Monday, December 3, 2012

Follow Your Heart (Job Fair 2012)

I'll give you a hint...this post ends well! 

Oh, what a difference two years makes!  If you’d asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have said I was particularly unconfident or scared at the UNI Overseas Job Fair—where I landed my job in PR.  But after my experience at the AASSA fair this weekend, I look back and realize that I was nothing more than a scared little puppy at the last fair. 

Of course, I had reason to be.  I was fresh out of college, no experience, only my student teaching and a few references to back me up.  It’s AMAZING what two years of international teaching experience will do for you at a job fair, and the doors it will open.  But more on that later.

Thursday morning, I left my house bright and early (okay, dark and early) at 6:15am.  I hoped to make it to the San Juan area by about 7:30, so that I’d have a little time to find the park and fly place I had researched and get to the airport by 7:45—2 hours before my flight. 
I hit San Juan traffic outside of Caguas.  (For those of you not from Puerto Rico, that’s about halfway there). 
At around 8:05am, I took my exit for the airport.  The plan to use the park and fly was out of the question, and I headed straight for the San Juan airport.  $18 per day to park?  Okay then; it could no longer be avoided. 
By 8:15am, I had parked and was in line for security.  Thankfully I had no bags to check, so an hour and a half was the perfect amount of time to get through the line and wait about 20 minutes at my gate before boarding. 

My flight was smooth, and I enjoyed my time above the clouds.  I took a moment to really think about what I wanted for the fair.  Looking out over the clouds and listening to Joshua Radin’s music, I felt quite at peace.  I promised myself that when it came time to make decisions, I would dig deep, and follow my heart. 

The plane landed, and taking public transportation to my hotel in Atlanta was no issue.  I arrived at my hotel by about 2pm, and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the surrounding area and settling in.  It was my first time every having a hotel room to myself.  I was surprisingly excited when I walked in; I felt like such an adult!  I didn’t jump up and down on the bed (it would have mussed the bedcovers, after all), but I did dance around the room a bit. 

My big girl hotel room! 

Thursday night was candidate orientation for the job fair, and I had the good fortune to sit next to someone who was also on his own and turned out to be from Wisconsin as well!  We introduced ourselves before orientation began, and when Matt found out it was my second job fair, he asked to pick my brain after the orientation ended, since it was his first.  We took what turned out to be a rather long walk to Whole Foods and our weekend’s friendship was sealed.  For the next two days, we ran into each other quite often and offered each other support, advice, and someone to share meals with.  I’d been nervous about being at the fair all on my own with no one to lean on, and having a friend there made the weekend quite wonderful.

Friday morning the job fair proper began, and I began to realize just how different this fair was for me than the one almost two years ago. 

At my first job fair, I had emailed every school with an open English position in a Spanish speaking country.  I’d gotten a fair amount of responses pre-fair via email, and when the job fair started, I had three interview requests in my mailbox before interview sign-up asking me to stop by recruiters’ tables to set up an appointment. 
This fair, I had 9 requests.  Three of the schools I’d already had skype interviews with before the fair began. 

At interview sign-up,   almost every recruiter I talked with recognized my name and was eager to sign me up for an interview in a prime time spot (as a rule of thumb, Friday afternoon interviews are ideal, as Saturdays most recruiters try to reserve for call-backs and/or end up making their offers by the end of Friday).  I walked out of the interview sign-up with 8 interviews scheduled for Friday and two for Saturday morning. 

My Friday afternoon interviews all went well.  I always say that at an international job fair, where interviews are 30 minutes long and there are so many more topics to discuss than at a normal job interview, you can tell it’s a quality school when the interview focus is on your abilities as a teacher.  At my last fair, I had a lot of interviews that were more info sessions on the school than a discussion of my teaching abilities.  At this fair, every single interview began with good questions about my teaching philosophy, style, and experience.  I respect each and every school I interviewed with and would have been happy to work at any of them. 

My 6:00 interview was the one I was very excited about.  I’d had an “in” with the American School of Guatemala before the fair, because one of my friends—who I actually met at the UNI fair two years ago—works there now.  He’d gotten me an interview with the middle school principal via Skype right before the fair, and that interview had gone really well.  I’d left the Skype interview completely excited about everything the school is focusing on at the middle school level and feeling like I had a good connection with the principal.  The principal wouldn’t be at the fair, but he told me he’d be in contact with the directors and saying very good things.  Turns out, he wasn’t lying.
My 6:00pm interview was not so much an interview as a job offer.  We went over salary information and benefits, and then she told me, “At this point, I’d like to offer you the job.  This is an official offer; you are the only one we’re making this offer to.  Of course you can have time to think about it—no pressure.  But I hope you’ll stop by at any point tomorrow to talk more or to sign a contract.” 

That wording is SO refreshing to hear at a job fair.  The very fact that she was so upfront about it and didn’t give me a time limit made a huge impression.  And then there was the fact that I had a great connection with her as well.  The school seemed like a good fit, and the benefits package really appealed to me.  I knew it’d be a hard offer to pass up. 

I went to one more interview on Friday night, and cancelled my final one.  I also cancelled one of the two interviews on Saturday because I knew I’d rather be in Guatemala than in Venezuela when it came down to it. 

Saturday morning I had one interview at 8:00am, and then attended a school presentation from a school in Colombia.  Right before the presentation I was offered the job there. 

So I had my first decision to make.  I really really wanted to be in Colombia.  But I really really wanted to be at the school in Guatemala. 

School versus location.  School versus location.  Trust your heart…
I went with school.  I turned down the position in Colombia.  I was still waiting to hear back from three other schools in Colombia, though.  (As a side note, apparently the directors talked amongst each other about me, which is a bit disconcerting.  My Saturday morning interview with a school from Brazil opened with, “Ms. Rosendale…I have heard about you.  You’ve been interviewing with schools in Colombia, yes?”) 

So the period between 10:30 and 1:30 became a waiting game.  I let my top Colombian schools know where I was at, and waited.  Early on I heard back from my top school; they’d hired someone outside of the fair.  By noon, I heard back from my 3rd choice; they’re hired someone else.  It all came down to Colombian school #2—which would have rivaled Guatemala had an offer been made.  At 1:30, Matt urged me to call the director since I hadn’t heard.  I was reticent.  “He has my email.  He said he’d keep me posted via email.  He’s just going to tell me he’s still interviewing.”  Matt had the phone in his hand ready to dial, when I checked my phone and there was a new email. 
My last Colombian school had gone in another direction.

A thank-you note written on the back of a
business card?  Not traditional.  

Decision made. 
Thank goodness it was one I was still quite happy with. 
I went up to Tracy’s room (the assistant director who offered me the job), and when I told her I was ready to sign, she let out a joyous scream and gave me a big hug.  (Caught me a bit off balance, and I toppled backwards into the arm chair, bringing her with me—a bit more intimate than either of us had anticipated!) 

Saturday night my new directors took all of their new hires from this fair out to dinner.  I truly enjoyed getting to know everyone, directors included. 

New hires (and directors) of CAG

Next year’s going to be a big change, to say the very least.  My new school employs 78 foreign hires—a big step up from 9 at my current school!!  It will also be a culture shock moving to Guatemala City (which has a population in the millions) in a truly Latin American country.  I could go on and on, but this post is already much too long.  So more on my future later. 

For me, it’s time to focus back on the present; I went back to school tomorrow morning.  I’ve got midterm tests to write and projects to lead, baby!  


  1. Halo, I am so stoked for you! I'm glad you had a wonderful experience at the fair and that you are excited about your new job! :) Huzzah!

  2. Happy for you Sue! Sounds like another great experience!