“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.
- Develop and model your skills as a “professional.” (Read my July 1, 2015 blog “The Meaning of Pro.”)
- 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
- Professional Responsibilities
- 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)
- 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
- 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.”)
- 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.”)
- 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.”)
- 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.)
- Positive interview techniques (future blog)
- 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
© 2015 Paul K. Fox