Today, we’ve got a guest post from Vicki, founder of Make Smarter Decisions and my partner at Women Who Money and Women’s Money Talk. She’s sharing a few experiences from recent job interviews, and while she’s addressing those in HR and Leadership, she has some takeaways we can all learn from. Once you no longer need to work it doesn’t mean you won’t; it just means you don’t have to.
Here’s Vicki with her
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Vicki, a 51-year-old wife, mom, educator, landlord, and entrepreneur. I left full-time work a few years ago, and even though I’m financially independent, I still enjoy teaching and consulting when I find an interesting position where I am compensated fairly. So yes, I still choose to trade time for money – just like many people who are “FI” do.
I can’t really “retire” until I’m 55 (collect my pension), so I accumulate retirement system credit from jobs too – which will benefit me greatly in the future. I could totally quit all work now, but as long as I can pick and choose when and where I work, I see it as a win-win. I firmly believe in living a Life Zemplified – so I strive to find a balance between focusing on my finances, fitness, and fun!
Education, Pensions, and Handcuffs
There are not many educators my age with both the experience and flexibility I have. I’ve earned multiple advanced degrees and five certifications. I’ve also worked at every level, Pre-K through teaching graduate coursework and have excelled in my work.
The golden handcuffs of a pension keep most educators in one place after their first few years of working in my state. So those in leadership and human resources may only run across people with my experience who have struggled to keep a job, have recently moved, or are trying to work toward advanced leadership positions.
And I fit none of those – which may be part of the reason I’ve had some interesting experiences this summer. Or it could be that leadership and those in management are so into their work, they can’t (or don’t) consider someone might not want or need the job they have available.
And whether my situation is unique or not, I’ll share some takeaways from the last four discussions I’ve had about jobs.
Everyone Should Do Your Homework
In June, I finished a position covering a 10-week maternity leave in a school unable to find a qualified teacher. It was great fun and a perfect fit for my “choose my work” plans. I grew personally and professionally after being out of the high school classroom for 17 years. A win-win! The school benefitted, and so did I.
Another very similar position was posted for the beginning of this school year in a different school. Although I wasn’t thrilled with the location, I thought it might be a good fit – so I went for an interview. I was proactive and had contacted someone I knew who had worked there. They told me there had been only one other applicant, but that person had just taken another job.
After learning they would like me to consider the position, I spoke to HR about the compensation. I soon realized someone with 10 years less experience than I would make more because of some wording in a contract. (I’ve worked in a number of districts and know there is room for negotiating that type of wording – especially when you can’t find a qualified candidate.)
HR didn’t seem concerned it might bother me and I’m not sure the person providing the salary information had even looked at my resume and credentials. Yet they were surprised when I turned down the job and explained I wasn’t going to work for a salary less than someone with a third less experience than me.
Leadership/HR Management Takeaway #1 – My cover letter shared that I enjoyed choosing a variety of positions at this stage of my career and gave examples of the work I had done. I have a resume showing my advanced degree and a wide variety of experience. I also have a page of references for superintendents that support the quality of my work.
If you are in a position of leadership or HR management take the time to read about and understand the background and experience of the candidate you are talking to. You ask for cover letters and resumes – so use them!
I don’t need a “pat on the back” for what I’ve accomplished but would have appreciated an acknowledgment of my experience and a discussion about the contractual issues and an effort to address them – whether they could actually do anything about it in the end or not. So even though they needed to hire someone and said they wanted a quality candidate, they didn’t want to pay for one.
I got a call later the same week from the principal of a small school a few hours from my home. He had found my contact information in an online database, and he reached out asking if I would consider applying for a position in his school. He was excited about the opportunity to have an experienced teacher work with his students and, based on my cover letter, thought I might be a great fit and enjoy the students and faculty.
After sharing with him I doubted it was a position I’d take (it was a full-year position), we talked longer about the position, the struggle to find qualified candidates and the fact I taught at the college level and may have former students who might be interested.
He was engaging and appreciative of my time, and he followed up with an email and some further information about the school, district, and local area. I’ve shared the information with a few of my students, and he emailed me and asked if he could call me again this week.
Leadership/HR Management Takeaway #2 – When you approach an experienced candidate in this manner, you may end up with a lot more than you anticipated.
Not only did the principal impress me with having read my letter, but he also contacted me through email rather than bother me on the phone (since I hadn’t even applied for the position.)
After I returned his call and he realized I might not be interested, he asked if I would still like to hear more about the job. We had a great conversation, and in the end, I was able to share his job opening with 15 of my former students. He has a difficult position to fill, but because he was proactive and had done his research before contacting me, he may end up with a new hire over another school who didn’t.
A few days later I received an email from a friend who works at the community college down the road “desperately looking for adjuncts for the Fall semester” asking would I be interested? I’m always interested in finding out more about potential opportunities, so I said she could share my contact information.
I later had a nice phone call with the department chairperson which ended with her “thinking” they might have a class or two I could teach (different courses), and one might be in a different city about a half hour away. She mentioned I would also need to talk with another department member before I could be considered and then do all of the paperwork. She then reminded me they kept the course load at two so they didn’t have to pay benefits to adjuncts.
Leadership/HR Management Takeaway #3 – Before the call, she asked me to send my resume, and it appeared during our call she had not read it. I felt as if I was talking to someone who thought I was a relatively new educator based on what she was asking. She was talking to me as if I needed the job – not that she was desperate for adjuncts.
After I shared more about my doctorate (which isn’t required at community colleges) and how I had been a tenure-track professor and a tenured teacher and administrator who worked with all levels of students, I concluded with – “I think I can handle a non-majors 100-level course.”
But then I added I wouldn’t be interested in having to prepare for two courses for a full semester in two different cities at four different times on four different days of the week – for five thousand dollars! And maybe that’s why you are desperate for adjuncts…
I received a call from another principal the following day for a short-term position I had applied for. After thanking me for taking his call, he asked me about a number of items on my resume and said he was excited to see someone with experience willing to come in and support students when their teachers took ill, had a baby, or left for a sabbatical.
He shared that the position I had applied for had turned into a long-term position and after reading my cover letter, knew I might no longer be interested.
As we talked, he also shared he had just finished writing a book about the principalship and that he’d be happy to send me a copy. And he said he was considering a doctoral program and wondered if I would do it all again.
After a great conversation, I told him I wasn’t sure I would be interested in the job but that I could share it with my former students. He was thrilled I would be willing to do that and thanked me again.
Leadership/HR Management Takeaway #4 – Similar to what I shared in my comments about Job #2, this leader had done his “homework” and knew he was talking to an experienced educator. Although he knew there was a slim chance I would be interested in the job because of the timeline, he still called me to discuss it.
In the end, he benefited from the conversation because I shared his open position with my former students. I also ended up with a copy of his new book. I also told him if he still couldn’t find anyone, he could call me in a few weeks and I’d see if the job might work – at least temporarily. He knows that if he is stuck – he can still call and I might fill in.
Overall takeaways – If you interview and hire and, especially if you struggle to find suitable candidates:
- Do some research, take notes, write down questions for applicants
- Build relationships right away
- Realize the potential employee might be doing you the favor of accepting the job, not the other way around
- Remember there are people who don’t have to work or take the first job offered
- Even if someone doesn’t want a job, they still may have something to offer your company/business
Amy here again: These key takeaways are something we can all learn from. No matter what the basis for your interaction with another individual is, if it appears your original goal will not come to fruition, don’t close yourself off from other potential outcomes. You both may still come out ahead.
As someone who has not only applied for jobs but also worked in HR and Leadership, I’ve seen a lot. Unfortunately, there are those who are unprepared to interview or hire, but there are far more applicants who don’t prepare adequately either.
If you are actively looking for a job, do your research, create an informative and honest cover letter and resume, prepare questions before an interview, and take notes during it. Even if that job ends up not being for you, something else might come of it later. Making the right first impression certainly helps.
Are you actively looking for work? Are you FI? Any interesting interviews you’ve been a part of?