Schoolzone: Proactive_career_planning

Proactive career planning

Attitudes to professional and career development in teaching are slowly changing. Instead of waiting for "someone to send me on a course," teachers are now expected to take responsibility for their own professional development.

This is sound advice. My experience of teaching in five schools over fifteen years is that you should trust your long-term career development to no one other than yourself. There are many staff who settle down in a school they are happy in and serve admirably in that establishment for a good number of years until retirement.

On the other hand, there are just as many that would have done themselves and their schools a favour if only they had moved on 10 years earlier.

Proactive planning ensures that your career is kept under regular review, even if the process confirms that you are in the right position for the next few years. There are a number of steps that you can take to maintain your state of readiness should the right post come along:

1. Keep your application letter and CV up to date
Schools can spot a generalised word-processed application a mile off, and will display a preference for the candidate that makes explicit reference to the unique characteristics of the institution they are applying for. Nevertheless, 70 per cent of a good letter is about articulating your values and delivering a crisp precis of your career record to date.

This can be thought through and written in advance, leaving just the "unique school-related" sections until the particular post comes into view. Rather than just a list of "I did this I did that" you need to compose something more appetising to the reader. Try to state not just what you have done, but having done it how you plan to apply these acquired skills to new situations in the school to which you are applying.

As you move through the year, you may add new experiences that could take precedence over those already in the standard paragraphs. CVs also need regular review. You need to keep accurate records of INSET courses attended as well as achievements that do not duplicate information asked for on most application forms.

2. Keep your referees well briefed
You will be surprised how many candidates cite referees without even asking their permission first! Choose them carefully and keep the briefed about your career record. If they do not work closely with you, send them a copy of your updated CV and application letter once in a while.

3. Send for details even if just looking
If you are a year or two off applying for a promotion, look for an advert in the educational press that might well appeal in the future. Send off for details and scrutinise not only the job description but also the selection process that candidates will have to go through.

Does the description highlight experiences that you will need to acquire in the next couple of years should you go for such posts in the future? Does the selection process feature a student panel or a mini-lesson to teach?

Many of these things can be prepared for in advance. You can for example use colleagues to come up with a few good open-ended generic questions for student panels. You can prepare and practice a presentation that is invariably entitled: "How you would make changes to raise achievement in our school?"

4. Send for local application forms or keep a digital master copy
Schools rarely devise their own unique application form. Send for an application form for the four nearest counties in addition to your own and keep a digital version with all required personal details as well as the odd paragraph that asks you for "your views on comprehensive education"; "your six most influential life experiences" or "relevant hobbies or interests.

If you can do this in advance one summer holiday, it saves you having to burn the midnight oil the night before the hand-in date, when the quality of what you write will inevitably be lower.

5 Keep well informed
Interviewers always like candidates who have relevant and up-to-date knowledge about their subject, the teaching of their subject and wider educational issues. You need to ensure that you keep up to date with education developments, by subscribing to the Just for teachers newsletter for instance, as well as becoming a member of your subject association. In addition to publishing their own journals, these associations keep their members well informed through local group meetings and national conferences.

I hope that these suggestions help you to become proactive about planning your career. Making a job application can take many hours out of our already busy lives and these measures could well give you the edge in a competitive field. Good luck!


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