‘You must be so excited to be finishing? What have you got planned over the summer? Have you got a job yet?’ The questions an undergraduate in their last week of term struggles to muster a response to amongst a cocktail of emotions: 5g of anxiety; 5g of sheer excitement; 5g sadness and 5g of relief!
I am one of the fortunate ones who is going straight out of university into a job as a primary teacher starting in September, but even this brings me out in a cold sweat. How will I cope with the responsibility of a class of thirty children? Will I actually teach them anything? Will I get on with my colleagues? Will they like me or constantly compare me to my predecessor?
We all have a unique understanding on the make-up of an attractive employer. Personally I value a visible passion and enthusiasm for their profession. Imagine if you turned up at an interview to face a haggard, stressed, unmotivated panel. What would you do? I’d seriously consider making my apologies before it began.
I’m always looking for new challenges and learning opportunities so an employer that could offer continued professional development would score highly especially if the prospect of international travel was on the cards!
Before you can begin ranking potential employers you need to find them. Most universities or colleges offer job fairs for various professions. In January the teaching job fair at my university caused a flashback to UCAS fairs resulting in strained shoulders from carrying masses of prospectuses. A hall full of overeager representatives from Local Education Authorities, Supply Agencies and International Education Agencies filled me with confidence and excitement for getting a job but in reality they don’t employ you; basically they identify themselves and show you how to access job advertisements.
The best media to access education job advertisements is the Times Education Supplement website, however some schools cannot afford the steep advertisement fees so I recommend looking at your local newspaper or local authority website to make sure you don’t miss any potential employers.
The journey to employment could be compared to the Yellow Brick Road: the ‘tin man’ computer, brainless ideas, heartless employers, wicked competition and at the back of your mind the thought ‘there’s no place like home’. Cruelly, sometimes it’s a Wizard of Oz farce of an inside job. What a waste of paper, time, petrol and energy!
Fourteen schools called, five schools visited, fourteen application forms filled in, fourteen personal statements written, two interviews, two lessons observed and finally one job. What did the lucky school see in my application that the other thirteen didn’t? Why was I chosen out of hundreds of other applicants? Was it my honesty, my passion for teaching, my knowledge of education or my unique experience? I hope a combination of all four but I honestly believe it was the uniqueness of my personal statement that got me the interview.
What is this unique experience and how do you get it? Well, we’ve all got it! Our generation has had the most fantastic opportunities to better our careers whilst having an amazing time. Have you ever worked or studied abroad? Have you volunteered in Africa? Have you taken extra courses? Do you play a sport? Can you dance, act, sing or play an instrument? I’ve done it all. Without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today about to embark on this new chapter in my life.
The strange thing is I didn’t do any of it to gain employment. The thought never crossed my mind. In fact I resented people who said ‘Ooh that’ll look good on your CV’. It made me sick to think people could volunteer in an orphanage in Africa purely to benefit their career but in reality that is what I have unconsciously done.
I’m not saying you’ve got to go to Africa to get a job. Any experience is better than no experience. Over the past months my friends have searched within themselves to find their strengths and unique experiences. Although they’ve not all managed to secure jobs yet I know they will because each of them has experiences unique to the individual developed before or during their time at university.
University offers a wealth of experience you should grab with open arms: Student’s Union positions, course representative responsibilities, first aid courses, CV development workshops, volunteer projects and much more. Everything you do will teach you about yourself, about the person you want to become and give you the skills to get there. All employers really want is proof you’ve worked hard to get where you are today and will continue to professionally develop.
Although you’ll be doing all you can to bag a job make sure the job is right for you. Whatever experience you’ve gained and whoever your employer is, if your heart’s not in it then get out before it’s too late. You haven’t spent three or four years at university working hard to gain a degree and unique experience to work in a job you don’t like. However, sometimes the black cloud of student debt becomes too much to bear and any pay cheque is better than none; there hides material for another article but I’ll save that for later.
It leaves me to say enjoy your last days as a student, search within yourself to find your strengths and awaken your dreams. The world is your oyster; go grab that pearl of a job!