Steve Whittington, IEU Victoria Tasmania Officer has a wealth of experience in running workshops and webinar presentations on writing a CV, job applications and honing interview skills for jobs in the education sector. Whittington gives his 10 top tips here.
Preparing to land your next role is more like completing a Rubik’s Cube than an orienteering course. In the latter, you can choose your own direction, checkpoint order and pace to suit your strategy. With the former, you have to complete some strictly defined moves in the right order according to your cube’s pattern at that point.
Make a wrong move and it throws your whole game into disarray.
So, your cube is in disarray and you want to know your starting move. Well, firstly, you need to know what direction to head off in. As with the start of any journey or process, you have to know where you want to go before you make a move. In the education sector, it is highly likely that you have a strong sense of purpose, which will certainly aid you in defining this step. Simon Sinek has a great TED talk called How great leaders inspire action where he proposes that world renowned organisations and highly successful individuals start by asking ‘why’ they do what they do rather than ‘what’ they do or ‘how’ they do it.
In a teaching context this might equate to inspiring the next generation of scientists or helping early primary students build the resilience they’ll need throughout their school journey. This contrasts markedly with the ‘what’ (“I’m an English Teacher, mainly for Years 8 to 10”) or the ‘how’ (“I make sure I sit them in name order and do a spelling test every Monday morning…”)!
2. Gap analysis
After defining your purpose, you need to do a bit of a gap analysis. This involves some pretty brutal introspection about your strengths and weaknesses, what you enjoy and what you try to put off. Try to consider your values, skills and attributes as a portfolio of properties that makes you a valuable employee. The more you refine your key strengths, the more likely you are to appeal to the right employer. You want to sell yourself as the ‘missing jigsaw piece’ rather than the round peg to go in any round hole. It will make your entire application come to life, give it shape and a sense of rarity as opposed to just another teacher application for just another teacher vacancy. Sell them the role you want to fill rather than try to mould yourself into the shape they think they want. It changes your application strategy somewhat (see Tip 5) but it will pay dividends.
3. Take stock
Let’s take stock. You have a sense of passion and purpose and have learnt how to articulate to others what you excel at, whilst having sufficient self knowledge to avoid tasks that you don’t like and don’t want to do. That’s starting to sound a bit like a brand. The next step therefore is to treat the portfolio we discussed in Tip 2 like a mini-business that needs to perform a branding exercise. Therefore, just like Coca-Cola, Qantas, Apple, Toyota, Kylie Minogue you need to define:
- your brand values (what you believe in)
- your brand attributes (how you perform)
- your brand promise (what your employer can expect of you)
- your target demographic (who will benefit most from your skills)
- your price point (graduate or highly accomplished?)
You can start to see that there’s a lot more to this process than merely banging out a stock-standard CV and cover letter and SPAM mailing it to as many potential employers as possible. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but once you embark on this journey (more of an adventure really!), it’s a process that will stay with you for your entire career, rather than just for the next job. As with the top brands in the world – think Nike – it is best to keep your CV simple, easy to understand and describe and most importantly, inspire a sense of purpose and passion. Just do it!
4. Key documents
Your Rubik’s Cube is nearing completion and we’re in the critical phase. It’s now time to ensure your key documents are up to scratch. We need to put our brand down on paper so we can start to let people know how good our product is. There are myriad CV templates online, and that’s fine if you just want to blend in. Your best bet is to choose a layout that suits what you want to say, and structure the content in the same way a magazine editor puts together a Christmas special edition. How can you ensure your publication gets into the most hands possible? What are your headline stories? What are your key skills and attributes? If you are changing careers, what transferable skills are you bringing from your previous roles? CV, cover letter and key selection criteria advice is too extensive to cover in detail here. It is probably best to seek out workshops from your IEU branch or other PD providers.