TEFL for Older Folks: Advice for the Job Search

A reader wrote to me and asked:

I am 59 years of age with a university degree in Communications and a TESOL certification. I have applied to numerous ads in various countries seeking ESL teaching employment. I am a healthy, single woman with no children or encumbrances; therefore, I can offer flexibility to meet an employer’s requirements. I’ve had zero interest from these employers! The only conclusion I can draw is my lack of ESL teaching experience (although I have had plenty of adult teaching experience), coupled with my age, is preventing me from securing a position. I have lived abroad previously, but that seems to be of no interest to these prospective employers. What am I to do?

My response:

I have no doubt that the root of the issue is your age.

You are about my age and I too – if I was out looking for a job right now, would have some difficulty.

Ageism, Racism and just about every other kind of “-ism” exists in TEFL abroad and to a large degree such things are legal in those countries where you might hope to find work.

But – most important is your question – What to do about it?

#1 – Go where you want to teach and apply IN PERSON. Schools don’t know that you are vital and full of energy and positive (all those things that us stereotyped older folks are not believed to be . . .). And especially for older men, schools assume we are cranky (and frankly, a lot of older guys ARE cranky!).

A lot of schools are happy to have the proverbial “Bird in the hand” when the older teacher shows up on the scene. If they can have you NOW or have to take a chance on a young teacher showing up – maybe – you may well get the job.

#2 – Market yourself addressing your previous skills.
See: http://tefldaddy.com/Your_Special_Skills.htm at http://www.TEFLdaddy.com

I wrote that webpage and it should help give you some great ideas on how to change your current job hunt strategy. The basic idea of that webpage is to job hunt in the area where you have the most experience.

If you were a nurse in a previous life, look for a job teaching English at a nursing college, an international hospital, or something similar. If you were an accountant, seek employment at business college, an accounting school or even at major international accounting firms ( I worked for Price Waterhouse once teaching fast track management accountants English before they headed off to their foreign postings).

Hopefully EVERYONE sees that if you have a bit of experience that focusing your search in that area will be far more effective. You already know the specialized language of the occupation, the stresses of the students and even what is important and what is not. Wouldn’t colleges, corporations etc be much more interested in you then – rather than a 23-year-old with no real world experience, especially in their area? You bet!

So – the youngsters have an advantage for the standard language school job, but us older folks, with a bit of thinking ahead, can get a job that we would enjoy MUCH more than a regular language school job, teaching people who can benefit from our years of experience in an occupation for which they are training.

Your lack of experience is not really an issue. People with no experience are hired every day – even people with no experience and no training get hired.

TED’s Tips™ #1: For us oldsters . . . give some creative thought to your job search then hit the road and go get it.

TED’s Tips™ #2: The two strategies above can and should apply to everyone who is having difficulty landing a job – for any reason. If you are gay, black, brown, green, too old, too young, too tattoo-ed up – for any reason.

Market to your strengths and hit the road to get the job you want. You will get it! There is nothing worse than sitting at home HOPING someone will contact you. You go out and contact them. Show the initiative that can and will change your life.


Semi-retired EFL teacher/teacher-trainer working and living abroad since 1989 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.