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Three Tips to Not Trip Up Your Teacher Job Search

What a busy week- webinars with SchoolSpring and YouTern and launching our group coaching program (you’ve enrolled so I can get you your dream job, right?). And let’s not forget about the Life After College Party with the awesome NYC coaching community, NY Creative Interns, and Jenny Blake. Thanks to everyone who participated in these events and reminded me that I am living my dream as a career coach!

Yesterday, I took some time to listen to the recording for the SchoolSpring webinar which focused on using your competitive advantage to find a teaching job and re-read the chat. I pulled out three things I spoke about where people on the webinar weren’t quite convinced. I thought I’d address them today on the blog.

Apple-0031. Have a great digital portfolio. A digital portfolio is used to market your unique strengths before you even get the interview. A physical portfolio is limiting because it can only realistically be used in the interview.  Someone asked if a principal or recruiter will actually spend time online looking at your online materials. Absolutely. No one gets hired today without being Googled so why not point them to the an online space where you want them to look? Also, as online learning becomes more important in today’s schools, having a digital portfolio can demonstrate that you are onboard.

2. Use a GMail address for your job search. For some reason, this was one of the most talked about pieces of advice on the webinar! Trust me. There is data that shows that resumes with GMail addresses get looked at more often. Think about your brand and check out this piece from The Oatmeal on What Your Email Address Says About You if you still need to be convinced. As for university-based email addresses, recruiters don’t want to see them for two reasons. One, student email addresses quickly expire so I am going to assume that after May, it’s only a 50/50 chance I’ll actually get you so I’ll just contact someone else than potentially be aggravated with a bounced back email. Second, I want to hire someone who has already transitioned to adulthood and not a student.

This is just an example of what we talk about around mindset and branding in coaching.

3. Include your non-teaching experience on your resume. Every person interviewing for a teaching position in 2011 knows lesson planning and loves kids. When principals are interviewing you, they are thinking about the value you are going to add to the classroom beyond your basic training and what makes you unique. Any way that you can show you are well-rounded, do it. Think about some stories from your experiences outside student teaching and conclude them with how those lessons and skills are going to make you an amazing teacher.

There were also questions about how to teach in different states than the one where you earned your certification. I’m all for this, but ut’s not easy. In fact, this mobility issue is  very likely going to be related to my dissertation topic that I am taking on for the fall. I am planning to crowdsource my topic on my blog, so check back here throughout May for that post and give me your thoughts if this is something that makes you emotional or riled up.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Marketing Case Study of Catfish: Job Seeker Lessons

The 2011 Oscar nominations came out today! I am a movie person, so that excites me. I have waited to see most of the nominated movies because I discovered that AMC hosts two Saturday Manhattan Oscar showcases where they show all the movies (five each day). I did one showcase last year and it was so much fun, I hope to do it again, though with pillows.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been impressed by the Oscar nominated movies I’ve seen so far. I thought The Social Network was on the boring side (Jesse Eisenberg plays the same character in every movie and Andy Samberg’s Mark Zuckerberg is much better), Inception would have been good if the acting hadn’t been so bad (Ellen Page is generally overrated), and Toy Story III wasn’t as good as the others. The Kids Are Alright was just plain annoying. I thought about the 2010 movie I liked the most this morning and I’ve decided it was Catfish.

(Spoiler alert going forward if you haven’t seen Catfish…)

Catfish is a “documentary” (some believe the movie was staged) made by a trio of young New York City filmmakers who became Facebook friends with a family in rural Michigan. One of them, Nev, begins a long-distance flirtation with a daughter named Megan who’s the same age. After some time, the guys begin to believe something is amiss and travel unannounced to Michigan so they can meet the family. They find that most of what they experienced on Facebook, including Megan, was imagined by a woman named Angela who is a lonely mom with a difficult family situation. People had very strong reactions to Catfish. If you didn’t like it, you hated it because you thought it was staged or because these young, arrogant New Yorkers took advantage of old, simple Angela. 
(Yes, I know I am generalizing here.)

Catfish I am not suggesting that Catfish was worthy of an Oscar nomination, but it was definitely the movie I most enjoyed last year. I questioned whether parts were contrived, but I didn’t feel that they exploited Angela. For me, a good movie is one that touches me emotionally and hopefully makes me both laugh and cry and Catfish achieved both. I laughed at the silliness of the main character and I cried at Angela’s humanity. In the photos she stole and chose for her online persona, or in her self-portraits that she painted, you could see reflections of her true self, but with longing and regret. I think we can all relate to feeling stuck, but hoping for “more” at some point in our lives.

Some people would say Catfish was successful for a first-time documentary, but it initially had more potential. When the movie came out in September, there was internet chatter that this movie could be called the “real Facebook movie” over The Social Network. Obviously that didn’t happen, and that’s partly because the studio and filmmakers made constant mistakes in the marketing, mistakes that are easy to make in job seeking, too. Here are some lessons from Catfish I’ve been reflecting on and how they relate to careers.

One: Make sure you’re marketing yourself authentically.

The studio marketing of Catfish was a textbook case of what NOT to do. I decided to see Catfish based on a small paragraph I’d read in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly and hadn’t seen the trailer. The trailer markets the movie as a thriller- what will these young men find in Angela’s house in the boondocks of Michigan, which they first approach in the dark? Scary, but 5 minutes of the entire move. I am assuming that the studio thought that kind of movie would appeal to young moviegoers, but no one wants to feel cheated about what they’ve paid to see. I wouldn’t have gone to the movie if I’d first seen the trailer, which would have been a loss, based how much I enjoyed the movie.

It’s always best to market yourself authentically when you’re searching for a job, too, so you can find your right audience. If you’re marketing yourself as someone you’re not in your online and written documents, people will find out once they meet you at the interview, anyway. So please disregard bad career articles that tell you to focus on flirting over substance or to botox your resume (anyone notice these articles are always written for women by women? Ugh. That’s a dissertation, not a blog post).

Second, there are implications for your happiness. Say you even fool the hiring manager (unlikely), are you prepared to keep pretending you’re someone you’re not every day once you have the job? Why would you want to keep that up? Even if you’re not job searching because it was your choice, don’t you want something better for your next gig where you’re comfortable, happy, and successful? It’s hard to build success on lies and misrepresentations, just like Catfish, and for that fact, Angela.

Two: Emphasize your likeability.

We’ve talked about the importance of being likeable because above all else, people want to do business with people they like. I read lots of articles about how the filmmakers came off as punks in press tours and interviews. I am sure they felt attacked by the exploitation accusations, but they came off as likeable in the movie and had the opportunity to be that way with the press. No one wants to see a movie with people who seem like jerks and no one wants to hire someone who seems sketchy.

Three: Understand that everyone has preconceived biases and sometimes you can’t change them.

There were lots of people who didn’t like Catfish because they have predetermined notions about social networking and who uses it, as well as people like Angela. Some people were going to believe that Angela was exploited no matter what they saw in the movie. When I read the New York Times review of the movie, I wondered if the critic had seen the same movie. If you read his review, and others, you see opinions about the usefulness of Facebook creeping in and realize that it’s impossible to see a movie like this through an impartial lens. I wasn’t impartial, either. I have first hand experience with people who NEED to use social networking, who are unable to develop in-person relationships due to real phobias and related issues. Without the internet, they’d be unable to relate to anyone because of chemical reasons. While I would never advocate that people lie about their persona like Angela did, or believe her behavior was acceptable, I understand where the overwhelming desire to connect with strangers via the internet comes from for people who are stuck in their worlds. Of course I was going to cry at her story.

As a jobseeker, you have to realize that you only have limited control over people’s opinions on your candidacy because some of it is developed before you step in the room. Sometimes, the hiring manager will not give you a fair chance based on what s/he believes about people of your generation (young and old) or employees who worked for your previous company. Listening for those biases and addressing them is important, but it’s also essential to understand that you don’t have ultimate control over other people’s decision-making process. Your only responsibility is to do your best and accepting that lack of control is powerful. Perhaps the Catfish team could have done more to educate the general public about the different sides of social networking, but it’s likely that people would have brought their own Facebook experiences to the movie anyway.

As a wrap-up, yesterday was my book list and today’s my movie list. Here are my evaluations for the 2011 nominees pre-AMC Oscar Showcase. I am also including my 2010 ratings for reference if you’re trying to figure out my taste.

2011 Nominations




Didn’t See

Toy Story III
The Social Network
The Kids Are Alright (hated) Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
True Grit
Winter’s Bone
127 Hours

2010 Nominations




Didn’t See

The Hurt Locker
The Blind Side
An Education
District 9
A Serious Man
Avatar (probably better in 3D)
Up In The Air (hated)
Inglorious Basterds (been on my DVR forever)

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Quick Updates and Intern Superstar Daniel Hernandez

Happy new year! You may have noticed that after a big push for the #Reverb10 writing campaign, blog posts were very light (yes, an understatement) last week. I am working on some updates to my website (both content and design) and am committing to giving this project all my focus. In fact, if you send me an email, you’ll read that in my autoresponder!

In a few of my #Reverb10 posts, I wrote that I am working with a time management coach. While I actually coach other people on time management systems, I needed help getting clarity on scaffolding my work to better impact the bottom line of my business. One immediate win that came from working with my coach was identifying four projects (one being my website) with tasks that are stuck because they were dependent upon each other. I realized if I cleared these tasks out in a certain order, so much other good stuff would begin to flow. Sometimes even if you feel you have the expertise, the time comes to hire a professional thought partner when you’re not moving forward on your own. It’s the same role I play with my clients who are working on career and job-search concerns or figuring out how to carry out exactly what they want in their lives.

Before I go dark, I wanted to comment on Daniel Hernandez, the 20-year old intern who likely saved Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s life on his fifth day on the job during the shooting attack on Saturday. The tragedy in Arizona has been heavy on my mind the last few days as I am sure it has been for you. It seems cheap to find career lessons for interns in this horrific event, though there are many. I immediately thought of when I was recruiting teachers and how the high-achieving and dynamic Latino man who worked his way through school, wanted to dedicate himself to public service, and didn’t mind working weekends was our dream candidate and our purple squirrel. Wow, has this young man set the standard! And I’d be lying if hearing Daniel’s story didn’t make me reflect on all the interviews I had in 2010 with young professionals for my own internship or commission-based positions who told me about all their constraints and what they couldn’t do. I don’t expect an intern to save my life, but I’d love to meet my version of Daniel Hernandez the student leader to work for The Opportunities Project!

Intern lessons aside, whether we’re young or old or in-between, or seeking a new career or satisfied with the jobs we have, I do think all of us can take a lesson from Daniel Hernandez’s story. This is a young man who lives openly and with conviction in a tumultuous state dealing with issues of ethnicity and sexuality in public ways. All the evidence points to someone who lives his life with courage every day, so it was not a surprise that he made the decisions and took the actions he did in a crisis. How often are we faced with situations where we could take a courageous course but choose the easy one? How is that impacting our long-term path to achievement and satisfaction? It’s food for thought for all of us, no?

Be back soon…

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Careers and Curly Hair- What Do You Think?

A few months ago, a sorority sister who now works for the Los Angeles Times posted a question on Facebook- is anyone with curly hair willing to talk about their struggles with curly hair to one of her colleagues? I immediately volunteered. The request was posted a few weeks after I had shot my first pictures for my website. I had chosen to wear my hair natural and it had not been an easy decision for many reasons.

First, I have struggled with thick, coarse hair my entire life, just like I’ve struggled with my weight and my curves. They go together in my mind, something that sometimes makes me lack confidence in my appearance.  In my late twenties, I would drag myself to salons in Chinatown and Bay Ridge and get it blown out pin straight every weekend. In my early thirties, I decided it was a huge waste of money and time. I liked curly hair and I had never dated anyone who preferred my hair straight so what I was doing it for? If I was now leading my business and selling myself to people who wanted authenticity from their career coach, I thought I should show people who I truly am- an independent women of a certain ethnic heritage who embraces the look she feels is right for her. Right?

Second, even though I generally like my hair curly, it’s not easy to style. I rarely get it right. I either don’t use enough product, or I use too much. If I have a little more disposable cash when the next Groupon or Living Social Deal for Keratin treatments comes out, I am there, but until that time comes, I am on my own. The night before the photo shoot I washed my hair with DevaCurl, used a ton of leave-in conditioner and combed through every inch with Miss Jessie’s (expensive) Curl Crème. I put it up in clips and took them down every 30 minutes to scrunch. And then I went to bed and hoped for the best. Luckily, my hours of preparation worked and my curls survived the next day’s humidity.

(What my photographer and I should have really worried about was makeup- nothing stopped that from melting every 10 minutes. Thank God for iPhoto’s retoucher.)

Third, when I occasionally do get a blowout because straight hair is easy for a few days, I get compliments from women, especially in the workplace. I always roll my eyes in my head when these women tell me how beautiful I look because I feel like they’re projecting their own issues with their hair onto me. But maybe they were onto something. Maybe none of the strong females that I wanted to attract as a career coach would be attracted to my services because of how I wore my hair in my pictures. Maybe they wouldn’t think I was “professional” and that I had made the wrong decision after all. I believe that fear was really what prompted me to want to talk to the reporter.

A few months have passed, but the article finally came out this Sunday. After reading it, I was so pleased to be part of it and seriously impressed with the diversity of sources that Whitney Friedlander used. The research shows that I am not alone in my issues with my hair, or my belief that curly hair is great in both personal and professional situations if you wear it confidently. And over the last few months, the fear about my photo choice has also passed after I had my first paying clients. I know that my instincts were right- being myself and wearing my hair the way I wanted has been an asset. People want career coaches who are comfortable in their own skin because it makes them trustworthy and approachable.

Do you question your style decisions in your professional dress? I’d love to hear?
Tracy Brisson talks about appearance in career situations.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Lessons from the Jersey Shore from the NY Times

I’ve been dying for a reason to write about the Jersey Shore in a post in a non-cliche way and the New York Times gave me a great opportunity today. They published an article about MTV and what they’ve learned about Generation Y through their experience with this show.

Why am I dying to write about the Jersey Shore? One of the struggles I am facing in writing my career coaching blog is incorporating more of the irreverent side of my personality. Coming from a huge bureaucracy where you’re encouraged to hide every personable part of you, it’s a new experience to have creative freedom and I am still tentative with it. My personal brand “General Do-Gooder,” the big-sister type expert, is authentic, but it doesn’t capture everything about me and I’ve been looking for a great opportunity to show more of the carefree pop-culture addict in me and come off a little less earnest.

So again, why the Jersey Shore?  Last night, after working on my website for seven hours, I watched a very disappointing finale on my DVR (Pauly D- why did you decide to scream constantly this season? You were charming because you didn’t notice the cameras- go back to that!), but that episode was an anomaly. I just love this show and for many reasons. First, I don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but (most of) these people are just purely entertaining. Second, I am a veteran of share houses on Fire Island, and every now and then there will be a tender moment among the cast that reminds me of the best of those times, something I treasure, but is in my past. My friends and I were older and more educated than the Jersey Shore crowd, but get close to an ocean, see stars in the sky, be 50+ miles from your “real life,” and have too easy access to alcohol and hormones, and let’s just say, things sometimes take own course. Plus, I had an amazing friend from those days that reminds me of JWoww. She was like a sister, but I eventually had to say goodbye because she was… like JWoww. Sometimes I wonder if that then made me Snooki… and then I just don’t go there.

Third, I find the little things in this show fascinating. Gawker calls Jersey Shore the most important sociological experiment of our time, and I agree. The gender issues alone would make a great dissertation- it goes beyond the quotes they make about women and the kitchen and the girl fights. It’s how the girls/women talk about each other and accept certain behavior from the men in the house. They always refer to each other in their camera interviews as “that girl” or “this girl” instead of by name, but never talk about the men that way. I find it so strange. I know. In an episode where someone made out with two girls at once, this is what stood out to me.

In the NY Times article, MTV staff talk about lessons they learned about millenials from their Jersey Shore success. One, is that there was a shift where people went from loving the fools on The Hills to the “authentic” Jersey Shore. I don’t think it’s that simple. The Hills was authentic in its own way- you knew exactly what you were getting. The world changed in the years since The Hills debuted and everything reflects that. I see that all the time in my career coaching- people operating from a place of fear about their immediate finances and not a place of faith because of the constant anxiety the world is pushing on to them. Second, MTV really discounts the importance of likeability. On The Hills, you started with a number of likeable, if unstable, girls and then had the show circle around villains. Who wants to watch that? Also another great career lesson- when the opportunity arises for you to remain likeable, even in difficult situations, take it.

Finally, the second other important lesson MTV found was that Generation Y is family oriented and their parents are a critical part of their lives. The family aspect of the Jersey Shore was very appealing to viewers in that demo. As I work with more clients, I see that this is definitely true. More than my friends, recent graduates and students rely on their parents’ advice in their career and personal decisions. While I think that’s great, and I envy it, I struggle as a coach because there’s a fine line where your advice starts delaying your twentysomething’s adulthood. As great as it is that Vinny’s mom comes over makes them pasta, if he didn’t land this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on this show, how old do you think he would have been before he was financially supporting himself? And he is probably the cast member with the most education and skills. One of my number one questions right now is relevant to this- what is the best way for me to work with college students’ parents while getting the best coaching results with the actual client? Suggestions welcome.

I do realize I wrote three substantial paragraphs about the Jersey Shore and only two short paragraphs about lessons that I probably stretched a little. But it just felt so good! Here’s to Season Three!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog