Lever Previous Skills to find a Better TEFL Job

A reader of this blog commented the following after reading our post about better targeting your job search:

I was totally unaware that I could use my engineering background and combine it with TEFL. That’s something I will look into deeper.

I assume I would approach engineering companies (local or multi-national), universities that teach engineering, etc?

Would I need any additional training for that type of work?

I see there are Business English certificates. Would I need that?

Good thinking all around!

Use your previous experience to leverage a better role for yourself in your new occupation.

Universities, colleges and even high schools that teach what you have previously studied and the area in which you have worked are the best/perfect fit.  You’ll find like-minded people and you will understand the problems your students are facing in their education.

Even if you were an art major, possibly one of the degrees least likely to help you find a job in our Western culture, an art-oriented school will be more interested in you than in me.  And you are more likely to find common interests that will make your daily life on the job more interesting.

Most extreme of possibilities?  If you have ten years experience flipping hamburgers?  Check out the headquarters of the big chains in your targeted country.   I once taught executives from a major international company how to exchange email and other correspondence with their head office in another country.  All their communication, of course, was in English.

Specialty certificates are useful – but it is probably better to get a more general TEFL Certification just to learn the basics of teaching English first. You already have the specialty language skills of your particular industry.

A good resource would be:


TED’s Tips™ #1: I hope this post gives you some optimism about looking for a GREAT fit, rather than just any job.

Teaching Internships in China

TEFL Career Ladder

After your first TEFL job – then what?

Another reader (in her late 40s) was wondering what she might do next when she wrote in with this question:

Any suggestions on the type of jobs to pursue? I even thought of joining the Peace corps.

I don’t know where you teach now, but as you get older and/or more experienced it is good to either specialize in an ESP such as Business English, Teaching Examinations like TOEFL or teaching Hospitality English in Resorts and Hotels; move up to university/college teaching and/or if you have enough experience, teacher training. For the ESP angle, some good options for learning more about them are over at TEFL Boot Camp.

Three good options – ESP, University, Teacher Training. I am not sure that the Peace Corps will help you with any of those. Now – I am a Peace Corps fan as I was a volunteer in Botswana 89-91 and I believe in service to your country and/or to humanity – so the Peace Corps option depends a lot on your motivation for joining. If it is to see the world, then you already have the tool – TEFL. If it is to serve and nurture the world a bit, then it is a good option.

One option I haven’t suggested is the position of DOS (director of studies) which is typically a supervisory position in many schools. If supervisory skills come naturally to you and you enjoy such work – then it might be a good option for you. But often the DOS position is the guy/gal who fills in at the last second when someone doesn’t show up and they also do a lot of hiring and firing. Those are three things that I don’t enjoy! So I left it out.

TED’s Tips™ #1: There are lots of options in TEFL, you don’t have to keep doing the same thing on and on and on – unless of course you are super happy with what you are doing – then keep on doing it!

TED’s Tips™ #2: College and university positions often require graduate degrees, but with a TEFL Certification (pretty much any kind) and a degree, you can land a good college level job in China these days.