Career Clinic

23rd March 2012 at 00:00
This week Professor John Howson answers questions about the right time to resign and interview technique

Leaving pains

I am in my second year of teaching and I'm working at a school where I am not happy. I want to hand in my notice at the end of this term. Would it put me at a disadvantage if I did supply teaching for the summer term while applying for a job for September?

The summer term is often easier than this one. There is the better weather to look forward to, and it will include the Diamond Jubilee festivities this year, so I urge you to stay in your post until the summer if possible. Supply work is often difficult to find in the summer term and a break in service never looks good.

However, if you do leave, you could do something to make your CV look more attractive. Take a course or volunteer, possibly overseas, for part of the time to show you used the break in a different or positive way. Looking for supply work adds little or nothing to your CV to help it stand out in a competitive job market. And besides, if you start looking for a permanent position now, you might find one before the end of April and that would solve the problem.

As for why you want to leave, it is best to put it down to something neutral, like wanting to widen your experience. It really is no matter to a prospective employer why you are not happy in your current job, and you would not want the head of a new school to tell your current head what you wrote when they phone for a reference. After all, if it needs saying, you should tell your current head why you are unhappy and have decided to leave as part of your exit interview. A new school can probe at interview if it wants further information.

We all make mistakes and learning from them is what counts, but in the present job market you should avoid putting yourself at any disadvantage.

A note of caution

In my last interview, I had with me notes and key points that I had written in preparation. However, I did not refer to them during the actual interview. Could I have referred to them? What is the norm for successful interviews? And what actually makes a difference during those 20 minutes?

I would not recommend using notes during an interview, except to check at the end whether there is anything you wanted to ask that has not been covered. An interview is a group conversation, not an open-book examination, so it would be odd to be asked a question and then break eye contact with the questioner in order to ruffle through a set of notes - followed perhaps by an inadvertent show of relief when you find the right answer. What if the answer is not there or, in your hurry, you cannot find it? I think that the use of notes in interviews is a clear no.

But computer-driven presentations are another issue entirely, should you be invited to make a case to a panel before a formal interview.

We often do not teach the proper use of technologies such as PowerPoint - they are certainly not there just so the presenter can repeat text to others that they could just as easily read for themselves from the screen. Visual support has become much more sophisticated with computers, but it still works best as a way of planting ideas and memory hooks in the mind.

Simple graphics, pictures and even cartoons that the participants will remember afterwards can be used to reinforce the point being made. If you want a background to what you are saying about learning, a picture of a happy child is worth a thousand words. Being presented with slides full of words or diagrams is, in contrast, a negative experience.

Professor John Howson is our resident career expert, with 40 years in education, including spells as a teacher, academic, school recruitment researcher and government adviser.

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