Need advice on job hunting in a very specific career field (long)

Hi there,

I am finishing up my Master’s in education and getting ready to start my job hunt…my goal is to be working at least part-time in my field by fall '04.

My field is Adult Basic Education (or ABE) – teaching GED, literacy, and numeracy courses. What I am most qualified to do, and what I want to do, is to teach ABE/GED classes for a public school system. Vacancies in these jobs are few and far between…ABE is usually the first thing the school systems cut when the budgets are tight. When there are vacancies, there’s lots of competition.

So I’m wondering how I can best improve my chances of landing one of those few jobs. I’m going to do some volunteer work to strengthen my resume. I’m also thinking of getting professional help with my resume (if anybody has any thoughts/experience with this, I’d love to hear it). I am also going to join the local professional organizations for ABE and do some networking…as with most fields, I am finding that everybody already knows everybody else and that schools that are hiring are generally made known through the grapevine long before the jobs are posted. I am trying to do good work with the program I’m currently student teaching in, so that perhaps they might hire me or at least let me sub. In general I am feeling like a pretty small fish in a big, big pond.

For those of you with training for a specific career, how did you approach your job search? Were there any strategies that worked particularly well? Did you decide to expand your search to include other related but not “perfect fit” jobs? (For instance, I could try to get work with nonprofits, workforce skills programs, or community colleges.) Or did you just hang in there until the right job came along? If you expanded your search and landed a job, were/are you happy with your decision?

I’m also wondering how best to make contacts with those in my field if I move to a different state. My husband is planning to start law school in the fall of '04. Depending on where he goes, there may be one ABE program in the area that does what I want to be doing (unless I want to drive to a school system in another county). What would be the best way to make contact with that one program? Even if they don’t have any openings, I will probably want to volunteer with them to keep my skills sharp and try to make contacts for when a position does open up. Any ideas/advice? Other than sending an email to the director saying PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE HIRE ME over and over again :smiley:

Thanks in advance,


When I saw your subject I thought, “Ahhh, I probably won’t be able to help at all…but what the hell, I’ll read it anyway.” And lo and behold! We’re (almost) in the same field! I’ll try to be brief with some ideas…

First, go to your school’s career center for help with the resume. Professional help is nice, but expensive, as far as I know, and it’s hard to know if you’re getting good advice. Usually the career center is free and they tend to keep up to date with things.

With the way the job market is these days, I think your idea to expand to other related areas is a good one. I worked in nonprofits, charter schools, and alternative schools–the work environments were different, but the students are generally the same, and that’s all I really care about.

The way I started in the field was to find an alternative school directory for the nearest district, send a resume and cover letter to any that looked interesting, and then called them to follow up. You might find it easier to land two part-time teaching gigs instead of one full-time one, especially in the community colleges.

There’s tons of associations out there for non-profits, adult education, etc.–search the internet for some of the big ones. For college-level, there’s the College Reading and Learning Association (the one I belong to now) and there’s the National Association of Developmental Education. I know there’s large literacy associations, too, and I bet all of these could give you some local programs to check out, wherever you end up.

Good luck in your search!


Bailey, thanks so much for your post! Where (generally) are you working? How do you like it?

I’m hoping that folks that work in any “narrow” field – not just education – will chime in. I’d love to read how people are putting their training/interests to work in all kinds of fields.

Take care,