff member may contact you and tell you what they want to see taught… perhaps leading a general music class on a specified concept, conducting a small ensemble, or teaching beginning instrumental music or jazz. Get ready! Look at your notes. Practice and drill (again) on those lists of interview questions, paying particular attention to possible content-area queries. If you did the research on the school district’s curriculum and focus areas of the music program, it will help you to prepare for the demonstration lesson.

Note information you need to include in future correspondence and follow-ups. This is where the “power organizer” in you should come out. Every communication you have “from” and “to” the school district should be recorded in a journal, and include the name/e-mail/extension of the secretary/interviewer/administrator involved and date of receipt and your response.

Write a personalized thank-you letter to the individuals on the interview committee. (Set yourself apart from the other applicants!) In your letter, you could offer to send them a(nother) copy of your digital portfolio or DVD video files of student teaching and/or other samples of your interaction with students (leading a church choir, conducting a small instrumental ensemble, coaching a marching band sectional, providing a private lesson, playing a piano accompaniment, etc.).

Follow-up your visit by making phone calls, fulfilling additional paperwork as requested, mailing materials (e.g. official transcripts) if asked, validating completion of coursework and clearances, confirming availability, etc. However, be careful not to become a “nag” or nuisance by making repeated calls and e-mails.

caring-teacher-1622554Break a leg! We are counting on every excellent music educator to become successful in marketing themselves and landing a position! Frankly, regardless of the current job market and status of arts education in the schools, we need more dedicated and inspiring music teachers to “get out there” and facilitate the spread of creative self-expression!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Additional Paulkfoxusc Blogs on Interview Preparation

Marketing Professionalism (getting a music teacher job)