Thursday, June 12, 2008

Career Fair & Networking Event

After hearing about them for months, I was finally "selected" by the NYCDOE to attend the Citywide School Career Fair today. I had been issued an official invitation, which I was to print and bring with me, and had been advised that as a "preferred candidate" I would be permitted to arrive at 4 p.m. (the fair was scheduled at a hotel in Brooklyn, about 1/2 mile from LIU - convenient - and was set to last until 8 p.m.) if I were to register within the next 48 hours. I registered within about 10 minutes of receiving my invitation, and got an e-mail telling me to show up at 5 p.m.

It was quite an experience, especially because this is the first career fair I've ever attended, and hadn't any idea what to expect (which made me nervous, because I was unsure how to plan properly). I spent a couple hours on Wednesday evening and night printing my portfolio, which included my CV, a copy of my teaching certificate, and two sample lesson plans. I made about 30 copies, stapled and clipped everything accordingly, and wondered if I should make more. I showed up about half an hour early, cooled off, and eventually decided to just try to sneak in early; I checked in 15 minutes early and circled around for a little while to determine the lay of the land. About 140 schools were in attendance; signs were posted next to each school representative (sometimes there was just one; sometimes two; occasionally three) with the available positions, as well as where the school was located, and the school level (elementary, middle, or high school), although the schools were set up in blocks according to level (and had color-coded balloons as well). 

Lines tended form quickly, though; a lot of schools had multiple openings, and interviews seemed to last 5-15 minutes, at least the ones I went to. One interview lasted perhaps fewer than five minutes; clearly they were looking for someone who speaks Spanish, which is not I; and another school's rep. simply asked for my résumé. Nearly all of the people with whom I interviewed simply said or gave the impression that today was a résumé-collecting day; they would be passed on to principals and discussed in hiring committees for further discussion and call backs would begin in the next few weeks. I stayed much longer than I thought I would, about 2 ½ hours; I only really left because I was already about an hour and a half late to class; it was about 7:15 and a lot of interviewers packing up or gone altogether. I managed to relieve myself of perhaps 10 résumés, but before I left I walked around a bit more and made notes of as many schools where I hadn't interviewed that were in need of an English teacher. Standing in line really took most of the time.

Highlights include one interviewer who checked her Blackberry in the middle of the interview, and the other interviewer whose gaze kept wandering in the same interview. (At least the interviewer who checked her Blackberry seemed genuinely taken surprised - and hopefully impressed - that I had included the state standards on the sample lesson plans I had included. Another interviewer who asked if I were bilingual (to which I would have applied yes), and before I could answer asked if I spoke Spanish. A third school's interviewers glanced at my résumé, and I think were just burned out by the time I got to them, because they seemed to be waiting for me to just launch into an explanation of my background - which I should have done, but all the other interviewers at least asked for a moment to look at my résumé or asked me directly to tell them about my background and experience.

I don't know if the NYCDOE does this purposefully or if this actually happens, but I've noticed occasional wordings that imply immediate hire. For example, after I checked in, I was given a packet of information, which included information about the layout of the event, and a letter that encouraged us to write down names of interviewers and schools with whom we had made contact. (This is good advice.) But another line of this introductory letter congratulated us if we were hired at the career fair, and if not, to follow up with any interviews scheduled. I don't know how many applicants are likely to be hired on the spot, without discussing the applicant with others in the school. I'm also unsure as to how many interviews are scheduled on the spot; this is, after all, the end of the school year, when teachers and administration is at one of its busiest times. Just seeing all the people looking for work, I'd feel better about administration discussing the applicants with their department chairpeople, etc. One teacher applicant with whom I spoke made the good point that she would be reticent to accept a job before seeing the school and meeting other teachers who worked at the school. 

I left feeling a bit disappointed that I hadn't been able to interview at more schools, although really having 8 or 10 interviews in one day isn't too shabby.

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