Sunday, September 12, 2010

Preparing For And Going To The Hiring Fair

Anyone who knows me knows that if I decide I'm going to do something, come hell or high water I do it. I made up my mind that I was going to teach internationally, so all of my energy went into this. Nothing half way. I say this because if you decide to do this, you can't go in half heartedly. This is a trying, life changing, excruciating process.
Awhile ago I said I would describe the hiring fair I went to in Cambridge, hosted by Search Associates (I'll refer to them as SA). Before I do that, I'd like to describe how I prepared myself for this crazy 4 day whirlwind experience.
After I became a candidate through SA I started my research. School's websites, blogs, country profiles, asking questions of friends who have traveled, etc. I joined International School Review and Joy Jobs. (International School Review is the worth the money, Joy Jobs is not in my opinion). You have to have 4 on-line evaluations by administrators or former student's parents. Then you can begin your communication with schools.
Around November you will start getting emails about positions you may be interested in from SA. Everything about you that a school wants to see is on-line. Resume, picture, educational statement, and evaluations. You can contact the people in charge of hiring right away by email and don't be surprised if you get an email from a school who wants to recruit you. This is very cool and exciting. Especially when you are safe and sound in your home country dreaming about how nice Morocco really could be...*sigh* Then reality sets in and Rabat wants a phone interview and you begin freaking out saying, "I don't want to live in Rabat!" (Although I'm sure Rabat is a wonderful place, that was my childish reaction)
The Hiring Fair (cue music from "The New World Symphony" here)
This is a competitive, intimidating, and inspiring experience. Now I've been to my share of cattle calls, auditioning for musicals and operas. But, nothing like this. These teachers are fierce and ready (and don't even get me started on the teaching couples). Portfolios in hand, dressed to impress, and very worldly. Boy did I ever feel like the biggest Yankee Red Neck around these folks. Many were younger than me and have been to 2 or 3 different postings (schools in different countries). I was impressed for sure. The cool thing was that everyone was supportive, fellow teachers included. You have a SA advisor that you can meet with and discuss schools. These guys either personally know the schools or know someone that does. They will be honest about whether or not the school is a fit for you.
It is best to stay in the hotel where the conference takes place. Book your room way in advance. You are going to be in that hotel non-stop for 4 days going from interview to interview. This is where all of the schools are staying as well. This is where they hold the interviews. It makes life so much easier.
Part one begins at 7am. With a cup of coffee in hand you walk through a ball room with big pieces of paper hanging on the wall with names of schools on them and a list of positions they are hiring for the upcoming school year. There are jobs you expected to see listed and there are many surprises. At 8am the schools come in and set up at various tables ready to accept interviews. Then you go stand in line at your school of choice and kindly ask for an interview. Some schools say, "get lost" (a bit nicer) but some hunt you down before hand and say "come by my table" and tempt you with chocolates and pens. When you leave this affair, you may have anywhere from 3 to 10 interviews set up. Then there is a whole other round of this craziness because there are over 100 schools at the fair.
Round 2 is your interview. You give your best interview possible even though you are in a hotel room with a principal, a bed, and a micro-fridge. It is awkward, but you get the job done. Usually there is not an immediate job offer, but you may be asked for a second interview. By day two of this, things start happening fast. You may get offered a job at your 2nd favorite school and have a 2nd interview with your 1st favorite school within hours of when you are to tell your 2nd favorite school if you will take the job....huh? I know...right!
But, if you are lucky, by the end of this fair and this crazy four days you will have a job. Hopefully you have done your research and you are getting a fabulous package (salary, housing, travel expenses paid, yearly travel home, etc). Hopefully you are going to live in a place where you will feel blessed to live for at least two years (it is customary to sign two year contracts). Hopefully you have found a job like the one I landed.