With about 40 years working in overseas education, Senior Associate John Ritter has attended his fair share of job fairs. In fact, you might haveencountered him at the Search Bangkok fair this January 8th-11th. Or you could find him at the Search London fair January 16th-20th, the Bangkok Spring fair in March, as well as the Leadership Fair in Kuala Lumpur in November.
Naturally, we want all Search candidates to reap fair value for their time, emotional and financial commitment. John offers advice regarding preparing for a fair and adopting the fair attitude.
Since Search fairs are by invitation only, your Associate will invite you to the fairs in which you have the best chance of securing interviews. Once you have received your invitation, make sure to read all the information on the fair page of the fair you are considering. It makes sense to examine the schools that are currently registered for each fair to help you make the decision on whether to attend or not.
However, do not rely on job postings you may see on the website; the only way to know what positions are actually open is to inquire the day of the fair. Frequent last minute changes arise when some schools cancel and others are admitted late. More than likely, some currently posted vacancies will be filled before the fair, and a few new ones may be announced shortly before, or even at, the fair.
This is where you get to practice the fair attitude. John emphasizes,
"It's best to attend… with a very open, exploratory attitude."
Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Any Associate will tell you that flexibility and open-mindedness are the top qualities of successful international teachers, administrators, and heads. John shares comments that he often hears from satisfied fair attendees:
"When I came to the fair, this school was definitely not 'on my radar screen,' and now this is the school where I most want to work."
It is also important to do your homework. Make sure your resume is updated, accurate, and no more than two pages. Plan to wear attire appropriate to your professional position. Finally, keep in mind that the more research on schools you do before a fair, the better prepared you will be to make a decision, should a school offer you a position.
On the other hand, the information you have now about schools and their vacancies is far less real and reliable than the advice, perspectives, observations, and meaningful impressions that you will gain during a fair. In other words, you won't have enough information to evaluate a school at the fair until you are at the fair. There you will meet people who represent the school, and these are usually the same people with whom you would work at the school. You will be able to observe how representatives of a school act during the fair; current actions are good predictors of future actions. In addition, you are liable to meet people who have worked at the school or in the school's city or country. Often John has heard this comment at the end of a fair:
"When I came here, I had no interest in that school, but now I really want to go there — I want to work with her [the principal who interviewed the candidate]."
And as always, Senior Associates and other experienced Search Associates staff will share their insights with you and help you evaluate what you are hearing and observing.
To get the most out of a fair, remember two things: Preparation and the right attitude will allow you to perceive all job fair changes as opportunities, and personal experience with leaders of a school far supersedes anything you have read about it.