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The reality of job hunting

blog-probationer

Chris Mutch on searching for a job after the Christmas break.

Music Teacher, St Thomas Aquinas' School, Glasgow

After the Christmas holidays, the thought that in a few months time you may no longer have a job is a very sobering one.

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In my limited experience of job hunting I've covered a number of emotions and I'll take you through the steps that are involved and the issues that crop up.

Job vacancies

Firstly, people will start to speculate about how many jobs are likely to come up. The truth is most schools don't know what staff will be needed until nearer the summer holidays. Any chat from fellow probationer teachers is just speculation.

Around late March and into April, the TES website begins advertising jobs. I began to worry when loads of jobs didn't appear in the first week until I was told by experienced colleagues that few jobs appear that early, and not to panic.

The application form

Depending on your local authority, you may have a CPD session on different aspects of application forms. You need to make yourself sound like the best teacher in the world. Ever.

You'll be asked to complete sections on communication, promoting attainment or achievement and suitability for the post. We were told to structure the form using bullet points, though I felt that I'd too much to say to simply state facts.

To prove to people that I know what is current in the profession, I made a point of mentioning local and national priorities including formative assessment, Curriculum for Excellence, BBBL and Assessment is for Learning.

I made it clear that I understood the need to be a reflective practitioner who is solution-oriented and proactive. (Having thought about this at application stage really helped me prepare for interviews. In each of my interviews, I was asked what skills a 21st century teacher should have, and every time my best responses came from talking about how to look at yourself and your teaching.)

Everything you have done in order to advance your teaching skills over the probation year should somehow be put on the application form.

You'll run out of room, become frustrated, and probably have to redraft your form numerous times before you are happy. It pays to take time over the form as this will be the first point of contact with possibly your dream job in the ideal department.

Getting to interview stage

I was invited to four interviews before getting a job.

Each time you are interviewed you'll be met by a panel of three people that are essentially on your side; they want the best person for the job, so if they appear too scary they may end up with the wrong person.

Preparation for the quickest 25 minutes of your life will help a great deal. Get a copy of the usual questions asked in interviews; some authorities publish these on their websites and some schools will have a copy of questions.

Prepare answers to each, bringing in all the key points you want to cover. For the first ever time, I drew mind maps for each question and structured answers round these.

Feedback

After each interview, you will be invited to phone, or will be phoned with feedback and either a yay or nay response. Use the feedback to learn for the possible next interview.

I was told I spoke too much, didn't speak enough, my personality was wrong and that my personality and enthusiasm got me a job. It's difficult to work out what the panel are looking for.

I kept being told by colleagues to be myself. It slowly dawned on me that what the panel want to see is someone who cares about both teaching and the pupils.

A smile does no harm, and a light hearted moment proves you are human. Being enthusiastic in the interview gives the panel an indication of your teaching style; boring, monotone, dry, enthusiastic, over-the-top, eccentric, and so on.

Keep up the good work

During the whole process I found that jobs appeared more and more towards the summer. If you don't get the job you wanted, keep going. There are hundreds of probationers all over the country fighting it out for the jobs and it can become awkward.

I came up against two friends in one interview. I was annoyed with myself when I didn't get a job on the first, second and third time of trying. It was an effort to psyche myself up having been told I wasn't good enough.

The thought of being unemployed is motivation enough, but doing the job you love will keep you going through the hard moments.