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Your first tasks as a job hunter are to determine what you want from a teaching job, your goals and what you do best in teaching, your marketable skills or work strengths. To make these determinations, you need to be able to answer that profound question: Who am I?

This section helps you recall past experiences in order to identify key words and specific examples that speak to your unique teaching goals and skills. It then helps you organize those words and experiences into a one- to two-page work-strengths summary that you will find enormously helpful when it comes time for job networking, resume writing, and interview preparation.

Describe Your Ideal Job

Job satisfaction depends on three factors: job conditions, such as the size, location and nature of your work place; job content, such as what you do on a day-to-day basis and the areas of expertise you use and job compensation, such as salary, health insurance, and retirement benefits.

The following exercise can help you determine conditions and content that are important to your job satisfaction. (We'll discuss compensation in a later chapter.)
  1. My ideal job would be working with these types of students;
  2. My ideal work setting would include (describe location, size, and philosophical environment);
  3. In my ideal teaching situation, I would spend the majority of my day doing these things;
  4. My fellow teachers would help me by;
  5. I would enjoy the company of my peers while pursuing these things;
  6. My principal or supervisor would say he or she appreciated this quality about me as a person;
  7. My principal or supervisor would say he or she appreciated these teaching skills of mine;
  8. My supervisor would show his or her support for me by;
  9. I would spend extra time on;
  10. Five years from now I see my job or career changing in this way;
Identify Your Work Strengths

A skill is any quality, body of knowledge or ability that enables you to accomplish a task and produce a result.

The three exercises that follow help you identify your major strengths in each of these three skill categories.

Each exercise asks you to choose three or more words or phrases that describe you. Don't limit yourself to the choices on these pages. Feel free to add your own descriptions. If you are not sure how to identify yourself, ask people who have had a working relationship with you to help.

Select Your Top Five Strengths

Review the words and phrases you circled in the previous exercises. From that group, select the five items you believe reflect your top skills. If possible, choose at least one item from each of the three skill categories: Qualities, Knowledge, and Abilities.

Reword these five items a bit so they are grammatically uniform (i.e. all nouns or descriptive phrases) and their meanings are immediately clear.

Prove Your Strengths

You've identified your top five work strengths. Now it's time to support those claims with hardcore evidence. At this point, the more details you can summon from the past, the better your case. Use the checklist at right to help you write three or four descriptive paragraphs about each of your top work strengths.

Below is a sample exercise:

In 1989, 45 percent of the special education students at Sandy High School in Westbend, Connecticut, could not pass driver's education. Under the guidance of the driver's education teacher, I adapted the instructional materials. I reworded worksheets, simplified assignments, and instituted a peer-tutoring program in which students with driver's licenses coached special education students on driving rules and regulations.

Sandy High School is the largest school in Connecticut, with more than five special education programs and was providing effective special education programs is a top priority. As to date, 235 of its special education students have completed the driver's education curricula I adapted. Of these, 80 percent have passed the state's written and behind-the-wheel driver's tests. The course continues to fill up each semester.

As a result of this success, I was asked to chair the school's curriculum committee.

Description Checklist

For each work strength you describe:

  1. Specify a significant achievement that required you to use this strength. Describe the achievement in general. Then list specific tasks and responsibilities you performed to reach the ultimate outcome.

  2. Tell when you exhibited this achievement. Describe the specific time period or frequency.

  3. Describe where you exhibited this achievement List the place, the size of the place, and its reputation. If reputation is difficult to describe, then describe the expectations or the atmosphere of the place.

  4. Describe how well you exhibited the achievement.
Did someone or some group give you an award or point out your work to others? Were you asked to do it again or to use it somewhere else? Can you list measurable outcomes or enduring effects of the achievement?

Write a Work-Strengths Summary

A work-strengths summary is a concise summary of your teaching strengths. Composing such a document will help you summarize what you have learned about yourself and it can serve as a handy reference when you are discussing your skills with a job contact. It is not a formal resume. It simply lists your major job skills and accomplishments.

Anatomy of a Work Strengths Summary

Work-strengths summaries have three basic sections:

  1. Personal Data: The top of the first page lists your name, your address, and a phone number where a potential employer may leave you a message.

  2. Job Strengths: The next section describes your top strengths, and achievements related to those strengths. Each strength should be no longer than two paragraphs. (In other words, use a shortened version of the strengths you just described on the previous pages.)

  3. job Experience. The remaining portion briefly summarizes your teaching and /or related work experience in chronological order, from most current to least current.

Use the work-strengths summary on the next two pages as a model for typing a summary of your own work strengths. Once you've completed your summary, ask people who know you well if they think it describes your abilities. Do they think you left anything out? What would they change?

Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, until your work-strengths summary conveys to others what you do best.

Visualize Your New Job

Executive placement consultants advise job seekers to use work-strengths summaries in a visualization exercise that can help them remain focused on their job-search goals. A mind focused on a goal, they claim, is like a powerful magnet that attracts the success it seeks.
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