Getting that Teaching Job: My Experience and Tips

Recently, I moved back to California after being abroad for three and a half years. It was so strange (and scary) to be trying to get back into the U.S. job market post-2008. To make matters worse, I was located in Canada and trying to get a job in California before I moved. Yet, I had a successful experience, so I thought I would share the details as well as some tips with fellow Trojans.

The Application Process

  1. Use USC’s Career Center
    At this site, employers are able advertise job openings specifically to Trojans. In my opinion, it’s a way for employers to pre-screen applicants; since you were admitted into USC, employers can expect a certain level of quality from you. I applied to several education-related jobs from this web-site and within two weeks I had lined up a phone interview with one employer and an in-person interview with another employer. For international jobs, my favorite website is Dave’s ESL Cafe. Other education-related jobs in California are also at EdJoin, though I haven’t used it before. 
  2. Tailor your resume to specific jobs
    In my case, I was applying for two specific types of jobs. I had a resumes for each type of job and I wrote a new cover letter for each position I applied for, highlighting relevant experience and skills for each position and employer. I also used a great resource from Cornell, which aided me in formatting my resume as a graduate student who was trying to gain employment in a different geographical area. 
  3. Get feedback on your resume
    I sent my resume and cover letter to some friends and family to get feedback. It was helpful to hear advice from others who were familiar with the current job market and to get constructive criticism about my resume.

The Portfolio

  1. Save samples of your students’ work!
    If you haven’t been doing this, start now. I worked for three years in South Korea, and I am very angry with myself for not having saved many samples of my students’ work. In the place of student samples, I included a list of the courses I’ve taught and the community experiences I’ve had as well as a writing sample from 572-A International Context. 
  2. Ask your teacher friends for advice
    Most teachers are experts in what they do and love to help others learn how to improve in those areas, too. I put a call out on Facebook, as I had never prepared a portfolio before, and many of my friends gave me very helpful advice. One friend gave me a portfolio outline, which she had used to create her portfolio and earn a 2-year contract at a university in Busan, South Korea. The outline guided me in knowing what to include and how to structure my portfolio. 
  3. Describe special projects you’ve created
    Most teachers find themselves periodically doing special projects, such as seasonal activities, short-term seminars, or programs. For example, I once taught a month-long course on The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer. I recommend writing about these kinds of experiences that you have as soon as you complete them. Your portfolio is a work in progress and giving a synopsis of the unique things that you have done can give you an edge when compared with other portfolios.

The Interview

  1. Focus on what you can offer
    There is a lot of competition for jobs these days. So, the best advice that I can offer to you is to focus on what you have that sets you apart from others. What can you bring to this position that is unique? 
  2. Think critically about the teaching profession
    As a Trojan, I’d say everything you’re studying in the MAT really helps to inform you in this area. The “problems of practice” aspect of the curriculum, speaking to current needs in the field, as well as the education we are getting in analyzing and assessing curriculum in the United States and abroad do well to inform us about what makes a good teacher. In my interview I was asked what I thought the top qualities of a teacher were as well as what it meant to teach a “rigorous” curriculum and I think that the coursework in the MAT and MAT-TESOL can really aid one to speak on these issues. 
  3. Don’t worry if you’re new to the teaching field
    My interviewer told me that he has seen people who have every certificate and credential as well as huge portfolios who, in a classroom, aren’t necessarily great teachers compared with other teachers who may have less experience but have a natural ability for the profession. What it comes down to is how you relate to your students, your ability to perform, and your willingness to learn from and collaborate with your colleagues. Employers are looking for the best teachers, period – so put your best foot forward, and fight on!

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to learn how the MAT@USC can prepare you to obtain your California teaching credential and make a difference in your local community, contact our Admissions office at 888.MAT.1USC or email us at