Things are Different Abroad about Trust

I hope that this post will not be seen as a rant, but that it may help people to understand the different ways of doing things in the non-Western World, as we have reviewed in several recent posts.

One problem is that  people sometimes have tunnel vision about how things must be and they are not flexible about letting things be a little different from what they are used to.

My favorite example is a story of someone who was seeking a job in China, a country where I have in the past sometimes placed people. He was a well-qualified teacher and already signed a contract when the school asked him to sign another contract – a blank contract.

Now, I don’t encourage people to sign blank contracts or forms, but to get something you want; you should sometimes do what someone else wants. The teacher, with experience in Japan and Korea, never had to do something like this, so he threw a fit and walked away from what was quite possibly a great job.

It is understandable that he was not comfortable with signing a blank contract, but one should know that it is common in many countries.  Not a great or perfect thing, but relatively common.

When I look back through the years abroad and think about all the contracts and forms my wife and I have signed which were either blank or written in a language still unknown to us at the time (or both!), there are too many to count.  How different our experience overseas would have been if we walked away from every one of those opportunities.

Yesterday I had a similar experience at the post office. I went there to pay my annual rental fee for the post office box and the clerk handed me a blank form, in the local language, to sign.

I could have made a scene right there, demanded a translator and refused to sign it, but I didn’t. It seemed like a regular form they used all the time. I couldn’t fill in the blanks, so she did it later. I signed and found a lovely surprise…I got a nice refund on the security deposit for the PO Box. Now, that’s great!

All I’m trying to say is that one should be a little bit flexible. There is usually no reason to freak out. Try to sum up the situation and read the person. Obviously it wouldn’t be the smartest thing to sign a blank form from a stranger in a dark alley, but if it is a human resources clerk at your school, for example, approaching you with an immigration form, it might okay to sign those blank forms.

You’ll find that the non-Western world relies on and operates with trust much more than the Western world. As Westerners we put trust in contracts, but the rest of the world knows how easily they can be broken.

If you are looking for scams, you’ll find them. They are everywhere. Yet, in my 20 years abroad I’ve not yet signed away my life, future paychecks or a confession to something I haven’t done.

I haven’t been looking for those scams. I haven’t been attracting them into my life. What you resist persists is a common adage these days and . . . I think I agree.

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Gear yourself with trust in the real world, it will only help.  I’m not suggesting you be an idiot, but try to at least start with an assumption of trust.  Use a little judgment instead of knee-jerk reactions.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Open your mind to more than just the Yes/No rules in life.  Learn to get a bit flexible in how you deal with things.  You’ll find life rolls along a little easier if you do.

Teaching Internships in China





Resumes and CVs for Teaching English Abroad

Things are different now. The work scene is not the same as back home. Employers will most definitely want to see your photo and they will ask a bunch of questions . . . questions that might be inappropriate, strange or even illegal back home.

They will ask about your family. They will ask your age. They may well ask if you are married and if not…maybe they will ask why not? In their eyes and in their country these are legal and legitimate questions.

Every question has a reason

When you need a working visa it is often required that you need a passport from an English-speaking country, or a country they see as English-speaking. Amongst the other questions you’ll find reasons such as the fact some visas have an age limit or even, for example, in Saudi Arabia, men may not be allowed to teach at a girl’s or women’s school.

Build a bridge and get over it

If you have a problem with these questions and issues now, you should know that you may have some difficulty finding a job or even surviving in a non-Western country. Will it bother you?  Can you get over it?  Make the decision before you decide to make the move.

What should be on your Resume or CV?

A CV is technically a more detailed and and academically-oriented form, but overseas it will often have the same meaning as a resume.  Make sure to put the most important information near the top so that your employer will see it easily at first glance. Keep your CV/resume two pages or less.  If it is more they most probably won’t read it.

If you are a little bit older, like me, decide where to stop in time. Including working for McDonald’s 35 years ago will probably make your resume too long.

Add your experience working  in specific job areas if you are interested in teaching in a specific field such as Business English, Science English, Hospitality English – it will better your chances and strengthen your position.


Most countries will ask you to attach a photo to your resume. Generally this should be a passport size photo, attached to the top left corner, or it is usually okay to print it on your resume. If you put it on the wrong corner it is not such a big deal, don’t worry.

Age, Marital Status, Sex, Nationality, Dependents

You should get used to providing this information – if you don’t, your resume might end up in the trash. If your resume is without this information they will assume that you are hiding something.  A language school will want to know right away if you have a wife (or husband) and six kids who will need to live with you in the tiny studio apartment they provide for their teachers.   There are reasons for everything that you can’t quite understand – yet.

You are going to a different country with a different culture – you won’t think the same or have the same standards as them, get used to it and enjoy the difference.

Be creative

If you make your resume creative – like adding color – you will not just blend in, you will stand out. Find some creative resumes on Google. Give it a shot, but don’t go overboard.

I once received a resume in which a guy and his girlfriend were both looking for jobs so they split the page right down in the middle, with his resume on the left and her resume on the right. Not a good idea and not recommended.

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Have a professionally taken photograph ready to add to your resume, dress well in work attire, be neat and show a warm smile. Appearance is an important aspect in a lot of cultures, be professional – always. Make at least twenty copies, you will need them.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Put all your important, must-know information, on the top of your resume. If you put your qualifications for the position right at the top, you will help your employer with the screening process. Don’t make them go on a hunt for a reason to hire you.  Just give it to them by making it visible.

Teaching Internships in China





TEFL Job Search Tips: #1

Job Search in TEFL

If you read the previous post about finding a TEFL position where you can use your special set of skills, knowledge and experience, you will understand that finding these types of positions puts you ahead of the job search game, ahead of the pack looking for any type of English teaching job.

Today I want to bring to your attention that you should not only apply to schools advertising jobs but also to apply to those schools not advertising – this might your best strategy. The last three of my four college/university teaching jobs I got at schools that were not advertising at the time.

I believe there are many reasons why it is better to apply using this strategy, but I will highlight the two most important reasons:

Schools often prefer not to advertise and interview candidates.

It is more than common that schools don’t have a human resources team to advertise jobs and interview potential teachers. The time-consuming task of interviewing, sifting through applications and asking questions is usually done by a teacher that is already busy with teaching, their own responsibilities and daily tasks.

Taking part in the hiring process can be a tiring process for these teachers, something that will not make them jump for joy. If a qualified candidate presents themselves in person or sends a CV/resume with a photo via mail – for a current job opening, or an opening coming soon – this will lift the weight from their shoulders.

The Numbers Game

My friend once looked for a job in a language school in a city with about ten major schools. Most of these schools had four to eight teachers, they were looking for a native-speaking foreigner but they rarely advertised and had no clue how to get someone for the position without using a recruiter.

My friend was hesitant to apply for unadvertised positions.

But if you have a look at the numbers, you’ll figure that there are ten schools with about six teachers each. If you do the math that means sixty teachers rotating in and out….so on average, one opening every week.

There is a 40% opportunity that any one of those schools will have an opening or an opening coming up. Usually people will give a month’s notice (toward the end of their one-year contract) at those schools which means there will be at least four openings that schools know about at any one time.

If they don’t have to go through all the time-consuming interviews their workload will surely be less!

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Time is what you make of it, don’t wait for the advertisement, go out and get the job.

Ted’s Tips™ #2:  If you are polite, friendly and searching for a job in an appropriate manner, you may well be lucky enough to hear about an opening at a school through another school, college or university.

Get ahead of the game, out think your competition.

Teaching Internships in China



Finding Your TEFL Sweet Spot

Imagine doing something you love. Something you are really good at. Something people pay you to do.

Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?

In 1992, I grabbed the first TEFL job that I could find without knowing I could make a connection between the past, present and the possibility of an incredible future.

Different strokes for different folks

People stand out, achieve and excel in their area of expertise. If you have a special skill or knowledge in a specific field of study, you are needed. The TEFL-world needs you!

During my time as a teacher and teacher-trainer I’ve taught and worked with different folks with broadly different skill sets. I’ve taught side by side with people from diverse backgrounds with highly specialized skills: engineers, accountants, lawyers, nurses, managers, artists, designers, social workers, journalists, travel agents and just about everything else.

Skills + Experience = Opportunity

If you have skills and knowledge in a specific area, put them to work for you in your new occupation: TEFL.

Who needs English teachers with your specialty?  Law schools, maritime schools, aviation schools, international hospitals, international law and accounting firms.  Just about every business that crosses international borders and the schools that teach the skills for those businesses.

A couple of simple examples: An international hospital would prefer to hire an English teacher that used to be a nurse.  Why?  S/he knows all the special vocabulary, the unique kinds of conversations and interactions that a nurse or doctor has with patients.  You and I don’t know those things and at best, can only guess.

Business schools, MBA schools and universities teaching international business would certainly prefer to hire me as an English teacher. Why, because I’ve managed an (admittedly smallish) international business and have an MBA.  I know how businesses work, the vocabulary and even what bosses are like.  I know the vocabulary of that business and what interactions they might have with their bosses and customers.

Got the idea?

The job hunt of finding that specialized college or university or business job might be difficult, but in the end you will be rewarded with a higher paying job and be rewarded with the satisfaction of using your skills – stick to what you know and enjoy the benefits!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

ESP (English for Special Purposes, also called English for Specific Purposes) has many benefits – it provides a platform for you to share your knowledge, usually it pays better than the normal English Teaching job and you get the added benefit of meeting people along the way with whom you share the same interests, knowledge and passion.

My Good Luck

In every country in which I have worked I have had the privilege and good fortune to teach ESP classes. It was always more interesting and usually with more pay – sometimes with much more.  And I met and taught people who had similar interests to mine.  What better place to make new friends?

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Do an Internet search to find colleges, universities and large corporations in your field of knowledge based in your target country. Approach them and be sure to mention your related skill in your resume/CV – bring your special skills to their attention.

ESP students are usually more motivated because you are there to help them to do a better job with their English speaking customers and sometimes even their English speaking bosses.  In the case of university students, the skills you are teaching them may well help them land their dream job.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: If a school is not advertising it doesn’t mean that they are not looking for a teacher.  Approach them, they might need you and not know how to find you.

Teaching Internships in China