65 - Standing Out in a Competitive Job Market - Teacher Career Coach
Standing out as a candidate in a competitive job market with Daphne Gomez

65 – Standing Out in a Competitive Job Market

TeacherCareerCoach

In this episode, I’ll share my top tips for teachers looking to stand out in a competitive job market. I recently had the honor of being asked to attend an EdTech hiring fair. I sat at a table to coach teachers who were transitioning into a variety of roles. This, and expanding my own team, has given me insight about what it takes to stand out amongst the competition.

Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Standing Out as a Candidate in a Competitive Job Market

Welcome to the Teacher Career Coach Podcast. I’m your host, Daphne Gomez. Back in January of this year, I was asked to sit and support teachers who were thinking of making a transition at an EdTech job fair.

I was overwhelmed with how many teachers actually came to my table. They were applying for a variety of positions. They brought great questions, and a lot of them were really strong candidates.

In the exact same month, we posted roles on Qualified Team Solutions for SDRs, account executives, and customer success. If you’re just hearing about Qualified Team Solutions, it is the recruiting agency I own. I help match education companies with companies that are hiring.

Competition in the EdTech Industry

From a hiring standpoint, we are seeing so many amazing candidates right now, which is incredible. But I know to some of you from the other end as a job seeker, it can feel discouraging to see so much “competition” for the exact same positions as you. EdTech jobs, especially those that are marketing themselves to hire teachers, are starting to be competitive. That’s why in this episode, I’m going to help you understand what you can do best to stand out above the crowd.

And I know that this sounds counterintuitive. You’re probably thinking, “Wait, tens of thousands of teachers are listening to this podcast. So now we’re going to do all the exact same thing to stand out?”

Yes, because there is only one you and you are going to do this authentically you. You are just not going to fit into every mold of what a company is looking for. And I know how hard that can be to hear.

What are companies looking for?

Some companies are looking specifically for very outgoing, fun professional development trainers who want to make their learning materials engaging. While some companies like to keep their professional development to a very strict set of standards. And those are going to be great for those who thrive in an environment with more rules.

Some professional development trainers need to be bilingual. Some come companies need someone who can handle a startup culture. Meaning that they’re open to the risk of working at a startup and they also love taking ownership over their own roles. While other companies need someone who are going to strictly use their templates, follow strict guidelines. And some professional development trainers may be stronger candidates if they have graphic design skills. And sales enablement trainers are going to stand out if they’ve taken sales courses.

While surface level, these are all similar positions, these are all the conversations that hiring managers are having behind the scenes when they’re reading your cover letters, your resumes, and they start to conduct those interviews.

So, like I said, there is only one you. You are not going to fit the mold of all of these different things. But you are going to start to stand out for some of them more than others.

So, the very first thing that I want you to do is evaluate if you’re staying in a really competitive job market. And I do not want this to discourage you from applying to EdTech companies in general. But if you are applying to only the top five EdTech companies that everybody’s probably applying to, or if you’re only using LinkedIn for those easy to apply hiring boards, you’re going to be up against a lot more competition.

Broadening your search

Here are just a few ideas. Start searching for education companies that you’ve never heard of. Think of the companies that you have heard of and start to look up who maybe 10 of their competitors are. Maybe they’re smaller companies, maybe they’re startup companies. Or maybe they’re someone who’s in a completely different state as you but they’re starting to actually hire remote employees.

If you are pinpointing a specific type of role at an EdTech company, let’s talk about like marketing or CSM. Start to evaluate whether or not that is the only thing that you are actually interested in. Or if you’d be open to doing marketing at a different type of company. Or if CSM work at a different company.

If you are, start to look at different lists of companies that are potentially in your neighborhood. So, if you live in a bigger city, maybe you do top 10 tech offices in Los Angeles. Then when you see those lists, start to see if they have available openings. Also don’t forget to get on LinkedIn and see if you have a first connection to anyone who actually works there so you can reach out and say, “I’d be interested in working at company XYZ for this reason. Can you tell me a little bit about their company culture?”

Entering a Competitive Job Market

Now, before we even get further into this episode, the job market outside of teaching have always been more competitive. And this is something that I feel like a lot of teachers had a little bit of a misconception about or they always struggle with when making this pivot.

This is an area I was not very clear about myself when I was making my own transition. In retrospect, it was really easy for me to land my teaching positions. I was able to land one as an intern, I was at paid internship without even having my formal teaching credential. I got to work in a school environment full-time to earn my teaching credential.

Then I think I only had about three interviews when I moved down south before I landed a new position. And I only had two years experience at the time. But after I left the classroom, even after I had already had experience as a learning consultant for a Fortune 500 company, as I was applying for other positions, they truly were more competitive.

But this is just something that I want to express. If you are finding yourself only applying to one job per week because that is what you were doing when you were looking for a teaching position, that is just not going to cut it. No matter what year you are listening to this. No matter what time of the year it is. You will need to apply for more positions than you did as a teacher. Especially because you’re coming in as a career pivoter.

competitive job market

Looking at Job Openings & Changes in the Market

Honestly, the shifts are constantly changing of what portions of the job market are going to be more competitive. So I’d like to make this as evergreen as possible. I don’t want to tell you necessarily, curriculum writing is more competitive than sales. Because I don’t know when you’re going to be listening to this specific episode and everything continues to change.

What I do want you to do is look at the job openings right now. Do you see more openings in one position than the other?

Professional Development Trainers

During the pandemic, the need for professional development trainers was a lot less frequent than needs for other types of positions. That’s because professional development trainers for EdTech companies used to be traveling from school district to school district or going to conferences. Then, once everything went virtual, many schools and districts didn’t ask for as much professional development training. If they did, it was entirely virtual. Meaning that one person who would’ve been spending an entire day traveling to a school site could actually set up their computer and do four virtual trainings during that day. Meaning there didn’t need to be four people who were driving to the different school districts.

But now, as you’re listening to this, EdTech companies may be hiring an influx of professional development training. Depending on what the school districts are asking them for for the upcoming school year.

Sales Positions

As someone who has a close connection with EdTech companies, I am hearing a lot of need for teachers who are really excited about pivoting into sales positions. Just due to the needs of a company, it’s more likely that they’re going to need far more salespeople to generate revenue for the business. To talk to districts. And only a handful of professional development trainers or curriculum writers. This is not to discourage anyone from any particular path. But if you’ve watched my Instagram, you see curriculum writing and professional development trainers sending us DMs all of the time.

Considering the Current Trends in a Competitive Job Market

So, even if something is more difficult, it does not mean that it is impossible. And it’s okay to be firm on what you’re actually going into. Especially if you know that it’s what you’re passionate about and what you want for the long term.

But if you are actually open to changing your career path based on the openings, just look at the current trends depending on when you’re listening to this episode. No matter what direction you take, you are taking the time to do this so you want to do it right.

You want to put your best foot forward and I want to help give you some strategies with that. First, do not rapid apply for everything that pops up. It is quality over quantity.

Identifying Yourself as a Strong Candidate in a Competitive Job Market

I received so any LinkedIn messages that said, “I am the perfect candidate for this position. I am a former teacher,” and they left it at that.

The position that I was actually hiring for was a customer success position that was looking for someone who was a former teacher. I had bullet points clearly identifying what would make a really strong candidate. Somebody who was a mentor for other teachers or someone who was empathetic, a great listener. So, the people who stood out actually had one or two more clarifying sentences.

“I’m a great candidate or a perfect candidate for this position because I’ve been mentoring other teachers when they’re struggling emotionally and this is what I’ve been specifically doing.” “I have studied your job posting and I can clearly point out one or two things that I’ve done that make me highly qualified for it,” and they explained what it was.

Taking that extra time is a perfect example of quality over quantity. Because I feel like there is a misconception. That spray and pray method. “If I apply to 100 jobs as quickly as possible, one of them has to bite,” but it doesn’t have to be like that. If you actually love a position, you want to sit down and write a clearly defined letter that shows why you are the strongest candidate for that position.

It’s a Learning Process

Going into my specific feedback about those who went to the job fair. I just want you to know that if you did not implement the strategies that I’m about to tell you. Please do not beat yourself up over this. The candidates that did implement these strategies have probably been on it a little bit longer than you have.

They may be in the Teacher Career Coach Course. They may be working and getting that feedback from hiring managers or someone helping them become a stronger candidate for these positions. And so they’re in a different part of the process than you are.

This is a learning process. And it’s so easy for us to have impostor syndrome and think that we’re supposed to be perfect at even being a job hunter in our first few weeks or our first month of being a job hunter. But this is something that you are learning about right now. You are growing. Do not beat yourself up if I say anything that sounds like what you did during the time.

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market: A Clearly Defined Path

So, the people who really stood out at the job fair in particular had a pretty clearly defined path. They’re all teachers who were thinking of transitioning but they were there specifically for only one or two types of roles that really were aligned with one another.

For example, they were open to being a content writer or a curriculum writer. Or they were interested in becoming a professional development trainer or a sales enablement trainer. Some teachers who are really standing out, saying that they were really focused on just becoming a user experience designer, these are people who have not actually held these roles in the past. But they’re going to those tables, clearly identifying that they want to be user experience designers. They identify themselves as a user experience designer. And they talked about the certain amount of experience they’ve had. Creating projects on their own time and what they’ve actually done to upskill to become a user experience designer.

They’ve clearly had listened to episodes of my podcast. Or they had done informational interviews on their own and they knew aspects of the role. So they were able to actually sell themselves as being creative or loving like the project management of UX design. And it was clearly helping them stand out in this particular field. I saw teachers do the exact same thing focused on customer success or focused on professional development training.

The reason why is, if you are trying to convince someone that you are open to any position, you’re not going to stand out that you’re speaking to them when they’re specifically looking for someone who’s great at one specific position.

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market: Marketing Yourself

So, I’m going to talk about this a little bit like I do in marketing terms. If you’re starting a business, one of the things I tell you about marketing is if you’re speaking to everybody, you’re speaking to nobody.

Let’s say I created this Instagram. It’s for moms, dads, for vegans, former teachers, and for people who are interior designers. Any post that I did, if it was all over the place, one for a vegan, one for a mom, one for an interior designer… Not many people are naturally going to gravitate towards that Instagram. Because they’re not going to know if it’s even geared towards them. Someone who’s a vegan is going to see an interior design post and just say, “Wait a minute, this isn’t for me.”

The same thing is going to actually happen if you’re talking to a hiring manager. And you’re saying that you’re open to being a customer success manager, a project manager, and an instructional designer, or a UX designer.

Well, they’re going to think first, “This person is not for me, for this specific role. Because you’re going to have to market yourself specifically for what they’re looking for. Second, you’re probably going to make the inference that you haven’t done enough homework yet and that you need to focus on picking one clear path so that you have more time to really understand the roles that you’re applying to.

Especially if you’re at the stage of going to a job fair and you are openly saying that you are excited about all of these types of positions. Because each of these are very different positions. Think of them like saying, “I am open to going to your school. But I want to work as a counselor. I want to work as a special education teacher. I want to work as an admin, and I’d also like to work in the office.”

Marketing yourself for one, specific positions

Especially when you are given the opportunity to talk to someone who is in charge of hiring, it is so important to make sure that you are marketing yourself for one position. This is really challenging, especially if you don’t have “experience”. So, if you don’t have “experience” in customer success, it feels strange to build yourself up as someone with customer success experience. But what you can really do to stand out is say, “I’m very hyperfocused on this customer success role. And what I am working on is I’ve taken these trainings specifically aligned with customer success, which is why I’m interested in this role.”

But if they see that you are all over the place on your resume, you’re taking courses on instructional design, project management… It’s part of your soul searching process, but you may not want to actually advertise that to hiring managers.

You are on the journey of figuring out where you want to go and what you want to do, but when it comes to hiring managers, you need to sell yourself that you’re focused on the role that they’re looking for in order to actually stand out.

If you’re interested/open to a variety of roles

Now, I know you’re going to ask me. You’re going to say, “Daphne, what if there are multiple roles that I’m looking for and this is where if you market yourself well, you get your foot in the door for an interview?”

During that time, if they end up going with another candidate, you can always say, “I’m also open to other positions at your company. I’m just really excited about your company culture. And if you do have an opening that you think I’d be more qualified for, I’m more than happy to share what I know about that. Because I’ve been exploring these other career options, not just this customer success path.”

The interviewing phase

Anytime you are able to get to the interviewing phase, that is a win. You are making more of a connection than you are if you’re just emailing with people or doing that cold networking. And you’re giving a hiring manager a true glimpse of who you are authentically as a person. And you’re getting really valuable experience and sometimes, you will get feedback from them.

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market: Upskilling for the Roles You Want

I know how paralyzing it can be to be forced to pick one single path right now and I don’t necessarily think that you have to. I was open to basically anything and I landed a job. So many of the Teacher Career Coach Course members were open to a variety of paths and they were able to land a role for them too. As long as they knew what their clear non-negotiables were during the process, they ended up finding something that was a great fit for them.

Truthfully, you are not going to know what you love until you start getting your hands dirty and actually throw yourself into it. And I know how scary that can be, but it’s just part of this process.

And if you are doing deep dives into 20 different careers right now, you are probably burning yourself out. So, you want to make sure that you are learning skills that translate into a couple of different positions that you’re interested in.

For example, adult learning theories can translate into corporate training, instructional design, e-learning design. So learning something like that can leave you open to a couple of different positions. Or if you know that you are hyperfocused on one specific role, you may want to focus your energy on taking a bootcamp like how Jessica Wolvington in episode six took a bootcamp on becoming a software engineer.

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market: Confidence

Another thing that I noticed that candidates were doing that helped them really stand out is they were confident. And there’s a difference between being confident and being overconfident. So, if you are a career pivoter and you are new to an industry, you definitely don’t want to go in and say, “I know everything even though I’ve never held this position. I have no areas that I need to learn, I’m ready to go. I probably know it better than everyone else at this company.”

That is not the type of confidence that does well in an interview, especially if they’re looking at your resume and they’re seeing clearly you’re a career pivoter, you maybe have only been studying this role for three months or four months. Career pivoters are not off the table, I don’t want you to think that. I wouldn’t be doing this entire podcast if it was the truth.So, do not let yourself buy into that lie.

But being able to say with confidence:

“I am a fast learner I know for a fact that I’m a fast learner because I taught myself how to create e-learning courses in two months, and I was able to create my own digital curriculum and actually put it up on a sales platform and it is somewhat successful right now. I have a hard time selling myself so I know that I wouldn’t really be great in a sales position and I love actually creating curriculum, I love e-learning and that’s why I’m focused on this instructional design position.

Even though I do not have the formal experience that you are looking for, I have created the opportunities because I am hungry and passionate about this type of role and I would be grateful for the opportunity to have an interview and just learn a little bit more about what you are looking for in an instructional designer.”

Asking for Feedback & Improving Over Time

With a pitch that strong, it is hard for a hiring manager to say no. And if they do happen to say no, because of one reason or the other, this is when you ask for feedback. Ask what would make you a more qualified candidate in the future, write it down, and if it’s something that you’re able to work on, continue to work on it and grow in that direction.

But getting back to that pitch, that confidence is not built overnight. I am not a naturally confident person, this is something that people actually have to practice. Especially those who are going to interviews, job fairs, they are practicing their answers and that’s why they are coming across sounding so natural when they say things that are awkward and intimidating.

What do you feel confident about?

What I want you to do is write down what you feel confident about.

And if you are struggling with a step, start to ask other people that you’ve worked with or friends of yours, what are your best qualities that might help you stand out in a professional setting? What do you excel at when it comes to collaboration at your organization, at your company, at your school district?

Then I want you to write them down and I want you to practice them in the mirror. And I know how much you’re going to hate me for saying this step because it’s the cheesiest, hardest thing to do, but it is genuine practice when you are saying things out loud, looking at yourself in the mirror.

Those who sound confident are those who have said it multiple times, so you want to have actually said it a couple of times before you try it out on a hiring manager.

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market: Understanding the Company & the Product

You also want to be aware of where you’re applying and what they actually do at the company. My best piece of advice here and this is something that I told teachers at the EdTech Fair, that a lot of teachers actually go up to the booth and they don’t actually have a deep understanding of what the product actually does.

So, if you are going to a EdTech job interview and you just have a surface level idea of what the company is doing and whatever you are saying, you could potentially be talking about their competitor, I would go back and really revisit what the product is. What it is that they do. How they stand out, and be able to talk about it confidently in the interview itself.

Getting familiar with products

For example, there is a video hosting platform, TikTok, and there is Flipgrid. This is just an example that I use before.

Flipgrid is for instructional use. There are really cool things that you can do with it. You can use it for full year videos, little snippets that you can create like a mashup and then send it to the parents like, “Look at all the book reports that your student has done at the very end of the year. Here’s a unique link for the parent.”

If I was actually able to talk about that in a interview, I’m interviewing for hypothetically a role as a professional development trainer or content writer and I’m able to use that very clear example. It’s a lot easier for them to actually see me at the company working there.

Once again, this is like Marketing 101, you’re marketing yourself and trying to help them imagine you as a good fit at that company. But if you went in with a very generic understanding of what they do, it’s harder for them to actually have those deep level conversations with you and see you as a fit at their company.

This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert at the company, just watch one or two YouTube videos, maybe do a tutorial that they would have for teachers so you really understand what it is that they do and what makes them shine as a company.

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market: Highlight Your Experience Outside of Teaching

I also see so many teachers forgetting to use experience outside of the classroom on their resumes, so if you have ever held a customer success position or sales position, even retail types of positions in the past. Somewhere that you can show that you have worked in a different type of environment outside of the classroom. Make sure to use that even in your blurb about yourself, if there’s a connection to the roles that you’re applying to, so that they know that there’s going to be less of a learning curve when you start to transition into their environment.

If you have the opportunity to speak to someone, to submit a resume, do not forget to add any of the extended learning that you have done on your own personal time. So that they know that you have been upskilling, you have been learning more about this specific position.

This is something that I see teachers forgetting to do all the time. We get on phone calls with them, we’re talking to them about their experience in the position and sometimes we ask, “Have you taken courses or anything like that?” And they say, “Actually, now that you talk about it, I’ve done about 15 hours of online learning specific to this role.” Well, great, make sure your resume accurately reflects that when you’re applying to companies and make sure that you are bringing that up in interviews.

If they’re starting to question whether or not you were qualified, you can say matter-of-factly, “I understand that I may have limitations in the actual experience that you’re looking for. However, I have a deep understanding of how this role would work due to all the learning that I’ve done on my own free time. Here are different examples of what I already know in this specific situation and what I would actually do if you’re giving me the opportunity to work at your company.”

Some Encouragement for this Transitional Period

I want to leave you with just a message if you are in the application process and you are starting to not see your value because you are not getting any feedback or you’re only getting rejections.

This is such a hard time of the transition period. No matter when you are applying, if you are feeling rejection, it hurts. You are a valuable candidate. You are in this process right now and you may be potentially learning and potentially growing or you may be getting the opportunity of your dreams tomorrow.

If you do get an interview or you see an opportunity, try to ask for feedback. I know that not receiving any feedback can be very challenging, but that is also part of this process. Unfortunately, there are time constraints from people on the hiring end, they cannot give feedback to every candidate and it would probably take hours.

And if people aren’t asking for feedback, many people don’t go out of their way to give feedback because it’s going to hurt feelings. It’s not something that is comfortable for anyone to do even if they have the biggest heart.

Do not take no feedback as someone thinking that you are not a great candidate. Sometimes, there are just a couple of other candidates that have a specific skillset that they really clearly identified or characteristic like we talked about at the very beginning. Maybe they’re someone who’s bilingual, maybe they were looking for someone who had already upskilled in sales for that sales enablement trainer role.

You will eventually find something that is a perfect fit for you, just make sure you are taking the time to put things out that are quality versus quantity.

Finding More Support

If you need more support with any of these steps, whether it’s finding jobs outside of that bubble of really competitive market, whether it is selling yourself in an interview, being able to articulate what your strengths are, whether it’s picking what jobs you even want to start applying for, I do recommend exploring The Teacher Career Coach Course.

I put together so many resources to help you with all of these steps, made specifically for teachers who are looking to transition because I know how many challenges there are. And built with the experience of someone with 10 plus years in hiring, human resources, recruiting, and resume writing, thank you so much for being a listener of this podcast. I hope you found this episode helpful and I’ll see you on the very next episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast.

Important Links

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Related Blog: 7 LinkedIn Profile Tips for Teachers Changing Careers

If you’re thinking of leaving teaching…

If you’re just beginning to think about leaving teaching, brainstorming other options is a great place to start. But if you’re like many others, teaching was your only plan – there never was a Plan B. You might feel at a loss when it comes to figuring out what alternatives are out there.

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Taking the First Steps to a New Career

If you’ve already taken our quiz, it may be time for the next steps. I want to help you get some clarity in the options available to you. To know EXACTLY what you need to do (and not do) in order to get your foot in the door. This knowledge may help quell some of the anxiety you feel about the big changes that come with a new job.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see teachers make is that they try to navigate this process alone. Often, they put off “researching” until the very last minute. Which sets them up for a very stressful application season – trying to juggle teaching, figuring out a resume, researching jobs, and hoping to nail down some interviews before signing next year’s contract.

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