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
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 is 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.
- 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), “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.
- 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 and 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.”
- 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/.
- 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” behind 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.
- Go online and study samples of resumes, their standardization and conventions 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!
- 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 singing, 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/.)
- 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.” Among 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!”
© 2016 Paul K. Fox