Hiring Season for TEFL

The Best Times of the Year to Look for TEFL Jobs

If you’re from an English-speaking country in the northern hemisphere, chances are when you think of the “school year,” you’re envisioning the time between September and June. Our students study during these months because, traditionally, during the summer many children and teens were required to work in the fields or otherwise help provide for their families.

However, other countries with different traditions and varying agricultural seasons and weather patterns have very different schedules for their school years. Now, all of this may seem just a bit of trivia—unless you’re looking for work as a teacher overseas.

If you want to find work as a TEFL teacher abroad, you’ll need to know what times of year are best for applying—and what times of year you’ll be unlikely to land a job.

First, let’s look at Asia.

In China, schools also follow the September to July schedule, which means that new teachers should look for jobs in July and August to start the new school year. However, schools here often like to hire teachers for summer classes as well, which means they’ll be hiring as early as April or May. A few opportunities can also be found from ads popping up in December or January, for jobs starting after the Chinese New Year (the dates of which are determined by the lunar calendar and vary from year to year, but are usually in January or February).

Japan, however, begins its school year in April or March (again, it depends), so not everywhere in Asia has the same schedule. Japanese schools also seem to hire teachers with more lead time than Chinese employers do. Korea also begins in March, and Thailand schools usually begin classes in May and end them in March.

In Europe, schools mostly follow the North American agricultural-based schedule, though employers here tend to hire farther in advance of the job opening than Asian schools do. That’s a generalization, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to start looking in the spring for European jobs starting in the fall.

In South America, below the Equator, many schools begin their new semesters in January, expecting teachers to commit until the following December. However, depending on the country, some schools hire in January and February for jobs starting after Easter, which is usually in March or April.

Mexico follows the same school schedule as the U.S.A., roughly, but the rest of Central America usually has school schedules beginning in February, with new jobs on offer in January and December.

For jobs in the Middle East, teachers can expect to start in August or September, with the hiring process beginning a few months before. Some jobs also come available in December or January, so look at the job boards in November or earlier to make sure you don’t miss the best postings. African schools also usually follow the September start schedule.

Other Things to Consider

Some institutions, like private language training centers, have classes year-round and so may need to hire teachers at various times throughout the year. So, if you’re looking for work out of the peak hiring seasons, it’s still worth browsing ads. Also, hiring managers at schools are often recruiting year-round, and it can benefit you to be ahead of the pack with your application, as long as you try to make personal contact with the recruiter, and don’t just send generic letters to everyone.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you know you won’t be able to travel to the target country in time for the beginning of the school year, odds are the school will not be able to hire you. Most schools need all hands on deck for the beginning of the semester or school year, and won’t be able to accommodate your individual travel plans.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Research the country you most want to move to, and plan to apply for jobs two to four months before you’d begin the job. Earlier is usually better, but not always, as school managers may not know if existing staff will renew their contracts or not until the end of the semester.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Even if you don’t apply for a job this time around, keep track of what country’s schools are hiring when—this will help you anticipate when to apply if you want to change jobs and countries after your first year of teaching.   

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TEFL If You Don’t Fit The Stereotype

Fluent English Speaking Silurian Seeks TEFL Job

When new teachers go looking for their first job Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), they are sometimes unpleasantly surprised to find out that some schools have an “ideal” candidate in mind – one who fits a certain stereotype. A lot of schools base their marketing to students around photos of teachers who are young, blond, blue-eyed and thin. The impression is given that they are also native speakers of English, and probably heterosexual.

That said, rest assured that TEFL teachers are a very diverse bunch. The trick is getting a school to hire you if you don’t fit the mold.  And yes, discrimination in hiring is legal in many countries. Fortunately it is out in the open rather than hidden (like in many of our home countries). So, here are some tips for strategies to get around the stereotype and to get your dream job abroad.

Realize that in the world there are not enough native-speaking EFL teachers to meet demand and even schools who expect all English speakers to be picture-perfect blonde bombshells will often find themselves pleased to hire those of us who don’t fit the stereotype.

What if my 20s are long gone?

First of all, remember age is nothing but a number and don’t let it block your aspirations. I started working in Korea the day before I turned 42. At the time I had graying hair and a white beard, but I still got hired. Now, I’m 60 and have thinning white hair (still have a white beard!) and I still wouldn’t have too much trouble finding a good job. I have worked with teachers who are over 60 years old, and have met a TEFL teacher who was more than 70 and still teaching.  Don’t get me wrong.  I would probably need to use a different and more focused job-search strategy than a younger person, but find a job – I could.

One good thing about being a more “mature” teacher is that we aren’t usually asked to teach kindergarten. Plus, our broad experiences will open doors that younger teachers won’t have.

What if I don’t look “white?”

Countries are starting to realize that the countries that use English as a first language, even Britain, the USA and Australia themselves, are nations of immigrants and that you can’t judge a native speaker by the color of their skin.

When I was last working in Korea in 2005, I met Asian-Canadians, Hispanics, black Americans, Chinese Canadians…and many more TEFL teachers who are racial or ethnic minorities in their home countries and at variance with the stereotype for which schools often – initially – search.

If this is your case, then you should be prepared that it might take you a smidgen longer to find the right employer overseas. But then, you wouldn’t want to work for the kind of small-minded boss who might discriminate against you anyway. Keep looking and carefully considering employers and you’ll find a good one.

What about LGBT teachers?

You may find that some foreign cultures are more reserved about sexuality than we are in the West, to the point that gay or lesbian people of that country hide their preferences and avoid discussing it. TEFL teachers who are LGBT may find they need to exercise discretion while working overseas, depending on which country they choose to teach in.

I recommend researching in on-line discussion forums before going overseas. Find out what country you will be most comfortable in. However, because this issue rarely comes up in a job interview, it shouldn’t be a point for or against you in securing your dream TEFL job abroad.

What if you speak English fluently, but don’t have a passport from an English-speaking country?

Know in advance that some countries’ governments have a list of nations from which you must hold a passport in order to legally obtain a teaching visa. South Korea and Indonesia both have such a list, for example. In other countries that don’t have this requirement, you may still come across the belief that it is impossible to be fluent in English unless you were born in an English-speaking country.  Even native speakers with a passport from a “preferred country” can expect a pointed question or two if they were born overseas (nomad parents leading the way?!).   This is because your country of birth is noted on your passport.

So, if you are indeed fluent, then one strategy is to go to the country in which you wish to teach and apply for jobs in person. In this way, you’ll be able to prove that you are a viable candidate for the job. You’ll also find that there are some countries that are very accepting of non-native speakers.

By the way, older teachers also benefit from this direct approach.  Tthat way the school can get a measure of your energy and your personality and won’t stereotype you as a tired old grump (especially males).

I feel that the Number One job-getting strategy is that you be friendly and seem easy to get along with. And of course, if you are meeting the interviewer face to face you’ll be set to show off these characteristics.

OK, then?

I hope that after reading this post you’ll realize that anything you may have been concerned about before really shouldn’t be too big of a worry for you.

TED’s Tips™ #1: You can do it! Don’t let anything get in the way of your dream to teach overseas.

I find that life sometimes just puts a barrier in front of you to see how badly you really want to reach your goals. Persist, persist, persist.

TED’s Tips™ #2: A face-to-face interview helps a lot.

Especially in Asia, where the idea of “getting along with people” and being friendly are all-important to bosses, it can help you out to apply for jobs and go to interviews in person rather than on-line.

Check out this great blog: The Black ESL Teacher written by someone who knows how to make it work.

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