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I GOT THE JOB!

Aug 17, 2016, 10:37 AM
As if completing all the coursework needed to become an SLP, OT, PT, Special Education Teacher, BSN, Psychologist, Special Education Supervisor, etc. (I could go on…) isn’t difficult enough!  Turns out, earning your degree is just the beginning because as it seems, getting a job offer these days is quite a tedious task!  Resumes, cover letters, essays, applications, clearances, references, and let us not forget attire!  Lots to prepare when job seeking.  But, the silver lining is this, we, as educators, may actually have a lot of benefits, as we will always be needed!  

And, as educators, we are needed EVERYWHERE!  Schools are everywhere!  Quick side note- a recent Rutgers University grad who I know completed her degree in Biomedical Engineering (amazing degree by the way), however it took more than a full year for her to secure a job that was somewhat in her specialty as the offers out there in her field are so very limited.  After four years of tons of hard work, she was left feeling so frustrated that there just were not many opportunities and the competition she faced was stiff.   For the most part, that is not the case for us educators!  

So, fear not.  The process may be lengthy, but there are many opportunities out there, even if you do not take the traditional route!  So please read on for some tips and suggestions (for all…not just new grads) on how to amp up your resume and how to ace the interview.

WHERE DO I WANT TO WORK?  AND HOW DO I FIND THAT JOB?

Before you begin, you need to make some personal decisions about where you would like to work…rehab, schools, hospitals (this applies mostly to the therapists).  What age group are you interested in?  Are you willing to relocate (and if you can, why not try a position overseas or a traveling position…how fun…do it while you can!)?  If you are not exactly sure what area you are interested in yet, and you are flexible, you could try two part time jobs to pursue a variety of experiences.  I was
incredibly lucky to work a full-time and a part-time job during my first three years after grad school.  It ultimately led me to my dream job (a ways down the road) because I learned what I liked to do and what I did not like to do.  I literally saw all types of clients of all ages, and these experiences allowed me to find what I loved about being an SLP.

Since it can be tricky in some areas of the US to secure any position, doing something out of your comfort zone to gain experience can be rather exciting and lead you to your next step!  But, in the meantime, as you figure out the details of what type of job you are looking for, here are some resources that may help guide you in your search:

  • Local Districts:

    Seek out the website of your local or surrounding public school districts (some states have websites for all districts to post openings.  In Pennsylvania, we have PAREAP (pareap.com) and you can search for a job as well as post your resume for those to find you.  Always have your feelers out for the next best thing!

  • Substitute:

    Many of the teachers in my school district once started as an educational assistant or as a long-term substitute. Get that foot in the door so when a permanent position opens up, you are the person they think of first!  Make yourself be known.  Volunteer for lots of events and be there to help when help is needed!

  • Contracting Companies:

    Such as my favorite Invo Healthcare and Progressus Therapy! I have worked for Invo Healthcare for so many years and they are amazing!  I have had the best experience with them.  But contracting does not support everyone’s lifestyle needs, so be sure contracting is the right fit for you!

  • Network with Your Colleagues:

    It can be a tough business out there and it is indeed good to know someone…and they may get a referral bonus if they suggest you to a company!  Win-win for all!  Many of the Supervisory positions I have applied for recently this year were filled by staff that already worked in the district where the job was posted.  I repeat…get that foot in the door!  For some jobs, it is about knowing someone!  Hate to say that, but it is what I have experienced as of late!  The other thought is…apply to EVERYTHING!  If you are limited with job options, apply to it all and see what you get.  It is better to have options!

  • Use LinkedIn:

    Keep your profile current and post a professional picture.  Friendly remember (not to sound like an old lady but…just saying): LinkedIn is not Facebook!  And trust me, prospective employers DO indeed check out your Facebook page, so make it professional as well or be sure to set your privacy settings to super secure and be extra private if you post risque material!  Don’t let social media be the reason a school or company does not want to hire you!

  • Career Fairs:

    ASHA will be hosting one during their upcoming conference this November in Philadelphia, PA.  University’s also host Career Fairs…keep an eye out for what your local University or College may offer.

  • Internet Job Sites:

    I have had success using Monster.com and Indeed.com.  The search can be annoying as it does not always present the most narrowed down results (for example, I once searched for a position as a Supervisor of Special Education and got a suggested posting for a job as a Mortician…um no, just NO!), but if you spend time looking through what is listed, you may find some great opportunities.

RESUME & COVER LETTER STAT!

I am currently an SLP, but as you may have gathered, I recently earned my certificate to be a Supervisor of Special Education.  However, getting a Supervisory position has been a huge learning experience for me because getting this type of position is just not as easy as I thought it would be!  So, I am currently living and understanding the stress involved with advancing your career to find that you cannot get the job that you want.  Very trying!

My resume has really evolved over so many years of adding to it.  It is not a one and done type of document.  And I will give you some of my own tips, as I know there are so many resources out there on how to write a perfect resume.  My advice is to look at those suggestions and see what works best for you.  But do keep in mind that all those suggestions can be quite overwhelming…cause ya just can’t do all of them!  So here are some tips I have found helpful.

  • SPECIFY!

    I recently applied for a Director of Clinical Services position, and I had a recruiter actually ask me to change my resume.  In my sixteen years of being out in the work world, I have never been asked to do this before!   I was asked to add and embellish all the details I had listed but HIGHLIGHT the management experiences, since I was applying for a management role, not a practitioner role. I felt I already had done that. I explained to this agent that those details are included as I described such management experiences in my cover letter, and she stated, “I hate to say it, but, not many people even look at the cover letter, they usually focus on the resume.”  I was quite taken back by this message since so many companies require a cover letter.  In fact, I am still not at all convinced that the cover letter isn’t even glanced at.  Her remark will not change how I compose a cover letter, although it has changed how I approach my resume.  So after I digested her request, I realized the importance of properly and specifically addressing your audience (as if your cover letter may not be read, and lots of vital information could be overlooked if it is not detailed in your resume).  For instance, if you have done your research and know the position you are looking to secure is for an Autism Support classroom, then really highlight those experiences and make sure those POP!  Make yourself super marketable!  What I did was this:  I went to the actual job posting and carefully looked at what the required duties were and I applied those specific skills to my own experiences. And it worked!  The recruiter was pleased and stated this would catch the company’s eye for sure…and it did! (But it just wasn’t the right fit for me…but that is OK).  So my biggest piece of advice is to pay attention to your audience so you too can catch their eye!

  • Make it neat and pretty.

    I have my resume organized in a table format.  Make you resume memorable and concise, while packing in the details (kind of a hefty order, right!?)

  • Spellcheck! Spellcheck! Spellcheck!

    Ok, I know. Sooooo simple, right? Kind of a “No Duh” suggestion here, but this is why I say it: I recently had the misfortune of submitting a cover letter (to my dream job of course) with a handful of spelling errors! TYPOS GALORE! No joke…and yes, I cried when I discovered them. I was so pleased with my cover letter and proudly submitted it to Recruit and Hire’s application system. But, when I had to add my new certification details, I downloaded my cover letter from the online application website to fix it (I downloaded it onto someone else’s computer-not my own laptop where I wrote it), and all the red lines indicating spelling errors popped up all over the word document resulting in a near coronary! I WAS LITERALLY STUNNED (too bad I didn’t have the impression that no one reads the cover letter at this point as it might have calmed my upset at the time, but that wasn’t the case)! No way could I believe it was the accurate version…but sadly it was what I had submitted. Somehow, one of my lovely offspring, who goofed around with my laptop one day, happened to turn the auto correct spellcheck option to OFF resulting in my unknown typos! For heaven’s sake, I spelled “TEACHER,” as “TEACER!” I was more than mortified and learned a huge lesson because of this. Make sure your spellcheck is indeed ON. And do go the extra mile by having another person read your resume to you aloud, as the more you read your own work, the easier it is to miss errors!

  • Don’t use the over-used!

    Use more fruitful language in your resume and in your cover letter, but not to the degree of becoming Shakespearean-like.

INTERVIEW:

Ok!  You have done all your groundwork and have gotten an interview! Well done and congrats!    Not an easy task.  Depending upon the profession, there could be many other candidates that you are competing against for the job, or perhaps you are the sole candidate.  In the NJ, PA, DE area, SLPs are very needed, so you could be the only candidate.  However, in other regions, it is much trickier and the competition is steep!  So, the first thing that you need to do is to get yourself looking professional.  Research shows that a first impression is made in only two to five seconds!  That is mighty QUICK.  And sadly, if you happen to make a poor first impression, it can take 50-60 additional positive impressions to change a person’s mind.  So you can do the math: that is not possible during one interview.  So a first impression is IMPERATIVE!    It is a lasting impression.  So what makes a great first impression?

  • Be Prepared!

    Have a copy of your resume, cover letter and all your required credentials and clearances.  Have them printed on quality paper too.  Have all of these in a new folder for the interview team to keep.  If you have work samples to present, have a binder prepared for the interviewing team to look through.  Make sure they see your best you.

  • Look the part.

    Wear a suit.  It is so important to present yourself in the most professional manner that you can.  Men-wear a dark suit and a clean tie (no wrinkles in the clothing) and woman- wear a suit with a jacket, and if you should chose a skirt, do not make it too short.  “Heels shorter and skirts longer,” is a rule my mother once remarked to me while I was prepping for an interview.  Two years ago, I recall sitting in the lobby of a school waiting for my interview to commence and a young woman who had just interviewed for a teaching position walked out of the board room and her heels were at least 5 inches high, her neckline was plunging and he make-up was Tammy Faye Bakeresque (look it up youngins!).  My only thought was, “Really?”  She looked like she was going clubbing!  I also knew someone who wore very casual attire to an interview and she did not get the job even though she was far more than qualified for it.  Can’t prove it, but I would think that maybe her outfit had some sort of influence on the hiring committee.  Your appearance states a message.  So state, “I am professional and I am the best out there!”

  • Be Ready McFreddie!

    Have questions ready, as you are entitled to ask questions to those interviewing you as well.  At the end of most of my interviews, I have consistently been asked if I had any questions.  I have always inquired about what the job looks like in a day or a typical week (Ex: “What is a snap shot of a typical day or week that I would encounter in this position?”).  This allows the team interviewing you to know that you are very interested in the position.  However, also show that you have already done some research and you know about the position.  Know the details that are posted on the school’s website (how many schools there are in the district, what types of special education classrooms are in each building and what your class or caseload may be like).  This shows great interest and leaves a positive impression.  Finally, do NOT inquire about salary during the first meeting.  This is not the time.  It states you are interested in the moolah!  This question needs to wait.

For more suggestions on how to prepare for an interview, watch the video link provided:  Interview Impressions

 

Ok…you are ready now!

But one last final thought.  I have been frequently reminded of my favorite Pearl Jam’s song lyric, as it is truly my mantra recently!  "I'll ride the wave where it takes me..." After working so hard to get my certificate to be a Supervisor, and it has yet to pan out, I keep my favorite band’s words close to my heart!  I keep reminding myself that what is meant to be is meant to be!  I am where I should be!  And even though it is tough when you do not get “the” job, know it is not what is meant to be for whatever reason!  Be prepared and “ride the wave where it takes” YOU!

And once the wave has taken you to your first job position, watch this video on tips for your first days at your new job!

Enjoy!

Meghan E. Dreyfus, MA CCC-SLP
Speech & Language Pathologist
Certified Supervisor of Special Education