Hints for the Job Search Process

Ten (More) Tips to “Bag” Music Teacher Employment

man-showing-portfolio-1307965I will probably never tire writing articles for new or prospective music educators seeking a public school position. I am subject to a flash of inspiration – epiphanies or revelations – at any moment, many of which come while I am walking the dogs or driving the car. Here are some random loose-ends I have not covered before, the results of recent bouts of brainstorming and mind wandering! Hopefully, they will provide you additional insight towards success in the job hunt process. Good luck!

  1. First stop? Under “Becoming a Music Educator,” a link at the top menu of my WordPress site, there is a summary of all previous articles for getting a job. I have included many resources and recommended links to samples and blogs from “the experts” in developing marketing skills, personal branding, preparing for interviews, and e-portfolios. My blogs are presented in a suggested sequential order, so it would probably be a good idea that you read all of them chronologically beginning with “Marketing your Professionalism.” A copy of my PowerPoint slide handouts for presentations at collegiate music education seminars and PCMEA workshops is also posted.
  2. Timing is everything. Teachers who are planning to retire usually have to notify flip-calendar-1-1149834their school administration in the months of February, March or April to receive some of their “golden handshake” benefits. For the school district, it helps them plan for future hiring. For you, it should focus your attention and organize your work at a time when the jobs are just becoming available. (Don’t wait for summer vacation!)
  3. What is saturation? In “the old days” when I was fresh out of the university and looking for public school music employment, I used my own version of saturation marketing. I took the metal-end of a compass point and pushed it in a map on the spot where I was living. The pencil-end was stretched as far as I was willing to travel in one day to go to work (for me, seven PA counties). The circle that I drew represented the targeted school districts that I spent most of my effort. Of course, today we use online application registries such as OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPA-educator.com which broadcast data on the pool of candidates. Regardless, I sent a custom-designed letter to every superintendent of school “in my hot zone” announcing that I was interested, met all education and certification requirements, and was available for immediate employment consideration. You should prominently share the name/location of your professional website. In addition, this would be the perfect place to mention if you student-taught or served as a private teacher, coach, summer camp counselor, or marching band/musical assistant in their area. For me, this meant a lot of extra work (looking-up the names/addresses, and you can’t just send a blanket form-letter “To Whom It May Concern”), but it seemed to give me a little edge, a foot in the door so-to-speak, and the opportunity to place follow-up calls later to the HR department to confirm they received the letter and did not need anything to add to the file (transcripts/portfolio, etc.). If you’re not restricted to a specific geographic area, saturation this way would probably not be feasible.
  4. Enhance your online presence! The more I think about the process that today’s graduates must go through to get a music teaching job, the more I am convinced that digital portfolios and a website would be essential to show off your skills, experiences, and accomplishments. I would even go as far as to suggest the purchase a premium www-1213940domain name (something simple like yourname.edu or .com). Graduating this year from West Virginia University, my former student David Dockan (www.daviddockan.com), among a host of others at https://www.mcgill.ca/edu-e3ftoption/portfolios, http://music.psu.edu/musiced/e-portfolio.html, and http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-portfolios/, have excellent sample postings for your perusal.
  5. You need to research the school districts in your area for potential of job openings. If you graduated from a local school, a good person to ask is your former high school band, choral and orchestra directors. They probably go to music festivals and other events and would hear “through the grapevine” who may be transferring, going on maternity leaves, or considering retirement.
  6. Like it or not, you will be judged on how you look! In another blog, I talked about coming to the interview in “business-professional formal dress.” Try to avoid OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAanything trendy, mod,  or “cool,” and guys, this means you wear a tie and a jacket. Unkempt or unusual length/coloring of hair, extra body piercings, and visible tattoos will not help project the classic corporate image of “conservatism” which most administrators seek in teachers. Sure, you do have the right to be “unconventional,” “artsy,” “one-of-kind” or “make a statement,” but you also have the right never to get a public school job!
  7. Preparing digital samples of your teaching is important! Do this NOW while you are still in college. In a previous article, I have already strongly urged you to limit “specialization” and instead take pictures of all kinds of interactions with music kids: band and string lessons and small ensembles, large group conducting, choral practices, general music classes, dance/drama coaching, marching band rehearsals, etc. However, there is the issue of getting permission to photograph or video the students you are teaching in field experiences, problems with displaying their faces up-close in your e-portfolio and website (and definitely NOT printing their full names). In my school district, we have a “do not photo” list in each building, so just check with the school secretary where you are student teaching. This is also a concern for summer camps, recreational programs, church groups, etc.
  8. Testimonies are great! Don’t be shy! As far as I am concerned, you are within your right to “beg” for a congratulatory note or a thank you letter from a parent to insert ilettern your portfolio. This would look particularly good fulfilling Charlotte Danielson’s Domain 4c “Communicating with Families” in  The Framework for Teaching (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/criteria-for-selection-of-the-ideal-teacher-candidate/. Probably, I would approach it this way:  “Thank you so much for your kind comments. I am a budding music teacher, and need to get a few notes from parents to add to my portfolio. Would you be willing to send me something?” This process should be repeated with cooperating teachers and other professionals with which you have a relationship in music education.
  9. Go to www.majoringinmusic.com. I stumbled on this delightful website that gives comprehensive resources for majoring in music and preparing for the job market!  You should especially read their article, “7 Things Music Education Majors Can Do key-to-success-1307591When Facing the Job Market” at http://majoringinmusic.com/7-things-music-education-majors-can-do-make-themselves-more-employable-2/, “hitting the nail on the head” about this topic! They have given me permission to share their outline below. (Do these sound familiar? They are preaching from the same pulpit as many of my past blogs!)
    • Be an outstanding musician.
    • Learn how to improvise.
    • Acquire entrepreneurial skills.
    • Become as broad-based and well-trained as possible.
    • Combine advocacy with exchange to create better programs.
    • Learn all you can about relevant technology.
    • Keep an updated list of your skills, relevant experiences, and training.
  10. College students who collaborate have a significant advantage. As they say, “there is safety in numbers,” and the concept of teamwork would do you well in the college-building-1622355employment search process and preparation for interviews. For examples, you already have many lists of employment screening questions: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/a-blueprint-for-success-preparing-for-the-job-interview/. It is inconceivable to me that you are not already spending massive amounts of time together, with or without your head music education professor(s):
    • Dividing up the work load in finding contacts and possible job openings in local school districts.
    • Helping each other with the proofreading process of writing/designing resumes, cover letters, a philosophy of music education, and a personal professional website.
    • Holding numerous mock interview sessions, jointly assessing your class mates’ responses to possible interview questions and story-telling skills.

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

All Eyes Are on the Job Resume

Music Teacher Resumes Revisited: Planning, Creating, and Maintaining

“The resume is the first impression an employer receives about you as a candidate and also serves as your marketing tool.” – Carnegie Mellon University Career and Professional Development Center at http://www.cmu.edu/career/resumes-and-cover-letters/index.html
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe walking document of “everything you always wanted to know about you” is your professional resume.

Inasmuch as it serves as an extended version of your business card, a “quick look” of your personal brand, an easy-access to contact information, and a showcase of your accomplishments and experiences, it is essential you invest a lot of time on the planning, careful review, creation, and constantly updating of your resume.

Here are a few tips I can offer, supported by websites like those listed at the end of this blog. My favorite resource for soon-to-be graduating musicians and music educators alike the-violinist-1413441is the “Prepare Your Materials” section of the Institute for Music Leadership, Eastman School of Music (ESM)/University of Rochester, Careers and Professional Development (https://www.esm.rochester.edu/iml/careers/library.php), where you can download comprehensive guides for creating a resume, cover letter, and philosophy of music education, and browse audition tips and interview questions. You should remember to revisit this link over the coming summer months when, as noted by the Eastman Careers Advisor, a major revision of these materials is targeted for completion.

  1. Keep it short and simple. Most people agree on the recommendation that no more than two pages is sufficient. According to The Ladders, an online career resource service (see http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-long-should-resume-be), class-1552432“Professional resume writers urge their clients to first try to trim their resumes down to a maximum of two pages.” One exception for a three-pager might be if the job seeker was to transition from one field to another, having to cover both sets of the candidate’s skills, qualities, and experiences.
  2. The format, style, and overall design should be clean and foster clarity. The resume is a reflection of your mission, professionalism, organizational skills, and even personal judgment and intellect. Yes, you want to layout the content to highlight your skills and grab the reader’s attention, but you do not want to clutter it with crowded text, over-use of multiple fonts, or fail to provide enough white-space separation between sections and margins. In Pulling the Pieces of the Job Hunt Puzzle Together for Your Success at http://www.powerful-sample-resume-formats.com/resume-fonts.html, it is suggested that you limit your choices to just one or a few of the most well-recognized drum-10-1502688and easy-to-read fonts in your collection. “Your goal is not to make your resume beautiful to your eyes… it’s to make it extremely readable to the people doing the screening and hiring.”
  3. A K-12 music teacher resume is no place to broadcast a limited vision or capacity of your skills and experiences. In other words, don’t label yourself as any kind of music specialist (e.g. band director), thereby eliminating all of the other music teaching jobs in which you are certified. I have tried to underscore the importance of modeling yourself as a competent, comprehensive “Generalist,” not a single-subject “Expert” (which may decrease your chances in finding a job) in a previous blog: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/.
  4. Consider the difference between a traditional resume (mostly a record of subjects, titles, or positions using nouns) versus a qualifications brief (verbs or action words that truly describe what you have done). When I approached getting a job back in 1978, most resumes were just lists. Many now say that giving more meaning or “the stories” SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAbehind the job assignments, field experiences,  or awards… is better. What did you do in each situation, what did you learn, and how did you grow? Check out author Diana in NoVa’s ideas at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/10/993023/-The-Qualifications-Brief-When-Should-You-Use-It. This viewpoint is furthered by Dr. Ralph Jagodka at http://instruction2.mtsac.edu/rjagodka/BUSM66_Course/Qualifications_Brief.htm. “Start a ‘Profile Folder’ that contains paragraphs about what specific skills you possess.  In this folder, focus on identifying all of your knowledge, skills and abilities (in separate paragraphs),” writing them in terms of accomplishments (not just duties and responsibilities).  This matches several of my “sermons” posted in previous blogs on “Marketing Professionalism” (especially https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/), where I echo Dr. Jagodka sentiments about “develop a plethora of anecdotes regarding the various solutions you can provide,” in this case, for the leadership staff of prospective school districts, school buildings, and specific music class teaching assignments.
  5. Go online and study samples of resumes, their standardization and band-of-boys-1426209-1conventions of grammar, punctuation, style, and order of presentation. For example, for new music educators entering the field, it is generally recommended that you list your experience, education, and achievements chronologically starting with the most recent at the top of each section. According to http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Resume, “chronological resumes are used for showing a steady growth in a particular career field.” That is perfect for the average college student entering the field of music education for the first time!
  6. Prepare the draft – gather and rank the importance of all your data. This could mean prioritizing and peering down from a list of your strengths, accomplishments, education, and experiences (see http://jobsearch.about.com/od/resumetips/qt/resumecontent.htm). A music supervisor or curriculum leader might be interested in hearing about your solo and ensemble performance experience, recitals, chamber music, compositions/arrangements, examples of jazz improvisation and/or Neonsinging, etc. However, from an administrator’s perspective, it may be more important to know about the prospective music teacher’s field experiences and previous employment working with children, classroom management skills, professional development goals and initiative (would you be interested in coaching or directing extracurricular activities?), teamwork and leadership skills, personality traits like patience/even temperament/self-discipline, and knowledge of a few “buzz words” of educational terminology and acronyms (like The Common Core, DOK/HOTS, IEP, PLC, RTI, UBD, formative/summative assessments, etc. You are welcome to review some of these completing a crossword puzzle at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/the-alphabet-soup-of-educational-acronyms/.)
  7. Is creating one resume good enough for all job openings? Perhaps not. According to Lannette Price in her blog Five Simple Tips for Building a Resume at https://www.resume.com/blog/5-simple-tips-when-building-a-resume/, you should “understand the position and tailor the resume.” She emphasizes this point. “Always look over a job posting and use the similar or the same words as the job description to highlight what has been accomplished in previous job situations.” guitar-woman-1435839Among her other suggestions are writing “an objective statement” which summarizes your goals to being employed at the school district, “support skills sets with problem solving examples” (see #4 above), and “proofread, proofread, proofread” for accuracy and to enhance your image. Sloppy resumes with typos or misspellings project the wrong message to prospective employers.

So, take the time, and “do it right!” Peruse numerous online samples and anything given to you by your university’s career center or music department. Share a draft of your resume with family members, college roommates, and/or trusted music ed buddies. (Accept their constructive criticism.) Be ready to adapt/update your document for a particular job.

Final piece of advice? Read these and other web resources for building/maintaining your resume. Good luck, and “happy hunting!”

PKF

job-concept-2-1140644

© 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

Overview – Strategies for Landing a Music Teacher Job

“Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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. I am happy to offer some tips and techniques towards successful career preparation, employment searches, interviewing, and promotion of your image and record of past performance, experiences, achievements, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that are job-related.

The concept of marketing oneself for employment is based on several skill sets:

  • Knowing the territory
  • Making connections
  • Branding yourself
  • Storytelling about the challenges and triumphs you faced in life
  • Proving that you have “what it takes” and your skills/experiences would be a “good fit” to the needs, goals, and values of the institution, employer, and position to which you are applying
  • Being persistent and well-organized

Here is my outline of general targets for marketing professionalism and a successful job hunt. Many of these subjects have been/will be shared in current or future blogs on this site.

  1. Develop and model your skills as a “professional.” (Read my July 1, 2015 blog “The Meaning of Pro.”)
  2. Complete a self-assessment of your content knowledge, teaching skills, musicianship, and personality traits. (Prepare in advance so that you will be able to share your “best” attributes.) One model for evaluation of prospective and current educators is Charlotte Danielson’s “Four Domains” from The Framework for Teaching. (To research these, see http://danielsongroup.org/framework/).
    • Planning and Preparation
    • Classroom Environment
    • Instruction
    • Professional Responsibilities
  3. Seek out avenues (while in college or around your music education peers) to practice and improve your weakest skill areas (less familiar band/string instruments, improvement in piano accompaniment, jazz improvisation, or singing)
  4. Assemble artifacts of your professional activities, the precursor for the development of a comprehensive résumé and portfolio.
    • Bulleted list of specific academic and music accomplishments with dates
    • College assessments and transcripts
    • Scholarships and other awards
    • Education experiences (e.g. lists, photos, and/or audio/video recordings of student teaching, observations, and other field assignments, private teaching, substitute teaching, other employment in the private and public schools, conducting or performing in community ensembles, summer camps, sports, scouts, church programs, marching band sectionals or field assistance, choral accompaniment or vocal/drama/dance coachings, etc.)
    • Sample solo recital and chamber/large group concert programs
    • Sample lesson plans, learning targets, rubrics, and other student assessments
    • Original compositions and arrangements
    • Congratulatory notes and letters of reference
  5. Create a philosophy of music education. Be ready to answer the key essential questions “What is your personal mission?” and “What is the role of music in a child’s education?” (To define a broad-based vision for becoming the ultimate “total music educator,” avoiding any prejudice to, limitations in, and restrictions of a particular music specialty, see my July 4, 2015 blog “Marketing Yourself and Your K-12 Music Certification.”)
  6. Familiarize yourself with current educational jargon, terminology, trends, and acronyms, possible topics administrators may check for understanding at a future interview. If you do not know the meaning of terms like The Common Core, formative/summative assessments, or 21st Century Learning Skills, look them up. (See my July 18, 2015 blog “The Alphabet Soup of Educational Acronyms.”)
  7. Compile a set of detailed professional anecdotes based on your positive attributes (see #2 above), artifacts (#4), and examples of your professionalism (#1) – the most important successes you have had in your education, career and personal life. Metaphors, analogies, and humorous anecdotes are the foundation for excellent storytelling at interviews. (See my August 2, 2015 blog “When It Comes to to Getting a Job, ‘S’ is for Successful Storytelling.”)
  8. Pre-interview preparation
    • Creation or revision of your résumé, interview handouts, electronic portfolio, and employment website
    • Practice and drill on answering common interview questions (including self-assessments of video samples) – see examples of interview questions from the 2013 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association In-Service Conference: http://www.uscsd.k12.pa.us/Page/6361
    • Research of the school district, music program, job opening, and unique local curricular innovations
    • Development of appropriate and meaningful questions to ask the interviewer
    • Trial run (know exactly where you are going, time needed, traffic patterns, etc.)
  9. Positive interview techniques (future blog)
  10. Post interview (debriefing yourself) and organization of the job search process (another future blog)

As they say in the theater, “break a leg” at your job interview!

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox