Look Good–On Paper
November 8, 2009

A resumé may just be a piece of paper, but it’s often your first chance to make a good impression on a potential employer. There’s a lot to think about when constructing a polished and professional document, so what’s the best way to organize your history in the classroom to garner a second look and, eventually, an interview? DT spoke with directors of high-traffic studios to find out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to resumés.

Present an organized format.

Your artistic statement, philosophy or goal should headline the resumé in a few short sentences. Douglas Yeuell, executive/artistic director of Joy of Motion in Washington, DC, says that to grab his attention, state what you hope to achieve if hired and express your passion for teaching. With a faculty of 100 and three locations, Yeuell and Heidi Schimpf, JOM’s director of programs and services, prefer an all-about-teaching approach. “Under separate headings, put your teaching experience first, then your training and education, followed by your professional dance experience,” says Schimpf. “It’s great to know where you danced, but don’t make that the main event. We are hiring teachers, not dancers.” Unique non-dance-related experience and special abilities that will make you stand out from the rest, plus a list of references, should be placed near the end.

But if you’re applying to a commercial studio like Millennium Dance Complex, listing your professional background first might just trump teaching. “We want to see an A-list of names you have worked with in Los Angeles and New York,” says Robert Baker, co-owner of MDC, who co-directs a staff of 45 with Ann Marie Baker. “If you have headline competition teaching experience, that will come next, followed by training and other experience.”

Customize and narrow content.

To avoid simply mass mailing a standard resumé, arrange your document based on the requirements of the job opening. For example, if you are applying to a community college, then emphasize your college teaching experience. “The most relevant information should go first,” says Shawn Hensley, school and education outreach director of Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle. “Don’t send me a general resumé if you are applying for a specific teaching job.”

Include a bulleted list of your skill set right after the goal statement so the reader knows your qualifications immediately. This can cover previous duties and accomplishments; special teaching methods; successes of former students; and leadership roles—for instance, perhaps you led the competition team to big results, or took over a small class and made it successful. “It’s not about how many places you’ve worked at, but what went on there,” says Yeuell. “In the private sector, it’s important to remember we are a business about numbers. I want to know your ability to grow enrollment and retain students.”

However, teachers with vast experience may need to distill the information into a manageable amount. “Remember that your resumé is going to a very busy person,” says Hensley, who oversees 70 classes per week and a faculty of 21. She adds that she prefers one page, front and back, and might accept a more in-depth resumé, or curriculum vitae (CV), if you go further along in the process. Sometimes grouping information is a way to handle surplus material. “It’s fine to summarize,” says Yeuell. “We don’t need to know the name of every studio you taught at.”

Don’t fear lack of experience.

What if you’ve never formally taught? Yeuell believes you should look closely at your past experiences. “Perhaps you were in a leadership position at your former studio. Even if you helped arrange the rehearsal schedule for your competition team, I want to know about it,” he says. Realizing that teachers are trained in the studio and don’t always have a college degree, Yeuell advises applicants to include any mentorship or assisting positions held. He is also impressed by subbing practice. “It takes a lot of guts to walk into a class that doesn’t know you,” he says. Baker advises those teachers just starting out to intern or complete a work/study. “I like to see teachers who are not afraid to get in the trenches and do the kinds of things necessary to build a career in teaching,” he says.

Place clarity above creativity.

When it comes to design, flash should never get in the way of readability. “I am OK with a little creativity as long as there’s no compromise with clarity,” says Hensley. “We have to remember that we are in the arts.” To be on the safe side, hold the glaring colors, curly fonts, scented papers and other cutesy details.

Some resumés even include a teaching or choreography DVD, or a website link where reels can be viewed. Although it’s rarely required, our experts say they are glad to receive this material. And these days it’s not uncommon to also include a headshot or a three-shot composite photograph. “It’s good to have these types of materials on hand; we will need them to promote your class if you get the job,” adds Yeuell. Just be sure to keep all extra components simple and professional.

Avoid common mistakes.

Essentially, a resumé demonstrates how you present yourself. Neatness counts. Spelling errors, missing and incomplete information and lack of specific dates will send yours directly to the shredder. And no resumé would be complete without a cover letter.

Cover letters let your personality come through, direct the reader to pertinent information and explain why you are the perfect candidate. “Make it inviting,” says Hensley. “Tell me what motivates you as a teacher or how you connect to students.” This is also the place to mention your connection to the studio. Maybe you attended a recital or master class or were referred by another teacher. Always make sure the letter is correctly addressed to the person who will be reading your resumé. “It shows you did your homework,” says Schimpf.

Always follow up.

So you sent your resumé in, now what? Unless the job posting reads, “No calls or e-mails,” it’s perfectly fine to do both; it shows you have follow-through and are truly interested in the job. And if you do go in for an interview, be sure to send handwritten thank-you cards to all who spoke with you—this personal touch might just be the deciding factor between you and another candidate. DT

Nancy Wozny writes about the arts and health from Houston, Texas.

Do Your Homework

Before you start shaping your resumé, there’s work to be done. First, you need to target what kind of teaching job you want. (Career service agencies offer skill-assessment tests to help pinpoint what type of work environment will best suit you if you’re having trouble deciding.) Then, make a list of studios that would best meet your goals, and, if possible, visit or take a class at each one. Use this knowledge to fine-tune your final resumé to accommodate each studio’s needs, says Lauren S. Gordon, a career counselor at Career Transition for Dancers in New York City.

Once you receive a callback, start preparing for the interview. Review the studio’s website, get a map, know where to park and arrive on time with copies of all necessary materials. “Be as informed as possible about the studio’s culture before you visit, and dress accordingly. Know what’s expected of you that day,” says Gordon. “Have questions ready, be curious and conversant and bring your personality with you.”

Image Copyright iStockphoto.com/Pali Rao

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