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 (long ago in the “old days”) during the summer, many children and teens were required to work on the family farm in the fields or otherwise help provide for their families.

However, other countries with different traditions and varying agricultural seasons and weather patterns often 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.   

 TEFL Educator / TEFL Boot Camp

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Just Who are You? Your TEFL Resume-CV

Just Who ARE You? Put It On Your TEFL Resume

Ready to get a TEFL Job? Great! But before you start sending out applications for a job in your new career teaching English as a Foreign Language, it pays to craft a great resume. If you’ve ever had a job before, you’re familiar with most of the aspects of a decent resume. But, there are a few points you’ll need to consider when you look at sending out resumes to jobs overseas.

A Resume By Any Other Name

First of all, we call that sheet of paper with all your vitals and work experience on it a “resume” in the States. But in many countries they call it a CV, short for “curriculum vitae.” In the US, a CV and a resume are two different animals—CVs being longer and more detailed and academically oriented, and resumes being short and sweet. But when you’re perusing job listings for first-time teaching jobs, when you see a CV is required, rest assured, they want your resume.

All Your Deets—Name, Age, Sex and Nationality

Secondly, resumes for TEFL jobs often incorporate some information that you wouldn’t ordinarily put on a resume in many Western countries.  Where we shy away from including photos, age, gender, place of birth and nationality on domestic resumes, when you apply to a company overseas, they’re usually looking for this information somewhere handy where they can reference it.  I recommend putting all this information up top on the resume’s header.

A lot of first-time teachers from the West feel uncomfortable about adding a photo to their resume. But, look at it this way. The school you’re applying to overseas will probably hire you without an interview at all—or possibly only with a phone interview. It’s unlikely that they’ll meet with you face to face, so they’ll want a photo to help remember who you are and be able to recognize you when you do get hired. They also want to see if you look presentable—do you have facial piercings? Did you bother to find a photo that makes you look professional? While it’s illegal in some countries to discriminate based on appearance, unfortunately in many countries where TEFL jobs are located, it’s expected that they will take how you look into consideration.

Age, nationality and gender are also important additions on the resume, for practical reasons. Some countries, like China, have age restrictions on the visas for foreign teachers. It makes sense that schools know your age up front so that they know right away if they can get you a visa or not. Nationality is important for the same reason. The institution may be restricted by local laws to hiring certain passport holders. And gender, while there are fewer restrictions regarding this, might be a necessary factor for your employer’s consideration when you are applying to all-boys or all-girls schools, or in certain countries in the Middle East. Also, people who speak English as a foreign language (e.g. your new employer) may not know just from your name if you’re a man or a woman.

What You Did and Where You Did It

On the bottom part of the resume, you’ll be expected to write your education and your relevant work experience.

If you’re a true newbie and have never taught TEFL before, you might be worried that your resume looks a bit sparse.  That’s OK.  If you don’t have any teaching-related jobs to put down, I recommend listing your education or training experience before you detail your work experience. If you’ve completed a TEFL certificate, be sure to list it prominently and write in the description how many hours it took and if you did it, how many hours of observed teaching practice. You can describe the kinds of observed teaching practice that you did, too. (Young learners, one-on-one, etc.) Don’t forget to put all of your higher education down as well on your resume, even if your degree or training programs were not related to TEFL. A bachelor’s degree or higher is necessary for getting some working visas, so it’s a good idea to list it, even if it’s in molecular biology or something else completely unrelated to teaching English.

You can also include any coaching or mentoring experiences you’ve had in the past in different jobs or volunteer positions, because while they’re not strictly TEFL related, a good boss will recognize that the skills cross over.

For the work experience portion of your resume, highlight jobs that had to do with coaching, training or mentoring, and leave off long descriptions of irrelevant positions. You may be proud of your 14 years in retail—and rightly so—but the people hiring at a language school are mostly interested in the fact that you held a job for that long, not in the ins and outs of what you accomplished while on the job.

Try to keep your resume to one page, or two at the most. For this reason, most TEFL resumes I’ve seen leave off unrelated bits that we sometimes see on other kinds of resumes. Skills, hobbies, conferences and other bits of bio-data are not necessary to include on your TEFL resume unless they’re somehow teaching or language related. Do include a section about your foreign language abilities, if any.

Include references if you have enough space to do so.  If not, just note that they are available on request.  Surprisingly few employers actually follow up on references even though they really should, but that’s a different story.

So there  you go . . .   Good luck and happy job hunting!

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Keep your resume short and sweet, but if you have relevant coaching, mentoring or training experience, don’t forget to include it

TED’s Tips™ #2:   Cultivate and include references who can speak to your mentoring, training or coaching abilities, even if they’ve never seen you in an EFL context.

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How to Get that Job Teaching English Abroad

Click on the eBook cover to sign up for a FREE copy

TEFL eBooks is releasing the second edition of their classic How to Land a Job Teaching English Abroad.  It’s subtitled, What you must know for an effective job search and its packed full of little tips to help you succeed.  This eBook is also free over at TEFL Boot Camp HERE.

If you signed up for the FREE second edition of How to Teach English Overseas that we featured last week, you will get this eBook automatically.

The eBook is designed to help you find your way around the more common pitfalls of those looking for work abroad.

Section One of this publication includes tips on how to respond to an advertisement.  Section Two explains how resumes and CVs are different when applying for a teaching job in the non-Western world.  Do you know you need to have your photo on that resume?

Section Three gives you some tips about how to better market yourself.   Section Four will give you some insights about contracts.

Most important of all . . . do know what employers are really looking for?  A grammar whiz?  A perfect accent (whatever that is!)?  Most employers are looking for someone who is friendly and easy to get along with.  Of course, they want to know also that you are reliable and stable, but everyone looks for that.  Workplace harmony is a more important factor outside the Western world most of us are familiar with.

The second edition of this book is an update of the original so if you are on the mailing list already,  you have the older copy.   You probably don’t want to get on the mailing list twice (as enjoyable as that might be 🙂 ), so use the contact form HERE and ask us to just directly send the new version to you.

This newer version should be a lot easier to read on a iPad or other tablet type reader.  We’ll have a Kindle version out eventually.

Ted’s Tips™ #1:  The price is right, so grab a free copy even if you are an old hand.  You might pick up a new trick or two. As always, let us know what you think of it.

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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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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