I bought a new keyboard for my laptop today. When I’m doing some serious computer work like programming or something that requires complete concentration, I like to sit at a computer desk and use a regular mouse and regular keyboard as opposed to the keyboard that comes with the computer. I was replacing a regular ol’ keyboard. You know the type – it’s got keys on it and when you type on them, letters appear on the screen. That’s what keyboards do. Right?
My first stop was at a big box store (you probably can guess the one) but they only had a couple of regular keyboards. So, I left and went to Staples where they had just a huge selection of keyboard suitable for use in business. Now the picking gets difficult. I don’t need an integrated trackpad because I have a mouse and a Wacom tablet when the need is there. But, it was interesting to look at the selection. There weren’t any keyboards that just connected to your computer and typed letters. Each one of them had taken the basic concept of a keyboard and extended it – bluetooth connections, multi-media keyboards, wavy keyboards, multi-media controls, pre-programmed function keys to launch things like your word processor, spreadsheet, etc. You could even program a bunch of unprogrammed ones to take on tasks that you want. It made the process of selecting a keyboard a challenge. I thought that a regular keyboard that just typed letters wouldn’t stand a chance in this day and age. It took a while comparing this and that until I found the one that I think will fit me perfectly.
It’s amazing how you can take a base unit and make it worth even more valuable by adding functionality to it.
Teaching is the same.
We’re headed into the silly season in education. How do I know? I’ve recently been asked for letters of reference and assistance in updating resumes.
School districts have determined what schools will be close, how existing schools will be staffed, where the retirements will be, and so on. If you’re affected and placed because of a seniority bumping procedure, then it’s pretty straight forward. But, if there’s a new school or a new position or a replacement position, invitations to apply may be in the offing. How do you ensure that you’re getting the best consideration for the position?
It’s at this point where you need to look at your own personal value add. Just what is going to separate you from the other candidates? After all, teacher qualifications will get you to the interview table. What puts you over the top?
What can you bring to add to your application and share at the interview?
I constantly harp at my university class about the value that you can add when you go beyond “getting the job done”. It’s important to keep track of just what value you add at times like these. Every time you do something that goes beyond the basic job and you can document, you should. Whether it’s a letter of commendation, a qualification, a certificate, a record of professional development, a newspaper article, a blog, a class wiki, …, toss them into your portfolio. It can be as simple as a folder or a binder holding paper or an electronic portfolio online for just this purpose.
That’s important to have for reference as you complete the application but it’s also important when you ask someone like me for a reference letter and I ask “What do you want me to say?” It’s not that I don’t know you or what I think I know, it’s that you may be asked to provide two or three reference letters and, if you’re smart, you want ones that validate some important element of you – and I would suggest that it should focus on the value that you bring to the interview. When you only have two or three letters to support the cause, it’s wise to make sure that you’re covering as much breadth of you as possible.
Consider the process. Do you want to be just another keyboard on the shelf, or do you want to be the one that adds additional value to the base concept. Don’t you really want to be the one with all the bells and whistles that the interviewer(s) mark(s) “must have"?