11 tips to help you land the perfect teaching job.

1. Know what you want

It’s important to define what your dream job is and to break it down into a realistic position. For example, it’s reasonable to want to make a living as an actor but it’s less-realistic for your dream to be “become a big star.”

There are some dreams that you don’t control. If you lack talent, you probably won’t make it as a professional athlete, but you certainly can make a living in sports. Figure out what you really want and recognize that there may be different ways to get there.

2. Know what it means for your lifestyle

If you dream of being a teacher, but you also want to make a lot of money, those goals are largely incompatible. It’s great that you love dogs and want to be a dog walker, but the low pay for that position may not be in line with the other things you want out of life.

In the above cases, it might make more sense to go into school administration or to open your own dog-care business. You have to pivot and be flexible in order to make sure your dream job does not turn the rest of your life into a nightmare.

3. Make friends in the field

When I worked in retail running a giant toy store, a lot of younger people asked me how they could get to where I was. It was a reasonable question, as my job was pretty great, but I also had some warnings for them.

Retail was a tough mistress. My hours were pretty much from an hour or two before we opened to closing time, seven days a week — and holidays meant more work. It was hard to take time off, and my schedule was incompatible with family events.

It’s possible to deal with all of those things and still love the job, but it’s important to know them up front. The best way to do that is to talk to people who already have experience in the field.

4. Network

That old line “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” often rings true. Getting a start in a new field can be a lot easier if you know people. In order to know people, you have to meet them. That means putting yourself out there and being politely aggressive.

Networking takes a lot of forms. Attend industry events and reach out to people in the field. Ask for informal informative interviews from people who may someday hire you. You may fail a lot when trying to build a network, but it’s important to keep trying because you never know who will be the person who can open a door for you.

5. Be qualified

It’s very hard to get hired as a doctor if you don’t have a medical degree. No matter what profession you intend to enter, make sure you have the basic qualifications before you start trying to get hired.

6. Be willing to start anywhere

Sometimes pursuing your dreams means taking a step back. If you really want to work in sports, entertainment, or some other hard-to-get-into field then you may have to take whatever is offered to get in the door.

In most cases, being humble, working hard, and showing a willingness to learn will be enough to ensure that you don’t stay at the bottom for too long. And, of course, once you are on the inside, it will be easier to make connections.

7. Be humble

Remember that you are most likely trying to win a job that a lot of people are going after. Be confident in your own abilities, but be humble in talking about how you will approach the position.

If the job is one that’s not directly related to what you currently do, address how you will gain the needed skills. Be open to learning and excessively ready to do whatever is necessary.

8. Take every opportunity

At a few points in my career, I have known going into an interview that I had almost no chance at landing the job. That could be discouraging, but instead I took it as a challenge. My goal became impressing the person doing the hiring even if it only helped for next time.

Knowing you have no chance is freeing. It lets you take chances. In my case, I would lay out how I would handle the first 100 days on the job. I would bring handouts and try to blow the interviewer away.

In a few cases, I actually got offered jobs I was nothing more than a novelty candidate for. In others, I impressed the hiring people and got brought back for other positions.

9. Dot every i

Make even small opportunities matter. If you meet someone, even casually, follow up on the connection and try to turn it into something more.

If you meet with someone formally — perhaps in an actual informational interview or maybe at an industry event — take the appropriate followup steps. That could mean connecting on social media or sending a formal thank you note.

You never know what chance meeting or loose contact might open a door for you. Don’t wait until you need someone to take a connection from lukewarm to warm. Do it early and be prepared for when opportunity comes.

10. Be willing to prove yourself

Sometimes the only way to prove you can do a job is to actually do it. Offer to complete a test project or to work for a few days on a tryout basis. Obviously, that can be hard if you already have a job, but be creative.

In one work situation I did a consulting job for a company at a set price. If they elected to then hire me, I agreed to not charge for the consulting work.

Be open to any way that you can show you belong. And, of course, if you get the chance work long, hard, and late to show you capitalize when given an opportunity.

11. Be about more than money

Everyone needs a certain amount of money, but money alone probably won’t make you happy. Find work that’s meaningful and fulfilling. If you love being a nurse or teaching, maybe it’s okay to work a side gig just for cash. 

There are choices and balances we all have to make. Pursue your passion, however, and usually you can figure out a way to make it work.