In this economy, getting any job is tricky. The good news is that right now, it’s actually more likely that you’ll get a job in the teaching field  than in many other areas.

When drawing up your application materials and portfolio, think about positions in which you’ve had to use one or more of the skills you’ll need as a teacher:

  • Taking direction and leading
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Presenting to large groups of people– both adult and juvenile
  • Writing clearly and concisely
  • Collaborating with other people

Even if it wasn’t a teaching job, highlighting how you worked on a cooperative project, led a seminar, or juggled several deadlines can help human resources officers see how you’d fit into a school. A few key considerations for your application are below.

Hot Topics: What Skills Should You Highlight?
Expert Knowledge: If you’re coming from the journalism field or have worked as an electrical engineer, for instance, you have expert knowledge. Emphasize how you’re ideally positioned to show students that they can use classroom learning in the real world.

Assessment: Accountability to the district and state is a crucial consideration for every school, so if you’ve used evaluative tools or supervised people in the past, be sure to mention that. Principals are also likely to ask you about the new Common Core State Standards. Do your research so that you can respond to questions about the new standards and assessment systems, like SBAC and PARRC.

Language Skills: If you speak Spanish, you’ve got the upper hand. As ESL programs gain more attention and the ELL population grows, schools are sometimes desperate for teachers who can communicate with newcomers and families. Make sure you bring any language skills to the attention of HR.

Coaching or Extracurricular Abilities: Schools often want teachers who can multitask: there are always clubs and sports needing an advisor or coach. If you’ve coached or led groups in the past, or if you have a particular athletic ability, include that in your cover letter and mention it in your interview.

Know Your Audience
As with many jobs, it’s important to know the organization to which you’re applying. Edutopia recommends doing a thorough scouting of the educational district and school before you apply: if you know you’re interested in working with Latino students and want to be at a small school, target institutions that match those interests. When you interview, be ready to explain why you truly want to work at that school.

You’ll also want to research particular issues the school is hoping to address. Reviewing a school’s website or blog, as well as statistics on achievement scores for the district, can help you get a picture of the school’s direction in coming years.

Which States Are Hiring?
If you’re open to relocating, you can greatly increase your chances of getting a teaching position. According to the National Education Association, Philadelphia has actually begun offering assistance to teachers willing to relocate, while Mississippi often has more than 2000 teaching vacancies that need to be filled. Programs like Teach for America fill some of those positions, but there are many openings that need qualified teachers who aren’t in a placement program.

The U.S. Department of Education can provide more specific information on teacher shortages. Its report, released in March of 2013, includes a detailed analysis of each state’s teaching needs: from 1993-2013, it lists shortages by county, school district, and academic discipline.

Where Should You Look Online?
To figure out which schools in your area you’re interested in, try searching on Greatschools.org. The site gives you demographic information, test scores, student and parent reviews, and information about a school’s programs and culture.

Some states have created common application sites to apply for teaching positions. In Oregon, for example, potential teachers can create an application on Edzapp, which then allows them to apply to multiple school districts without having to fill out an “employment” and “educational history” section over and over again. South Carolina has a similar system, as does Iowa. Check with your state’s department of education to find links to similar sites.

If your state doesn’t have a means of applying to multiple schools at once, research your schools of interest and then bookmark their job listing pages. Most districts post new jobs once a week; you can call HR to ask when that is.

You can also use general job forums like Monster.com or Indeed.com to search for positions, since many districts post on those sites. Other job forums are education specific:

  • Academic Careers: Teaching positions across all levels
  • Educationamerica.net: Teaching positions across all levels
  • Schoolspring.com: Especially popular in California, but used across numerous states
  • GetEducated.com: Specific to online teaching positions
  • Onlinefacultycareers.com: Specific to online positions in higher education

In The Meantime: Substitute Teaching
If you don’t find the perfect job immediately, don’t give up: it’s still out there. While you’re looking, however, it helps to substitute teach. This both keeps your teaching skills fresh as well as making your face familiar to school administrators. If a job opens at a school you’ve subbed in, you’ll already know the culture and idiosyncrasies of that particular location, and you’ll be better able to argue your case for fitting in quickly.

Most states allow you to sub in multiple education districts, and some allow you to enroll in the substitute bank without a teaching license. This is a good option if you’re still in school and working toward that license, but want to get in a classroom, as well. Check with the district’s website for specific requirements.