Hello and greetings to all of you. I am excited to be writing a new column for Ajarn.com called The Career Services Corner. The column is an effort, albeit miniscule, to improve the professionalism of teachers and prospective teachers, as well as employers, as we engage in the courtship game we call employment.
As the head of a well-regarded English program at a government school in Bangkok, Thailand for the last 1.5 years, I have been largely appalled by the thousands of resumes I have seen, e-mails I have received, and the lack of interviewing skills of most teacher candidates I speak to. I hope to address many of my concerns about the lack of professionalism in these areas in my monthly column on Ajarn.com. More importantly, I plan to raise these concerns so that I may then use this column to provide career services guidance to those seeking employment. This is not to disparage all those seeking teaching jobs in Thailand. On occasion, and with great joy, I meet someone who has it all together - from the first e-mail inquiry, to the cover letter, to the resume, to the interview, to the post-interview formalities. And, I promptly offer them a job!
To begin with, let me provide you with a bit of background. I am a lawyer from the U.S., graduating from NYU Law in 1992. After law school, I spent 10 years working in career services at American law schools. First, I developed and managed an organization called The Public Service Law Network Worldwide (PSLawNet). This organization was designed to encourage public service by law students, and to help job seekers find work in the public interest. It is now the world's largest public service legal employment database.
After my time at PSLawNet, I moved to American University Washington College of Law to create and coordinate the Office of Public Interest. I stayed at AU for about 2 years before moving to Thailand for a "change" about 2 years ago.
All of this information is provided to show that I am an expert in career services, particularly as related to public service. As teaching is a public service, I feel that my nearly 10 years of career services experience is directly applicable here. In the last decade, I have helped edit, write, or review more than 20,000 resumes. I have conducted more than 2000 interviews. And, I have never before seen such a lot of bad resumes or met such bad interviewees as I have in the last 18 months in Thailand.
Let's start the first column with the most simple, and overused, of platitudes: The first impression is the most important. Like with almost any platitude (which is why they become overused and unoriginal), this one carries much truth. Where does the first impression come from these days in the job-seeking world? The introductory, or initial inquiry, e-mail, of course. Let me show you a few examples from recent e-mails I have received in response to an ad posted on Ajarn.com:
EX. 1 Computer Teacher Application
EX. 2 I have experieces in teaching Elementary and College.
EX. 3 I am available to teach this August.
EX. 4 So incase you cant contact me within this month, email me and I will get to you as soon as I caome back.
EX. 5 Our names are --- and Rick --- and we are both native English speakers from Australia.
Alright, here we go. Let's look at each of these cases individually just to give you an idea of what my column will attempt to do. First, the computer teacher application. Hmm...looks ok, right? WRONG! I listed an ad for an English teacher, not a computer teacher. So, BOOM...deleted. Don't use the subject line of an e-mail to shoot yourself in the foot. There are too many such opportunities! This kind of mistake means I don't even have to look at the resume! Remember, when an employer posts a decent job with specific information, don't waste your time or the employer's time by sending an application e-mail that completely disregards all the ad's specifics!
Second, the statement of "experieces." What exactly are "experieces" anyway? Sounds scientific! Clear enough mistake, huh? Spelling is pretty important, even in e-mails. Even more important, I should not have to note, when applying for an English teaching job! In addition to spelling, as teachers of a second language we should all know that the word "experience" is a non-count noun, and should not be made plural. Be careful about this stuff - it makes a first cut quite easy for employers who want teachers who are qualified!
Third, the August availability. Again, seems ok right? WRONG! The ad called for immediate English teachers only. Just another reminder of the importance of reading and paying attention to the details of the ad. When things like this happen, I wonder why I even bothered writing it in such detail. The fact that someone doesn't take the time to read what I wrote makes it unlikely they would be the kind of person I would want to manage.
Fourth, self-explanatory. Another application full of typos and misspelled words. Please, please, please spell check your e-mails! If necessary, write them in MS Word so they are auto-checked, then copy them into the body of the e-mail! One mistake in an e-mail is too many. Three in one sentence sound the death knell for this application!
The last example actually came from a relatively strong e-mail, and was sent by two candidates who each are quite impressive. Unfortunately, they are apparently bound at the hip. I advertised for one position, quite clearly. And, like most employers, I rarely hire couples. There are any number of reasons for this. If one person goes, for example, two go. If one is unhappy with something, two are unhappy. If one proves to be an inept teacher, dealing with them is too touchy. Those are just three of a litany of reasons most of us avoid hiring couples.
So, my advice, don't apply as couples. Don't even hint that you "come attached." Write me an e-mail by yourself, with only your information in it. Let your partner do the same. If I interview you both unknowingly, then at least you have shown your independent worthiness to me. That might get you past the initial inclination to avoid couples. At that point, feel free to be open about being a couple. But be willing to offer yourself as an individual. Then it's the employer's call, as it should be!
Ok, that's just a taste of what's to come. Stay tuned for crazy interview stories, more resume and cover letter advice, employer tips, and other random advice about job-seeking as a PROFESSIONAL in Thailand! Regards to all and happy job-hunting!