Career Advising

Passion Led Us Here
Photo credit Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Current and former students: If you would like me to write you a letter of recommendation for graduate school applications, fellowship/scholarship applications, or job applications, please email the following information to

  1. Graduate degree programs, fellowships, or jobs to which you are applying. (If graduate programs, include the universities and the degree programs. If jobs, include the organization and job title if known.)
  2. Where to send each letter. (If it’s for grad school, each institution will typically send me an upload link when you list me as a recommender.)
  3. Deadlines for each letter.
  4. A recent copy of your resume.
  5. If applicable, remind me of the research project you undertook in EDU-610 (or related), since my Blackboard/Canvas access to prior course data expires after a short period of time.
  6. Anything else you’d like me to know about your application goals.

If you would like to list me as a professional reference on job applications, here is my contact information to include in your applications: Prof. Jennifer L. Steele
American University
School of Education
4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW (SVB 473)
Washington, DC 20016-8030
(202) 885-3762

Resume and Cover Letter Advice and Examples

As you complete your coursework in fields related to education policy, leadership, and training (international or domestic), you may be looking for new career opportunities that will let you make a broader difference in education equity and opportunity. You’ll want to make sure that your skills and commitment shine through in your communication with potential employers.

To that end, I’ve drafted a few general tips for resumes and cover letters, alongside some downloadable templates that you can use as guides. The templates, created in 2021, are intended for folks applying to jobs in fields related to education, though they could be applied to numerous other fields as well. They are most applicable to early-to-mid-career individuals with bachelor’s, master’s, or education specialist degrees, and possibly to those with practice-focused doctoral degrees. They are not appropriate for Ph.D.-level jobs in research or academia, where many employers would expect longer, academic-style CVs that emphasize research productivity.

The templates draw on my experience hiring folks for a wide variety of roles in the education field over the past two decades. During that time, I’ve read many hundreds of resumes, CVs, and cover letters, and I’ve observed that many recent graduates could use more support in resume preparation. Having said that, the advice and templates I offer here are general and may not be applicable to your particular situation. (For instance, fancy resume formatting, which I recommend against, may be more appropriate in graphic design or publishing fields.) You may wish to have a colleague in your field or someone in your university’s career center review your documents and offer feedback as well.

Also, ALWAYS proofread your cover letter and resume before you send them out. (Reading the cover letter aloud can help with wordiness or awkward phrasing.) Small typos are part of being human and won’t kill your chances, but if you can minimize them, all the better!

Resume Tips and Templates

Resume template PDF (in browser)

Resume template Word (download)

For early-to-mid-career education jobs outside of academia, resumes should typically be 1-2 pages (depending on your level of experience), and cover letters should ideally be 1 page.

If you are using Google Docs or Word, stick to standard, easy-to-read fonts, 11-12 points in size, with 1-inch margins. (Tiny fonts are hard to read for people over 40, so don’t let your documents inadvertently remind readers of their age! The template uses Times New Roman, 12-point.)

Stick to clean, simple, one-column layouts because these are reader-friendly and easy for you to update. Simple layouts can also be easily cut and pasted into electronic forms or scanned by e-reading software.

Finally, stick to black-and-white formatting because it’s easy to read, easy to update, and prints nicely on black-and-white printers.

Avoid fancy or non-standard fonts and complex formatting, like column breaks and tables. Keep italics to a minimum because they can look cluttered. Most of all, avoid built-in resume templates in Microsoft Word and other software packages. Yes, they look cool at first glance and are fun to play with, but they sometimes look amateurish when reviewed by potential employers, and they rarely have the most efficient layouts for highlighting your key professional strengths.

Also, I recommend against listing your job objective at the top of your resume. This wastes valuable real estate on the page that should instead showcase your education (typically a recent graduate’s greatest strength) and your relevant experience and skills. Instead, use the cover letter (see template) to briefly discuss your employment goals and how these fit with the job for which you’re applying.

Cover Letter Tips and Templates

Cover letter template PDF (in browser)

Cover letter template Word (download)

As noted, I recommend that your cover letter be limited to 1 page for most early-to-mid career jobs in education. The template provides a structure for organizing each paragraph and some suggested language:

Do not assume that the person reading your cover letter has already memorized your resume, or vice versa. Assume instead that each document must stand on its own.

Some eye-tracking studies have found that recruiters spend only 6-7 seconds reading each resume or cover letter. Even if recruiters in education fields are more generous than that, you must think of your cover letter and resume as tightly organized, miniature works of art. They should be carefully written, formatted, and edited so that they draw recruiters’ attention – not with bold graphics or colors, but with the unique combination of training, skills, and commitment that you would bring to their organization.