People have asked numerous times if it will be difficult to find employment when they return home from teaching overseas.
Here’s some good advice to follow when (or if!) you decide that you’d like to transition back to a life in your home country after teaching English abroad . . .
Maintain your network of friends and former colleagues back home. Don’t let it slide just because you’re not in the same country. Keep in touch with everyone—even if, at first, you’re only planning on staying away for a few months.
Keeping these relationships going will take some effort on your part, of course—when you take a vacation back to your homeland, call around and make contact. Invite them for a beer or for lunch. Exchange emails with them, send them photographs of your life abroad.
When you talk to them, don’t let them think you’re just gadding about. Tell them that your work is REAL work, not just a ‘lark.’ This will help them take you seriously later if you ask for their assistance.
You mean I have to keep networking?
Of course! I think that networking is very important when teaching English overseas. Even more necessary than when I lived in the USA. Because of my web of contacts, over the last 20 years or so I’ve only had to do a handful of interviews.
Take, for example, my last few positions. One was organized for me by a longtime pal, the other was with an old employer. Whenever I was in the vicinity, I’d invite these contacts out for a beer or meal, and that diligence paid off.
On a side note, I made sure that I paid my fair share of the meals and drinks we shared when we went out, even though my friends might be better of financially than I was, just to make sure that I kept that relationship healthy.
I’ve spent about 20 years in the English-teaching industry and now I keep in contact with people in several countries. And I know that many or all of them would be ready to lend me a hand finding a job if I needed them to—and vice versa.
When in Rome…Network!
You’ll find that even though you may consider networking essential in your home country, it’s often given even higher importance abroad. So, don’t just focus on keeping your ties to home healthy—keep up with new contacts everywhere you work overseas.
I want to stress how important these overseas contacts can be. In many places, just the simple fact of being introduced to the right someone by the right someone else may garner you that dream job. In fact, introductions can play a meatier role in getting a job than your qualifications and experience will.
At this point, I anticipate, some of my readers are thinking, “Well, OK, but cut to the chase— will I have trouble when I go home?”
My advice is to keep up with your old contacts and further your education/training in both your former career and your new one.
It will also, of course, depend on what your previous job was and how fast the skill set for that occupation changes. If your background is in a volatile high-skill-set job, then yes, it does become harder to return to the exact type of position you left when you went overseas. In the beginning, perhaps the changes will be negligible, but after five or more years abroad, you’ll certainly notice that you’re missing skills when you try to transition back to your old career—if you haven’t tried to keep educating yourself.
The last time I worked in social work administration—my occupation in the States—was in 1989. I have kept up many of my former contacts from that line of work, but I doubt that I could truly go back to the same position that I had held before I left. However, my contacts would make it easier for me to go back to a different position in the same field—I’d just have to be a low man on the totem pole for awhile.
A few years ago I lunched with a former supervisor. I think that if I asked her, she’d be able to help me get a decent job—she’d be in a position to help too, because in the time that I’ve been away from the US, she’s worked her way much higher and gained more responsibilities (and abilities!).
Even Years Later
It’s funny that when I first wrote this, I was getting ready for an old friend to visit—someone I had worked with in Africa in 1989. We were Peace Corps volunteers together and shared great experiences, which left us good friends even all these many years later. I’m positive that we would be more than happy to help each other land a goof job if the need arose.
TED’s Tips™ #1: Don’t let your friends and old colleagues back home fall by the wayside. Keep up your contacts and invite them out for a drink or meal whenever you’re visiting the country.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t devalue what you are doing abroad. Be sure your contacts know that you’re serious about working as an English teacher and about serving your students. Some people (especially those who have more traditional jobs) may see TEFL as a “slacker” option—make sure they realize that’s not true in your case.
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