You’re in need of a teaching job … now.
I’ve got some real solutions that will help you get on the right track.
Through the years, I’ve learned much about the teaching market/hiring process that will help you be successful … if you’re willing to be flexible and go the extra mile.
Learn some of the rules, and you’ll eventually win.
Whether you’re a first-time teacher job-seeker or a seasoned educator looking for a fresh teaching job in a tough market, I’m sharing 10 real solutions that work.
Related: See our career and money advice page full of tips, ideas, and strategies for stretching your paycheck and teaching talents.
I Can’t Find a Teaching Job! What Should I Do?
1. Be Realistic.
First of all, let’s get something straight. This post is going to be real because I want you to be successful.
Wouldn’t you rather have someone be honest with you instead of continuously being rejected or ignored without knowing why?
So my first piece of advice is to be realistic with yourself.
Are you putting forth your best efforts in the teaching job hunt? Here are a few things to consider…
- Is your resume well-written? (translation: zero typos; valid information; recent, relevant work history customized to the particular position you’re applying for; etc.)
- How are your interviewing skills? Do you say “um” and “like” too often? Do you talk around a question? We often do little quirky things without even realizing it.
- Any gaps in your resume? If so, be able to explain them eloquently and thoroughly.
- Have you done your research? During an interview, it needs to come across that you’ve done your homework about the school. This makes a positive impression on the the hiring committee.
- Do you ask questions during the interview that are easily answered elsewhere, like on the school’s website? Do you have a list of decent questions to ask the committee during the interview? These questions should target information that you couldn’t find elsewhere but are important. (Avoid salary questions the first time around.)
- Are you dressing to impress? Clothes should be neat, clean, and appropriate for the occasion.
- Do you make eye contact during the interview and greet everyone on the committee upon arrival and not just the principal? This shows respect and puts every individual of the committee on equal footing. You never know who gets the final say in your decision.
This is a short list, but you get the point.
So, what do you need to work on?
Solution: Have someone that you trust critique these areas for you.
Tell them to be deeply honest.
The goal is for you to refine habits that you probably don’t pay much attention to very often but that could potentially impact your success in a negative way.
If possible, have two or three people do this.
Take the feedback, reflect on it, and then create an action plan to improve.
Afterwards, have those same people reevaluate you. Do a mock interview with them.
Do whatever it takes to put yourself in top-notch interview performance shape.
If you don’t have anyone, record yourself and listen back.
The things I discovered about my speaking delivery while listening to a recording of myself were quite embarrassing.
I was horrified!
But it has overall made me a better interviewer.
While you’re working on your interviewing chops, review these teaching interview tips. They’ll give you even more ammunition to land the right teaching job.
And about a teaching portfolio...
Yes, bring one along.
I think doing so is more significant if you’re a brand new teacher.
But as a seasoned teacher, bring one also if you want the best possible shot at landing a position.
2. Obtain In-Demand Certifications.
My first teaching certification is in elementary education. As the years have passed, I’ve noticed it harder and harder to land elementary education jobs compared to when I started teaching in 2003.
One reason for this is because it’s a relatively saturated teaching area, and depending on where one applies, it can be really hard to get a foot in the door.
Historically, saturated teaching certifications include elementary education, social studies, p.e, history, and English.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, individuals looking for employment in these subjects may have a harder time finding employment than those in more in-demand fields.
Solution: Obtain one or two in-demand teaching credentials to make yourself more competitive.
Consider bilingual education, high school math/science, or special education.
Research what certifications are in-demand in your area, and take those licensing tests.
If obtaining extra certifications isn’t possible for you at this time, highlight on your resume any sports coaching or extracurricular activities you’ve done.
Be sure to mention during interviews that you’re willing to take part in these.
Surprisingly, some schools have a hard time recruiting teachers to do these extra activities, so it’s worth asking about.
Who knows .. that could be the deciding factor in you landing the teaching job.
3. Start in a Private School.
Public schools have relatively high standards when it comes to licensing requirements for teachers.
You could be a Harvard graduate, but if you don’t have a teaching license, you’re not stepping foot inside a K-12 public school classroom.
Private schools, on the other hand, don’t have to follow such state laws regarding licensing and are usually more flexible in their requirements for teacher candidates.
In my experience, private and independent schools value much more real-world experience.
They may use other methods to measure your “worth” as a teacher candidate.
This is great news because you can sell yourself in such creative ways.
Because of this, it could be easier to get your foot in the door at a private school.
The flip side to private schools is that they often pay much less compared to public schools, but this isn’t always the case.
Solution: Do your research on all of the private schools in your area.
While the pay may be less, don’t rule out private schools.
You may land a position in one, really love it, and end up staying there for a long time.
4. Make Connections.
Are you on LinkedIn?
I used to wonder who in the world actually used that site for job hunting, but it can really work if you use it strategically.
Solution: Spruce up your profile, and become active on the site.
Look for contacts, networks, and simply stay in touch with people in various teaching circles. You never know who’ll come across your profile.
In the meantime, reach out to individuals who may be able to help you find teaching positions.
Don’t be shy.
Think about previous employers and former colleagues.
I’ve even seen jobs posted in teacher-related Facebook groups, so look around those too.
Additionally, attend a few teacher job fairs.
Hand out your resume, and speak with as many principals as possible.
A few days later, email those principals thanking them for their time.
Gently mention that you’re open to continuing the conversation regarding employment at their school and look forward to their response.
If they don’t write back, no problem. That’s obviously a sign that they’ve moved on to another teacher candidate.
But if they do respond affirmatively, bingo.
You’ve initiated the dialogue once again, so just go from there.
5. Work in “Less Desirable” Areas.
Teachers love to say that teaching is their “passion”.
But let’s face it … that passion is often conditional.
Why do I say this?
Because coincidentally, at-risk schools in tough areas often get skipped over by “passionate” teacher candidates.
I remember when Hurricane Katrina hit back in 2005.
I was living in Texas, and we started receiving students from Louisiana because so many people were being displaced.
It was a very sad situation.
But you know what was surprising to me?
The number of teachers complaining and moaning about their test scores and how “those kids” were going to affect them.
They chatted over lunch and happy hours about how nervous and anxious they were about potential behavioral issues from “those kids”.
“Those kids” were displaced and mentally distraught, but these teachers were thinking about test scores and how they would feel.
Hardly anyone, save the counselor, actually talked at length about what the kids were going through and how we could help them to heal plus move forward.
I was floored to say the least!
What happened to the “passion”?
What’s the point of me telling you this you ask?
The point is this…
Whether we admit it or not, there are schools that are harder to place good teachers in because of demographics.
Schools with “those kids”… schools with lots of discipline problems and high teacher turnover.
It’s a fact that’s hard for many to confess.
Suburban schools in “well-off” neighborhoods where the kids generally come from structured homes don’t have trouble finding teachers.
Those schools can be more selective in regards to teaching candidates.
Solution: Target the “tougher” schools.
Though not certain, this route may be a smoother transition into a teaching position than applying to well-off schools which receive a ton of applicants.
My first teaching assignment was at an at-risk school with students that had lots of needs, emotionally and academically.
A lot of teachers had the heart to be there and really wanted to be there.
Others got out the first chance they got. But that’s okay.
That means there’s more room for you.
I will say this though … make sure to go into those schools with a good heart and an open mind for understanding the kids.
Maybe more than anything, that’s what they need.
6. Email Principals Directly.
Some principals don’t like when you email them directly, but others don’t mind.
Throughout my career, I have found ALL of my teaching assignments by emailing principals directly.
Filling out those long, boredom-inducing job applications just doesn’t cut it.
You take your precious time filling them out, and then have to wait, wait, and wait.
Who has time for that!?
Solution: Send your online application, and then wait it out for a week or two.
If you haven’t heard anything by then, shoot an email to a few principals with your resume and cover letter customized to a specific post you see available at their respective schools.
You’ll be ignored by those who don’t like receiving emails (or by those who just don’t care to be bothered), but depending on how well you craft your email, expect to receive maybe one response out of every 10 emails sent.
The response could be a kind rejection, but that’s okay.
Cold emails do work though.
The goal is to at least land an interview or phone chat.
You gotta do what you gotta do.
7. Move Abroad.
Move abroad to teach?
You’re probably thinking, “Is this lady crazy?!”
Seriously, moving abroad could be a great option if you plan ahead and do some serious research.
I taught abroad for 9 years and loved every minute of it.
I wasn’t teaching ESL to the local population as some would think.
My job was as an elementary teacher at U.S embassy-supported international schools.
These schools pay relatively well, hire native English-speaking teachers, and provide housing.
Many teachers go abroad to teach in these schools never to return to their native countries.
Some land overseas because of tough teaching job markets in their own countries or simply because they seek a different teaching environment.
Solution: Don’t shrug off this option.
It’s a real possibility that could change your life in the most incredible way.
8. Be Willing to Relocate.
Okay, so moving abroad is a little too extreme for you. I get it.
Why not then think about moving to another state?
The U.S is a huge country, and not all states are created equally when it comes to demand for teachers.
There could be a range of demands within a state too, so do some research.
Moving may sound like a lot of work, but I’m not telling you anything I haven’t done.
Because of our flexibility, my husband and I have been able to take advantage of some great teaching opportunities that would have passed us by had we not been open.
We even know people with children who have made it work.
Think about this … Corporate America moves its employees all the time.
I realize teachers don’t normally receive the moving allowances that Corporate America dishes out, but if you’re really looking for a teaching job and are running out of options, moving is not the worst choice.
Moving is inconvenient, yes, but if you can land a great teaching job in another state or city, why not consider it?
Solution: Start by conducting research. See what’s available in other states.
You may find, too, that other nearby states recruit in your state.
If not now, maybe in the future.
Keep it in your repertoire of job hunting hacks.
9. Start as a Paraprofessional.
Okay, so moving abroad or to another state isn’t happening.
Consider working as a paraprofessional.
The pay is very low compared to teachers, but you’ll have an opportunity to network with teachers and principals once you’re in the position.
Solution: If you’re okay with being a teacher’s assistant, apply.
Be enthusiastic about the possibility of working with the school in that position, but be upfront about the goal of having your own classroom one day.
This way, the hiring committee is aware that you are excited about the present position but open to and interested in future teaching options.
The committee can’t read your mind, so it’s a good idea to put out into the universe what you desire.
You may get your desire sooner than you think.
Stay optimistic and open.
10. Become a Substitute Teacher.
Substitute teaching is a great way to get your foot in the door.
It generally pays decently, and like with the paraprofessional position, you have opportunities to network/connect with teachers and administrators once you’re in.
An additional positive with substitute teaching is that you have many educational experiences at a variety of schools.
This will help you narrow down your teaching likes and dislikes as it relates to grade levels and teaching subjects.
Solution: Apply to sub at a few different schools or districts. Put forth your best work efforts once you’re onboard, and you’ll soon be noticed.
Even if you don’t land a teaching position as soon as you’d like, just the fact of being called regularly by a particular school (s) is a good sign.
Subs with poor reputations among a school community don’t get called back very often.
So if you do become a regular “go-to” sub, consider it a win and a step in the right direction of landing a permanent teaching position.
If you can’t find a teaching job, now you have some good ideas of what you should do next.
So roll up your sleeves and get into action.
All the best in your job search