How to Write a Teaching Resume CV

People often ask if  there any difference between the resume they’d use at home and the one they should use overseas.

My answer is – yes!

As a newbie to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), you should embrace the idea that the hiring processes and requirements abroad can be very different from in the West.

For example, most employers will expect to see a current photo of you. They’ll ask you to be candid about your family situation, your age, your marital status (and maybe even—if you’re single—why that is so).

You personally may not be asked all of these questions, but it isn’t unheard of for overseas bosses to put their nose into business of yours that would be considered illegal to ask about in many Western countries. But, in many cultures, these questions are not only legitimate to them, they’re legal.

But, Why?

One reason that they may ask for some of these sensitive details is because they want to make sure they can get you a proper working visa. There are countries that only issue work visas for English teachers who are from a specific list of nationalities. Other countries have age maximums and minimums to adhere to. There are yet more stipulations, of course—for example, in Saudi Arabia men are not allowed to teach at women’s schools. It goes on.

Go with it.

If you’re going to have a harmonious working experience overseas, you may have to decide not to let this kind of delving into your personal life bothers you. If it is a big deal, then perhaps you need to look closely at your resolve to go abroad to teach.

So, how do I write the darned thing?

You should format your teaching resume much as you would a resume for another job in your home country. However, I’d urge you to put the essential information topmost so your potential employer won’t have to spend more than a few seconds finding it.

A CV is generally more academic and more detailed than a resume, but both the terms “CV” and “resume” are in common use overseas to mean basically the same thing. Whichever you use, it shouldn’t go over two pages.

If you are, like me, rich in life experience (ahem, older…), then you don’t need to list every last job you’ve had since graduation. Include only the more recent years of your work.

On the other hand, if you have the chops that will earn you a specialized position—in a kind of English for Specific Purposes, perhaps—then of course you need to clearly relate your experience in that area, even if it might have been long ago.

Say “Cheese!”

For the photo, you don’t need to submit a portfolio of glamorous fashion snaps, but you shouldn’t put just any old photo on your resume either.  Most countries’ employers are used to seeing resumes/CVs with passport-size photos printed at the top left corner of the first page. Some countries may prefer the right corner, but it shouldn’t matter too much.

What does matter is that you’re nicely dressed and groomed in the photo—that you look like a professional.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen plenty of bad examples from people who generally had brains and should have known better.

Your Particulars: age, gender, nationality, single or not, children or none

It might seem strange at first to include this information on your resume, but you’d better get used to it. If you haven’t included these remarks, then you’ll go to the bottom of the pile if the potential employer has a wealth of teachers applying for the position. In fact, depending on the culture, if your resume doesn’t clearly state your age and other statuses, your employer may think you have something to hide.

Not everyone in the world has your same mores and standards. It’s truly because people have different perspectives on things like this that the world is such an interesting place to travel and live in.

Out Damn Template, Out!

If you use some old template that came with your word processing software to make your resume, you can be sure other teachers have done the same. So kick out the designs that will make your CV look like just another piece of paper and try for something more creative. Google some examples of this, or experiment with colors and fonts. But, don’t go crazy. You can do yourself harm if you make your resume too outlandish.

For example, I once saw a resume in which a couple were looking for jobs together—so they put his details on the left and hers on the right. I wouldn’t recommend something like this.

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Let your resume photo make the best first impression you can. Have it professionally done, wear formal business clothes and a friendly smile.  If you appear professional it will make all the difference in getting you a good job. Also, get a lot of copies of this photo printed—at least 20. You’ll need them.  Sooner or later – I promise!

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Don’t make the employer read all the way through the resume to see if you have what it takes to do the job. Put all the relevant information up at the top—this will help him/her screen you in, rather than out.

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TESOL TEFL Job Search Tips

[Note: in the previous post, I wrote about finding a job that capitalizes on your personal work history and talents. When you are searching for a job, doing this will help you stand out from the crowd. The following article will expand on the last. Happy reading!]

In today’s blog post I want to emphasize a point I made previously: that you should not only apply to schools which are advertising, but also apply to other schools in your target area that you think might be a good fit for you. I have been lucky enough to get three out of four of my last jobs this way—in colleges/universities which were not advertising vacancies at the time I approached them.

I feel that there are quite a few reasons why this is a great strategy, and here are two of the most compelling:

1. Advertising for teachers takes up valuable time

Hiring new teachers is a lengthy, time-consuming process and schools often don’t have enough knowledgeable office staff to do a thorough job of it. In fact, the person whose responsibility it is to take on new teachers probably has other full-time tasks (like teaching their own classes). This human resources staff shortage makes it an ideal situation for you to walk in, greet the department head, and talk your way into a job. Even if all you do is send an email or package with your resume and friendly photo, you’ll be on their minds as a go-getter.

2. The odds are in your favor

One time a friend of mine was looking for a new job in a big city. He wanted a job in a language school.  In that city there were about ten suitable schools, and I figured that each school had between four and eight teachers. Now, because these schools were mostly reliant on recruiters to find them new native-speaking foreign teachers, they very rarely advertised, even when they had a vacancy.  In other words, they were paying a lot of money to a recruiter to find someone for them.

My friend said he was reluctant to go to the schools and ask about jobs. But I think he should have done that. If we break down the numbers, we can see that if there are ten schools with an average of six teachers, then there are about sixty teachers working between all the schools. This means that potentially there could be an opening for a new teacher every week of the year.

Rationalizing that most teachers would give four weeks’ notice before leaving a job, then you can guess that there are about four openings that schools would know about at any given time. That equates to a big chance that a school my friend approached with his resume looking for work would either have a position available to offer him or be aware of an opening at another school. (Teachers tend to hang out together, even if from different schools)

Put yourself in the shoes of the school administrator—how nice would it be to be spared the time (and expense!) of advertising for, interviewing and selecting candidates for that job, and just offer it to an enterprising teacher who happened to knock on the right door at the right time?

Ted’s Tips™ #1: Stop waiting to see an advertisement—go get the job you want.

Ted’s Tips™ #2: Network. If you are polite and friendly when you approach a school for a job, they may tell you another place to look for work if they are unable to hire you themselves. This is especially true in colleges and universities, which might be well-connected between branches and departments and will likely know of other openings coming up.

Really, it comes down to: Why fight the competition? Just out-think them!

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Where and How to Start your TEFL Career

Finding That First Job Teaching Abroad

Fantastic! You’ve decided you want to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). But, now what?

There are a few more questions you need to find the answers to before you’ll be able to greet your first set of students. You’ve got to decide which country you would like to work in, and make a realistic estimate of how much money you would like to earn, including how much money you need to save.

Balance these wishes with an assessment of your qualifications and how many English teaching positions are available in your target region.

Also, think about the following:

Teacher Training

I always recommend that new teachers do some kind of teacher training course before they begin teaching. It’s good for the teacher and very good for that teacher’s students. When it’s possible, I also recommend taking a training course in the country in which you would like to teach. Even doing the training in a third country may benefit you more than doing it in your home country.

For starters, taking your training abroad affords you the opportunity to dip your toes into what it feels like to live overseas – trust me, it’s much different from the experience of going on a vacation or short trip (or even a long trip) to another country. Secondly, while abroad you’ll network with teachers who are already there and maybe one of them will turn up a lead on a good job later.

Additionally, when you do your teaching practice as part of the training course, it’s a huge advantage to you if the students you are practicing with are similar to the ones you’ll be paid to teach when you land your first job. Knowing some of the particular quirks of a country’s students will give you a head start in the classroom if you’re a brand-new teacher.

Every country’s students have their own different learning problems when it comes to English – pronunciation, grammar, syntax. I’ve taught EFL in four countries, and every one of them had different learner errors. Even experienced teachers need to research and plan for new learner errors when they switch countries.

A final advantage to taking a teacher training course in the country you wish to teach in is that you’ll be on the ground and able to interview in person for the job. In the interview you’ll be more confident, knowing that you’ve been taught what that particular country’s students want, need and expect in the classroom. In different countries, EFL teachers will be wise to take different approaches to how they structure their lessons, for example, in Thailand students love playing English games as a way to learn target grammar and language. However, a similar group of students in Saudi Arabia would not appreciate playing around. This kind of thing is key to know BEFORE you do your interview.

This knowledge will also come in handy if you are asked to do a ‘demonstration’ lesson.  This ‘demo’ is, in some countries, requested as a part of the interview. If you have been trained to know what the interviewers are looking for in the demo, you’ll be way ahead of the other newbie recruit who just stepped off the plane with no idea of for what their prospective bosses are looking.

Don’t dismiss the monetary appeal of taking a TEFL training course overseas, either. Often, it’s cheaper than taking it at home – both in tuition and in the cost of food and lodging during your course.

Headhunters – and Can You Trust ‘Em?

Whether or not you do your training abroad, it’s time consuming finding the right overseas jobs to apply for. So, another major decision you need to work out is if you want to use the services of a recruiter. You will hear a lot of back-and-forth between experienced English teachers over the benefit or harm a recruiter can do you.  Many people believe you should absolutely never use a recruiter because of their own bad experiences. Yet others believe recruiters are in a position to negotiate a better deal with your new boss than you would be able to if you approached the job by yourself.

I think both ways can be fine—I’ve done both.

For my first job, I used a recruiter. I experienced some problems, but the recruiter solved them all. Because I was not yet confident and really didn’t know much about the business yet, you could say I was a true newbie, having a recruiter took a lot of the pressure off of my shoulders.

However, there are some recruiters in operation who simply look at you as a way to get their finder’s fee from the school. They’ll stick you in any old job as quickly as possible and won’t care if you are suitable for the school or if the school (and location) are suitable for you.

Whether you use a recruiter or not, it’s a very good idea to get in contact with other teachers who are working at the school where you might teach before you sign the contract. Ask the teachers what problems they’ve experienced and if they are satisfied working there. Make sure to also ask “Why?” if it looks like there are problems or if the teachers are unhappy.

More Food for Thought

Browse through the other posts on this blog and you’ll find a lot of other things to think about before you begin teaching overseas. I hope the blog is helpful in reaching your dreams of teaching abroad.

But quickly, here are another few things to think about when you start looking for a position teaching:

1) What demographic are you interested in teaching? Do you want business people, hotel and hospitality workers, young children or even nursery-age kids as students?

2) Is it important to find the job before you go overseas or is it easier to find a good position from the ground? The answer to this question depends a lot on what country you’re targeting and how much confidence you’ve got in yourself.

TED’s Tips™ #1: When you’re starting out, you should know that there are some countries that are considered easier— more”Newbie Friendly” if you will—than others. For example, the Middle East and Europe are a bit harder going in for the first time. By contrast, China and Korea are easier for newly minted teachers. They often hire from abroad and pay the airfare and accommodation of their teachers as part of the salary package.

A lot of new teachers dream of teaching in Thailand because of the beaches, good food and interesting culture, but it’s not the easiest place to work, and they don’t often hire from abroad and you’ll need to foot the bill for your housing and plane fare.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Make a budget and stabilize your financial situation before you go abroad. You also need to estimate what your financial situation will be in the new country. You wouldn’t want to get settled abroad and then realize that you can’t meet your financial obligations at home if you have student loans or other obligations to meet.

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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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