Sizing Up Your Skills—How You Can Get a Job in the Edtech World

column | Jobs & Careers

Sizing Up Your Skills—How You Can Get a Job in the Edtech World

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Mar 31, 2016

Sizing Up Your Skills—How You Can Get a Job in the Edtech World

This article is part of the guide: So You Want to Work in Edtech?

Educators, it can be intimidating trying to decide when you’re ready to move into your next role, whether that be a new teaching gig, a technology coordinator position, or something outside of the classroom—like a job at an edtech startup. A big part of the problem is assessing what skills you have and how they might apply to that new role. What are you good at? How do you know if you’ve got what administrators or companies are looking for?

To help, here’s a simple step-by-step guide with resources and tips from experts to help you with the transition—if you choose to make one.

1. Figure Out Which Job is Right For You

Before anything else, there’s a big question staring you in the face. What do you actually want to do?

With that question comes more questions: Are you uber-organized? You might make a great product manager. Interested in training teachers? Consider working as a tech instructional coach.

No matter what piques your interest, figuring out what job you want is the first step. Sure, there are a lot of jobs in edtech that require technical skills or a programming background. But here’s a selection of nontechnical roles that one would find in both the straight technology and educational technology worlds. In fact, according to BreakIntoTech, there are actually 3x more tech jobs for non-coders than for programmers.

Let’s look into some of those jobs, as well as the corresponding classroom skills that you can highlight during the application process.

Sample Role For whom? Questions to consider Useful skills or talents to have and highlight
Technology Trainer or Implementation Manager School or district; edtech company or nonprofit
Do you like working with teachers? Do you enjoy learning about/championing edtech? Knowledge of tools; leadership (think grade level chair positions)
Product Manager Edtech company Do you like creating? Working with different kinds of people, such as engineers and designers? Are you organized?
Test/assessment development; long-term academic planning and goal-setting
School Relations or Customer Service Manager Edtech company Are you a problem-solver? Do you enjoy helping educators learn about products? Are you a good listener? Experience troubleshooting edtech in classrooms; stellar written and verbal communication skills
Director of Curriculum or Curriculum Design School or district; edtech company or nonprofit Do you love a particular subject area? Are you a fan of assessment or improving instructional practice? Strong lesson or long-term academic planning; experience in a particular subject or field
Sales or Director of School Partnerships Edtech company Do you enjoy learning about/championing edtech? Do you enjoy hitting concrete goals like revenue targets? Ability to develop and deliver presentations; goal-setting
Marketing Director Edtech company or nonprofit Do you enjoy helping educators learn about products? Do you use social media? How are you at live events? Knowledge of social media channels and strategies; stellar written and verbal communication
Research and Development Edtech company or nonprofit Do you like collecting both quantitative and qualitative data? Do you enjoy synthesizing and drawing conclusions? Analytics and data tracking; strong organization

2. Get a Better Idea of What Hiring Managers Want

Before applying, let’s pause for a second. To understand what districts and companies are looking for (beyond what the job posting says), it never hurts to inquire by going straight to the source.

Take Jennifer Carolan, General Partner at for-profit venture fund Reach Capital. While investment fund job descriptions may insinuate that you need to know money and how it flows, Carolan explains that they want more than that in their search for partners and other employees.

“We’re looking for entrepreneurial energy. What have they started?” she says. She reports that she and her team appreciate some commercial and technical background, but what’s also important is whether candidates are “on top” of the edtech landscape.

For roles that are more related to curriculum, customer service or technology implementation, Jeff Kerscher has some advice. His organization, Seton Blended Learning Network (an eight-school, six city urban Catholic school network), frequently hires blended learning consultants, and typically looks for coaching experience and the ability to handle a lot of data with little context. Tech skills and prior experience with edtech products? Not as important.

“Our biggest concern is if they will be able to coach teachers, inspire confidence, and lead a transformation in our partner schools,” he says.

Stephanie Lonn, Talent and Recruiting Leader at Clever, also speaks to the importance of demonstrating leadership, especially when it comes to influencing decision-makers within a school district. Here's an example that she shares:

“One of our recent hires was a 6th grade teacher in Denver who noticed how unhealthy the school's lunches were. So she researched companies that made organic lunches for schools, advocated the change with administrators and eventually got the change implemented district-wide.”

3. Demonstrate What You Know

Now that you know what you want to apply for, and you’ve done some research, it’s time to toot your own horn and show your best self.

Created with inspiration from BreakIntoTech.

Translate Your Skills: Take a look at the infographic above. When it comes to your cover letter, translating your expertise, skills and knowledge from what’s on the left (“Teaching Roles I Had”) to what’s on the right (“Edtech Roles I Want”) makes it easier for companies and districts to visualize you in a particular role. Simply including a resume with “6th Grade Teacher at XYZ” school doesn’t highlight what you really did. If you’re applying for an R&D role, for example, use your cover letter, to share your teaching experience with data tracking.

Show off Certifications and Credentials: Got digital badges? Are you a Google-certified or Apple Distinguished educator? There are a number of external agencies offering certifications and credentials that can help you vet your skills, as was highlighted in EdSurge’s Exploring Blended Learning Leadership guide.

Choose References Wisely: References may seem obvious, but there’s a bit of complexity to it. Ask yourself who can speak to your abilities, and how those abilities might apply to this new job. For example, if you’re applying for a Director of Sales position, a wise choice would be to list a reference who can speak to your presentation and communication skills—like an instructional coach, for example.

4. Send in Your Application

Seriously. Just send it in. Even if you think you’re underqualified, you never really know what’s going through the minds of leaders or hiring managers looking for talent. Turning in an application never hurts.

Finally, a small disclaimer: This article is not intended to encourage you to leave the classroom if that’s where you want to be. But if you are feeling the urge to move into a new role, there are a lot of organizations out there that could benefit from having your expertise and understanding of teaching and learning. Good luck!

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

Next Up

So You Want to Work in Edtech?

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up