How should you begin a new job search if you're transitioning out of the classroom? There's plenty of online advice, but not all of it is helpful—or correct. As hiring consultants, we meet job seekers every day, and we know what edtech companies are looking for. Here’s our take on how to launch a successful edtech job search.
1. Inventory your skills—including ones you didn’t know you had!
Good job hunting guides recommend exploring “transferable” skills, but this can be tricky for educators. Do you have a knack for getting budgets approved? Committee chairs to agree? Kids to feel engaged? Those skills could be invaluable for your career in edtech.
Meet with five friends or colleagues and ask them what you’re best at. Pay special attention to any patterns that emerge.
If you haven’t had at least one “Aha!” moment, you haven’t dug deeply enough!
2. Discover the people, structures and spaces in which you thrive
Environment matters—a lot. Focus on the following subcategories:
People: Who are the people you most enjoy interacting with on a daily basis: students, parents, committee chairs, or district leadership? Do you love presenting at PTA meetings, tutoring students one-on-one, or representing your school at a district meeting?
Structures: Some people love structure, some crave autonomy. Would you rather create new lessons, or expertly execute from a playbook? Do you find strong-willed principals to be expert guides or troublesome meddlers?
Motivation: What gets you out of bed, and how do you like to be recognized? Would you rather have a handmade card from a student, or a certificate of merit on your wall? Do you tend to focus more individually (a top student’s performance) or collectively (how many students met state standards)?
Make a list of three to five professional accomplishments that mean the most to you. Then make a list of the people, structures and motivations present in each. What patterns emerge?
This should feel like discovery, not just categorization. Be thorough and surprise yourself!
3. Search for companies (not jobs!)
Environment enables or inhibits personal performance to a huge degree, so we recommend focusing your initial search on the environment you need, not specific positions (yet).
Imagine you’re preparing a report for someone else - for example, “Find 10 companies in the Bay Area that have a flexible work policy, seem to be friendly based on their About Us page, and have fewer than 35 people.”
Mega job sites (e.g. Monster) aren’t great for finding jobs, but they can help you discover companies within a specific area.
Use tools like CrunchBase (basic information on startups), LinkedIn (to find current and past employees), and Glassdoor (salary and other info) to look further into companies.
Call the company! It’s never too early to make contact just to learn more.
Remember that you’re NOT evaluating companies here– that will come from person-to-person chats– but simply building an initial list of companies worthy of further research.
4. Explore the opportunities through people
Once you have a list, it’s time to start conversations with companies you think MIGHT be awesome. The best way to validate your initial impressions and learn more about what environment these companies truly provide is to talk with people.
Many companies host meetups; many more attend them. Check them out! Do a Google search of company employees and find out if these people attend meetups themselves, even if they aren’t the hosts. Introduce yourself!
Twitter can be a great way to make individual contact. Target people who use Twitter professionally (not just the corporate account).
Find connections on LinkedIn: Have a second-degree connection to someone at a company that intrigues you? Ask your friend what they know about the person at the company and then ask for an introduction!
DO NOT assume that ANY information online is accurate. Make contact for up-to-date info.
5. Make contact - time to get your new job!
You’ve made an initial connection—now it’s time to push ahead toward your next opportunity.
Ask your contacts at target companies for coffee to talk more about opportunities.
Get introduced to someone else at the company; the more radars you’re on, the better! Direct introductions via email or phone are best.
Focus on the question, “What opportunities could there be for us to work together?” NOT, “Which specific role do I fit into?”
DO NOT just send a resume—there’s no way to know if anyone’s even seen it! If you don’t know whether you’re on a company’s radar, assume that you’re not.
6. Navigate the interview process
If your conversations with a target company spark mutual interest, you’ll soon enter their “official” interview process. Use these interviews to further clarify what you could contribute and how much that would help the company. Don’t stress about specific questions or possible “curveball” tactics.
Practice articulating how your top skills will help the company, and how its environment is desirable to you.
Don’t tiptoe around your education past and your desire to change careers. If you’ve already determined that this company has a great environment for you, there’s little to lose but lots to gain through candor.
Show your enthusiasm for the things you love about them! Companies can get skittish even with people they like—set their minds at ease by emphasizing what a great commitment it would be for you.
Don’t let any curveball questions (“How many ping pong balls would fit in a 747?”) throw you. There’s no “right” answer to these questions, and they don’t adhere to hiring best practices whatsoever.
7. Negotiate the offer
Be straightforward and don’t hesitate to ask what’s possible—equity, benefits, flexible work arrangements, or other non-financial plusses. We want to find what’s possible for both sides, and then make everyone happy.
Check your personal network or sites like Glassdoor for salary info to set yourself at ease. You want to go into a negotiation feeling calm.
Just like buying a house, don’t go into the negotiation without a firm idea of your limits. Consider both the ideal and your ultimate flexibility on salary, benefits, and other incentives.
Don’t assume that the other party is any good at negotiating! On the other side of the table, we’ve seen companies get spooked when a candidate asked for something unreasonable, but it turned out the candidate was just unaware of what was typical in the industry and had no greedy intent.
David Osborne is the founder of Team Theory, where Michael Weyandt is a partner.
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