Dear John: I quit my job without a post to go to. How do I handle interviews?

Q

After teaching for three years I resigned my post in a primary school at the end of last academic year with no job to go to as I was very unhappy and felt that the management of the school was weak, staff were negative and disrespectful to each other and there was a pecking order in which you had to “serve your time” in order to progress. The deputy head was also a bully. I felt under a lot of stress and I was worried that if I stayed any longer I would become ill. So I am in the position now where I have no job, I have signed on with supply agencies, although I am told September is a quiet time. The thing is I’m quite ambitious and would like to apply for positions with TLRs.  Eventually I want to proceed to headship. The problem in interviews is when they asked why I left my old job. You cannot be totally honest with this question so end up spinning them something about “furthering my career”. This sounds ok in TLR positions but in interviews for normal classroom teacher positions I can’t help but wonder whether they think I’m being dishonest. I’ve had some interviews but despite putting everything into them don’t seem to be able to get another job. My career seems to be in tatters at the moment. I know I’m a good teacher and have a lot to offer but schools don’ts seem to be seeing this which is denting my confidence. I also don’t want to end up in another school like the last one but it’s so hard to tell from a quick visit. Any ideas or suggestions of how to handle job interviews or move on from here would be very welcome.

A

I am sorry that you find yourself in this position. Firstly, if you have evidence of bullying do talk with the regional office of your professional association about whether you have a case for action against your former school. Without evidence, it would be difficult to take the matter further; anyway, you may feel that it is better behind you. But, do think of others who may have to suffer in the future.

Having quit, you now need to take control of your career. Ideally, a spell that distances you from your last school and looks good on your C.V. should be the aim. Perhaps, some further part-time study or if you have no ties, a spell volunteering overseas to gain experience for six months teaching English would provide you with lots to offer. The downside is that it might mean you would miss the main recruitment round for 2009. Supply work, especially for new supply teachers will always be slow in September, but should pick up later. There are an increasing number of maternity leave vacancies and some will carry TLR responsibilities and may offer a way back in.

Without some credible story for the break in your career, interviews will be tricky as schools will wonder why you left your last job, even if the reference is a good one. The old saying ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure’ isn’t much comfort to you now, but it is often wiser to find an exit route before quitting. There are also lots of jobs allied to teaching. Try this one currently on the jobs site or look through the general appointments pages.

As you are currently not working, you can look for jobs when an immediate start is needed.

Good luck

 

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including a period as chief government adviser. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and host of our Career Clinic where you can post your questions to him.