Support drives success

image of coffee, resume and job application

There is nothing quite like the anticipation of a job interview. It’s accompanied by excitement and, let’s be honest, stress. Much of the stress comes from fear of the unknown. After all, there is no way to know for certain which questions will be asked, which answers would be most favorable and, ultimately, if a job offer will be extended.

Thanks to the University of Washington Bothell’s annual Job Search Clinic, this stress is mitigated for students in the Elementary Education Teacher Certification Post-Baccalaureate program.

The clinic is managed by two staff members in the School of Educational Studies, Karen Brusseau, elementary placement coordinator, and Jon Howeiler, K-12 partnerships and field placement coordinator. Together, they are able to provide opportunities for students to participate in a virtual mock-interview and resume review with local school district hiring managers — and to better prepare for the real thing.

This year, students got even more help as the number of school district participants more than doubled.

Clinic provides courage and confidence

In most cases, college students don’t get to experience a formal interview process until after graduation, but UW Bothell’s teacher certification students get a leg up. Not only do they get to participate in a mock-interview, but they also receive direct feedback from hiring managers on how they can improve their responses.

“I personally think it was super helpful in gaining an understanding of what a job interview could possibly look like,” said student Makayla Renee Meals. “Learning how to better answer some of the questions and what I should include in my responses made me feel much more prepared.”

Karen Brusseau, Educational Studies' elementary placement coordinator
Karen Brusseau, elementary placement coordinator

Because of the pandemic, the winter 2022 event took place online. This is usually less than ideal, but given that more institutions are conducting remote interviews, it was beneficial this year as students will likely be interviewed online. “It’s becoming the new normal,” Brusseau said. “It’s great to give students a look into what it could be like and help them navigate this new format.”

To further students’ readiness and best replicate the interview process, the hiring managers come with the questions they typically ask applicants to their schools. “We want the students to get the questions that hiring managers are actually asking, so that when they go into their first official interview, they know what to expect and have some experience under their belt,” Brusseau said.

Gaining this practice and insight made a big difference for Lauren McBride, who, like many of her classmates, felt nervous about the process. “I just had the interview portion of the job search clinic, and I am already feeling so much better about my future interviews. I am really glad I took part in it, even if it caused me some temporary anxiety,” she said. “I feel a big weight has been taken off my shoulders now.”

Brusseau said alleviating that stress and uncertainty is the purpose of the clinic. “A lot of students tell me how intimidated they feel about the application process,” she said. “We want to set our students up for success, and this experience has been a great way to boost their confidence.”

Resume reviews boost readiness

To help students land their interview, the clinic also incorporates a resume review so they can stand out in the pool of applicants. Howeiler often hears from hiring managers that they decide whether or not they are interested in a candidate in only 10 seconds.

Camryn Holbrook, student in the teacher certification program
Camryn Holbrook, student in the teacher certification program

“This means it’s really important that the information they are looking for jumps out at them and is easily accessible,” Howeiler said. “Our school district partners work with students to make sure the most important things are at the top and that it is organized in the most compelling way possible.”

Renee Meals said this aspect of the clinic was highly beneficial. “The time that we spent looking at our resumes helped me prepare my resume much better because we had gone through each section to pinpoint revisions and made the revisions together,” she said.

Student Camryn Holbrook felt similarly. “It was helpful to have someone who does hiring within the district to look at my resume and tell me what they look for and how I could tweak a couple of things to make it better.”

Prior to the clinic, the students meet with staff in UW Bothell’s Career Services who conduct a seminar on resume writing for teacher certificants. The staff does research beforehand to determine what the district would be looking for and uses that as a guide for formatting the student resumes. “It’s great because then when students get feedback from the hiring managers, their resumes are already strong,” she said. “After that last bit of help, they’re in nearly perfect condition.”

Students stand out

The clinic has been running for 15 years and has helped hundreds of students land their dream jobs. It is made possible by the continued partnership of 10 districts, all of which regularly hire UW Bothell graduates.

Jon Howeiler, K-12 partnerships and field placement coordinator
Jon Howeiler, K-12 partnerships and field placement coordinator

“We are often complimented on how well prepared our students are,” Howeiler said. “In fact, they frequently tell us that they look for, and pay attention, to UW Bothell candidates — not just for student teaching but for permanent positions.”

This year, a record of 23 district representatives participated in the clinic. “It’s valuable for the district participants, too,” Brusseau said. “They like being able to come in and meet candidates before they officially enter the field. Sometimes, they will even encourage students to apply for their job listing and keep their resume on file.”

Once these students graduate, they become appealing job candidates as many in the teacher certification program come from a variety of backgrounds. “A diverse candidate pool is something school districts are crying out for,” Brusseau said. “They are realizing that they need to recruit candidates whose identities more closely match the children and families they serve.

“They really appreciate that we bring in more diverse applicants.”

Care continues for future cohorts

Brusseau said she and Howeiler were able to create, organize and facilitate the event only because of the team they have. “None of this would have been possible without Ann Busche, School of Educational Studies program coordinator, and Susan Vinson, assistant director of employer engagement in Career Services,” she said. “This partnership between SES and Career Services is invaluable in managing the logistics of the event.”

After the clinic concluded, Brusseau and Howeiler sent a survey to the participating districts to get their feedback. Tracy Meloy, chief leadership and strategy officer at the Northshore School District, gave the program glowing reviews and noted she was glad it took place remotely.

“I know it’s not the same as in-person experiences, but I truly believe we’re going to see school districts leveraging the ability to conduct virtual interviews more and more,” she said. “Our district is doing this already. We’re receiving applications from individuals from across the country, and it’s been nice to be able to connect with them and get to know them without requiring them to be in person.

From district participants to students to SES staff organizers, everyone agreed this year’s event had an immediate positive impact — and set both the students and the school districts up for future success.

“I am so proud of our students,” Brusseau said, “and I know that they will go on to do great things.”

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