6 tips for slam poets (and Teach For Australia applicants)

August 8, 2017 10:08 am

Matt Norman is our Recruitment and Advocacy Manager for Western Australia. When he’s not recruiting, he runs slam poetry workshops for young people. In this post, he shares how his tips for young poets can also help candidates to demonstrate the Communication and Influencing Ability competency in their Teach For Australia application.

I spend a lot of my spare time writing, performing, and listening to poetry, and I realised recently that the secrets to a good poem are also the secrets to a good Teach For Australia application.

Teach For Australia applicants are assessed against eight competencies one of which is Communication and Influencing Ability. To be successful in our Leadership Development Program, you need to be able to clearly and effectively communicate your ideas to influence the way others feel and act. This is exactly what a good slam poet does.

When I’m workshopping a slam poem, I give/follow 6 pieces of advice – and they’re all pertinent to a Teach For Australia application as well.

6 tips for slam poets (and Teach For Australia applicants):

1. Choose wisely

As a poet, what you choose to write about is the first and most important decision you make, and writing your application is no different.

When you’re choosing examples to talk about, try to pick ones that will be predictive of your success in the program. Don’t be concerned if they’re not directly related to Teach For Australia’s vision or work, but think about whether your examples are short or long-term in their focus, whether they’re in personal or professional contexts, and whether you held significant responsibility and made a significant individual impact.

2. Get the structure right

There are many ways to structure a poem or an interview answer, but some are more effective than others.

For your Teach For Australia application, we recommend the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. First, tell us about the context and how you broke down the task in front of you, including the goals you set yourself. Then, take us through the actions you took as an individual, and the measurable results that came out of those actions.

3. Write carefully!

As a slam poet, there’s nothing worse than getting half-way through a performance and then realising you can’t read what you’ve written on the page.

Similarly, you need to take care at the written stage of the application process to make sure your spelling, grammar and clarity of ideas are impeccable. You might be thinking that this isn’t your strongest suit, and that you can wow us later in the interview stages – but if there are too many mistakes in your written application, you might not make it there!

4. Run it by someone

Sometimes a poem makes perfect sense in your head, but when a friend reads or hears it, you realise it still needs some work.

Get a friend to read over your application before you submit it, or practise your skills with them before your phone interview or selection day. Better still, reach out to a Recruitment Manager in your state or territory to sit down for a chat. We can’t give you feedback on specific answers, but we can help you avoid common mistakes and steer you in the right direction.

5. The stage is yours

The best poets are the ones who take their time.

Start your application ahead of the deadline, and take your time to craft your answers. In your phone interview, take your time to select the strongest example you have. If you have what it takes to be a great leader, the last thing we want is for you to miss out because you were rushing to answer the question.

6. And most importantly…

Both in poems and in your application, you don’t have to rhyme. Just in case you were planning on it.

Once again, Teach For Australia assesses for eight key competencies, and Communication and Influencing Ability is just one of them. I encourage you to explore your past achievements and brainstorm evidence for all eight before finalising your application. It’s a great idea to download this worksheet to help you brainstorm.

And if you have any questions, please reach out via email at matt.norman@teachforaustralia.org, or get in touch with the Recruitment Manager in your state or territory by giving us a call.