If you’re a teacher looking for a new role, you’ll probably go to a few job fairs to get your resume out to new principals and schools.
I’m not going to beat around the bush -- these fairs aren’t fun for anyone. Even if you’re an extrovert, it’s not exciting to go from table to table trying to distinguish yourself from a room full of other job hunters.
Regardless of how tedious job fairs can be, they can help you to make new connections. Here are a few simple things you can do to make your experience as productive as possible.
1. Define your goals for the event
The biggest benefit of going to a job fair is the opportunity to meet recruiters and hiring managers in person. While recruiters will probably see your resume if you submit it through the school’s website, you’ll be much more memorable if they’ve met you in person.
Think of a job fair as another way to advertise yourself -- the more chances you give a hiring manager to understand who you are and what you bring to the table, the more likely you’ll get a first round interview.
Keeping this in mind, it’s helpful to think about what you’re trying to get out of attending a job fair. This can include:
- New leads for your job search
- Meeting recruiters and hiring managers in person
- Information on a specific school and whether they’re a good fit for you
- Information on next steps for an interview (if appropriate)
Defining these goals will help you go into the fair with a clear head and a sense of purpose.
2. Prepare an elevator pitch for yourself
Job fairs are so crowded that you won’t have more than a few minutes to chat with each recruiter.
Your best plan of action is to jump into a conversation with a recruiter quickly, run through an elevator pitch of yourself that helps them know a bit more about who you are, ask a few questions about their school, and leave a resume with them before moving on.
What’s in an elevator pitch? It really shouldn’t be more than a few sentences, but should cover:
- Where you’re working now
- How long you’ve been teaching
- What type of school you’d like to work for
You can transition into a longer conversation by asking the recruiter what they are recruiting for, offering your advice on how you can help solve issues they’re facing, and asking any other questions you have. To finish off, you can ask what the next steps are in the interview process or for contact information to stay in touch.
Another important thing to keep in mind: don't ramble. Many job hunters get nervous and try to fill silence with chatter. Your best bet is to be efficient with giving your elevator pitch, gather the information you need to know, and to move on while looking as confident as possible.
3. Scope out potential employers attending the fair before you walk through the door
Many job fairs will give you a list of schools and employers that will be attending in advance. If this is the case for the job fair you’re going to, do some research (more on how to do that here) and make a list of schools you are interested in learning more about.
Once you get to the job fair, scope out where recruiters from those schools will be sitting and work your way around the room strategically -- this way you can visit every school you’re interested in learning more about without tiring yourself out.
If you’ve done research on a school ahead of time, be very clear to them that you’ve done your homework when you meet them in person -- this helps you show initiative, and conveys to them that you’re enthusiastic about potentially being a part of your team.
If you haven’t researched a school ahead of time, it’s fine to ask them questions to learn more about them -- just be sure to ask them thoughtful questions about their curriculum, mission, and students. Rolling up to their table and simply asking “Umm… so who are you?” is never a good look (trust me, I’ve seen this more times than I can count).
4. Prepare little things beforehand so that you aren’t frazzled
I’ve seen so many people come through job fairs looking like they’ve been struck by lightning. I highly suggest doing small things to prepare before the fair so that you don’t look frazzled.
Before you leave, make sure you pack everything you need so that it’s neat and accessible; this way you can focus on impressing recruiters rather than looking for a lost item in your bag.
Bring multiple copies of your resume so you don’t look like you’ve come unprepared.
If you’re taking public transportation or driving to the fair, make sure you plan your route so that you aren’t sweaty and winded as you go into the fair.
If you know you’re going to be at the fair for a while, make sure you have water or a snack so you have the energy to keep going.
Most of this is common sense, but it’s important that you feel like your best self going into a job fair. Preparing ahead of time will give you the confidence you need to show off why you’re a great teacher.
5. Be positive about your experiences and accomplishments
Confidence and positivity are key in helping you make a great first impression; they transform how you carry yourself and make you much more approachable.
So many teachers come into job fairs feeling inadequate about what they’ve achieved. While I usually feel a bit sorry for them, their insecurity doesn’t make me feel confident that they’d do a great job in the classroom.
Be positive about all that you’ve achieved and think of yourself as someone recruiters want to learn more about -- I promise it will help you make a great impression.
6. Follow up
If a recruiter at a job fair offers you their business card and you’re interested in working at their school, feel free to email them to follow up 1-2 days after you’ve met to follow up.
You can keep the message short -- all you need to mention is that you liked speaking with them and that you’d like to stay in touch. Conclude the email by offering to send more information if they would like to learn more about you.
Regardless of the outcome, following up shows initiative and demonstrates to recruiters that you are genuinely interested in working with them.
Good luck with the job search! I’m sure you’re all going to be great out there.
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