What I Learned from My Job Search

In this interview about the job search process, a teacher reveals how assessing your skill-set, building relationships based on character, integrity and trust, and broadening your job search focus can lead to rewarding and well-paid work. I am a certified teacher currently employed as a Public Safety Education Specialist with a metropolitan fire department. In this role, I develop, teach, and evaluate injury prevention education programs for all audiences and age groups. I found my current position posted on Craigslist. In my most recent job search, I scoured through a number of job boards such as Monster, Indeed, and Career Builder but eventually found the position posted on Craigslist. I found these websites beneficial for a number of reasons. First, they provide literally thousands of opportunities at your fingertips, which increases your chances of finding the right opportunity. Second, the ability to enter specific criteria, job skills, etc. into a search and return job descriptions that match your abilities broadens the scope of your potential. As a classroom teacher struggling to make ends meet I hadn’t considered the crossover potential of my skill set to other industries. Yet as I began to think about training and program management as a direct extension of the teaching profession, I found the confidence to look for work in other areas. If I were interviewing for my current position with another organization, I would emphasize the breadth of work in the field of education. I have had the opportunity to engage in from the traditional role of classroom teacher, to working in public outreach with the fire department. Having both a solid foundation in teaching and experience with social marketing and project management gives me a much broader skill set than the average teacher. I would also focus on any educational or work related experiences that the typical teacher would not have. For example, I achieved a Masters degree in Public Administration. The management and leadership skills acquired through that program would definitely set me apart from other candidates. I think the most effective technologies for connecting and collaborating with professionals working in my field are those that are interactive and that allow you to share ideas, information, and products with many people at a distance. Social networks, email, webinars, e-learning modules are simple but effective ways to share information. I still believe that to progress in your career or within your organization it is essential to build relationships on a human level. Demonstrating your expertise is important, but building trust and displaying character, integrity and stability are also just as important. Those types of interactions aren’t necessarily transferable through electronic media. As far as getting the foot in the door, sites such as LinkedIn can help to market your talents, accomplishments and availability. I have had both job interviews that went well and those that were disastrous. When I interviewed for my current position, I did excellently. Since I was the “expert” being hired to specialize in an area no one else in the organization was familiar with, it was quite easy to answer the interview questions. I already had a vision of where the department could go with their public outreach and education efforts, and that impressed the committee greatly. In a more recent interview for a Safety and Environmental Program Coordinator position that would have entailed employee training to some degree but also monitoring compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations, things did not go quite as well. I had a great grasp on the training and communication strategies that the candidate would need, however I lacked experience in other areas. The first interview question they asked was, “What experience do you have with facilities management and fleet services?” Unfortunately, my answer was “none.” Needless to say, it was not the best way to start an interview. From that experience, I learned to expect the unexpected and do as much homework as possible to prepare for the interview. If you can find others doing similar work, contact them and discuss their job duties and background. If possible, try to get a very broad sense of what the job may entail and do as much preparation as you can before the interview. The most important lesson I learned from my job search experience is to never give up. You may have to apply for many positions before you get the interview and you may have to interview many times before landing the job. The market is very competitive, but eventually you will find the right match for your personality and skill set. Also, don’t sell yourself short; some of the experiences and skills that you may have developed in previous jobs may be highly transferable in other areas. It is important to remain confident in your abilities and persistent in your efforts. The Career Services program of the university I graduated from held a career fair for those entering the teaching field. I was hired for my first teaching job through that job fair. Although I loved working in the classroom and helping children learn, I found it impossible to survive on a teacher’s salary. The low pay coupled with the amount of student loan debt I acquired made pursuing a teaching degree a poor financial decision. If I were entering college as a freshman today I would do a much more thorough assessment of the earning potential of my field of study. With that being said I do love the work that I do and I feel that I am making a difference in people's lives. For that reason, the work is very rewarding. Job search lesson image from Bigstock

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