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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Experienced People Seeking Work as EFL Teachers

More GREAT questions from our readers . . .

It seems as though entry-level positions are easy enough to come by, and the path by which one applies for those jobs is rather straightforward, whereas something related to my specialty field will require job hunting just like we hunt jobs here in the US.

You are correct.  You will need to use those same skills.  The difference is that people are looking for you; you just have to find them.

It can take a bit of research if you want more than just the generic entry-level job.  And you should want more.  You have a degree and experience that is valuable to the right people.

Should I still look into TEFL certification?

Absolutely.  There are some special skills required for teaching EFL.  It’s not rocket science, you will grasp it quickly and easily, but it is a skill that needs to be practiced and you won’t be super good at it for a while.

Taking a course also demonstrates that you are interested enough in teaching that you took a course to pick up a few skills.  It helps overcome the idea that you just want to travel and well . . . you need a job and some money so . . . hmmm, why not teach?

 Should I send out my resume/CV to any college/university that has a special program in my area?

Absolutely!  Don’t wait for a school to advertise so that your resume/CV is lost in the flood.  Most schools hate to advertise and you do them a favor by sending them your details before they have to.

A bit of strategy here – based on what I have observed on the scene over the last 20 years.

Send your resume and details to the president of the university.  Include a nice photo (required in most countries) where you are dressed professionally and immaculately groomed.

The president may not even look at it, but will pass it to the department head , who may not care to look at it, but is worried that the president will ask about it next time they talk.  So – you are much more likely to get a reasonable review.

A professional photo is very good investment. 

Many cultures put a lot of emphasis on personal appearance.  It is not that you look nice; it is that you make an effort to present yourself as a professional.

That one simple thing will put you ahead of 80% of applicants, who either didn’t bother to submit a photo (they likely won’t be considered at all) or sent one kissing the boy/girlfriend, drunk at a party, hiking in the mountains . . . well, you see what I mean.

And, really, people do send those types of photos.  Some even with the former lovemate blacked out, but still obvious.

Let’s repeat part of the question:  Should I send out my resume/CV

Yes, but that is a pretty passive search.  Telephone calls are dirt cheap these days and Skype is even cheaper.  Follow up.  For people over 50 (like me), I recommend heading out and personally contacting schools – face to face.

 The age issue . . .

Many schools are concerned about health problems, so if they see you in person they can rest assured that you are healthy and ready to take on the job.

With us older folks they are also concerned about rigidity and argumentativeness.  Yeah, some older people are like that – but not me!  Anyway, so if they meet you face to face, that problem is solved too.

Should I take lessons in the local language?

That is a mixed bag.  The school wants you for your English skills, not for their local language.

Taking a language course does show some interest in the local culture, but some schools will worry that you will practice your new language with the students instead of helping the students practice English with you.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  People with some good work experience and education on their resume/CV can leverage that experience and education into better jobs and even university positions if they do a bit of research and look in the right places.

You don’t have to be 50+ to take this route.  There are a lot of people in their mid-late 20s with great work experience and good educations.

Don’t settle for an entry level position if you have the ability to start further up the food chain.

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The Job Market for Teaching English Abroad

Recently a reader wrote:

To be honest I am a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of positions in S. Korea, China, and Japan . . ..

In the postings for positions in China I am surprised by the sheer volume of listings and by the often times scant requirements . . .

For instance the ****** Company has a posting in Beijing for 5000-9000RMB/month, housing, airfare, Mandarin lessons . . .

I have seen several positions with similar promises. Are these too good to be true?

In response, I wrote the following:

What you are finding out is that it is a GREAT jobs market out there for teachers. HUGE. The jobs you are finding sound about right. There is great demand.

Realize that when a school advertises they will pay 5000-9000RMB, what they usually really mean is they will pay 5000! Maybe 5500. Graduate degree and ten years experience then maybe 7000. So – don’t put too much stock in it.  Be aware too, that the megacities in China, for example, will often pay a bit more due to the much higher cost of living in those cities.  It is not usually enough to compensate for the higher expenses though.

It costs nothing to interview and when you interview you can get a feel of the employer and if they seem real or not. My opinion after only 20 years overseas is that the incidence of “scams” is highly overrated. Be careful, of course, and if someone offers you five times what everyone else pays – then you should perhaps wonder, but otherwise it is a pretty solid market.

Payment or benefits that include accommodation and airfare are not unusual at all for China and Korea.  In China you will oftentimes even be given a utilities subsidy and free computer and internet in your free apartment.  Yeah!

TED’s Tips™ #1:  It is a great job market out there for teachers of English.  It is – as mentioned above – quite the opposite of the job market in the USA and UK right now.  Enjoy looking for a job where you are REALLY and eagerly wanted.  It is nice change of pace.  Go and enjoy!

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