These are my opinions and based on my personal experience.
This is a long post but filled with useful information!
I have high hopes that after reading my last 2 posts in this TEFL series, that you are able to make informed decisions regarding teaching English abroad, as well as which qualifications to get in order to start the process. One huge portion of which qualification to get is which organization to go through when pursuing said qualification. This post will go over who to choose as your qualification provider, as well as how to search for a teaching job, and applying to the job. There’s a lot of information so let’s get going!
You’ve chosen your qualification and are ready to start learning, but who do you go with? Like most choices you make throughout this process, it’s a serious one and takes consideration. I won’t promote any qualifications over others or recommend any provider to you. I will simply say this: do your due diligence. Research many providers: their external accreditation, how long they have been in business, how many people have used them, resources they have available to you post-graduation, any ratings or reviews they have, and pricing. Two of the biggest considerations for me are 1) accreditation and 2) rating. I consider these two the most because if they aren’t accredited, they probably aren’t accepted by reputable institutions who have the best jobs to offer. If they don’t have acceptable ratings, their offerings probably fall short for most teachers and they don’t offer the other considerations, such as resources or good pricing.
Accreditation is an extremely large part of choosing your qualification, and here’s why:
- An external accreditation ensures that the TEFL program (or program of your choice) meets quality and ethical standards, as outline by the accrediting body.
- It shows that your qualification is monitored and reviewed by industry experts, adding to the quality of the curriculum and training offered.
Question to the Reader: did you consider the accreditation of your qualification provider when choosing them? Answer below in the comments.
Please note that not all accreditations are created equal. There isn’t a option that is the best, as there are multiple accrediting bodies out there. Some of them are run by governments (Ministry of Education), others by universities (Cambridge University for CELTA, Delta), or even by independent organizations (ODLQC comes to mind). Whichever qualification you use, make sure they are accredited and research the accrediting body. You will probably notice that most accrediting bodies are in the UK. This is because the British government actively regulates the TEFL/TESOL industry. The USA, for example, does not, so you won’t find any accredited qualifications from the US, unless your qualification comes from an accredited university. Look for an official seal or link to the accrediting body on the website, this will give you your first indication that it might be a worthwhile qualification.
Do not mistake accreditation for a membership with an accrediting body or affiliation with an association. Theses are not the same as going through accreditation by an official governing body.
Let’s move on.
Another big consideration, mentioned above, are the resources available to you once you finish the qualification. This may play a big part in helping you find employment. A few organizations will have a robust network for you to get involved in that will help in your job search. They may also offer job postings as well as recruiter services that you can use. Check these out before shelling out your hard earned money for the qualification.
Once you’ve done your homework and have chosen your provider, take the courses seriously and learn from them, you would be surprised how many people skim through the curriculum just to get to the end. They will get to their classrooms and have no idea how to teach! Read the material, take the quizzes/tests without using notes, and study. Save your materials to refer back to once you start teaching, this will definitely help. I will say that you may want to look into a qualification that has an in-class component, at least 20 hours. This is slowly becoming the standard internationally, especially in Asia (South Korea specifically). Even if the country you wish to teach in doesn’t require the in-class component, taking it anyway will help set you up for success in the classroom.
Now you’re done with the qualification and are ready to begin the job search. I recommend starting this process as you near the end of your qualification. This will help you get ahead of the game and you may even land a job before you finish the qualification itself. The first place to start is with the qualification provider! If you followed my advice, your provider should have some great resources for you to use. I would like to touch on a portion of your application that needs to be delved into: the resume. Before you can apply, you need to not only have your certification in place, but your resume highlighting your experience, education, and any extracurricular activities you may be involved in. See the resume example below for an idea of what to create for yourself:I would also suggest having a clear professional photo of you taken. It doesn’t have to be take by a professional of course (which costs $$$), just one of you from the chest up in business clothing, clean cut (or nicely trimmed), hair styled, and smiling. You know the old adage, a picture speaks a thousand words, and a picture of you professionally dressed that is clear and of decent quality speaks volumes. Choose a nice background for your photo, not your messy bedroom, and have a friend take it for you. No selfies please.
Once you have your resume and photo completed, you can really start your job search prepared. I also recommend drafting a cover letter template. Something you can customize for each position you apply for. Even if the employer doesn’t require a cover letter, it’s always good to have one ready to go and it shows that you are serious about the position. A one page document describing how your previous experience and education can be an asset to the organization. You should also highlight the reason why you want to teach and the reason why you want to teach for the organization in particular. Try to customize the cover letter template for each position and include some unique points by researching the organization and including things such as why you like their work culture, or showing how you agree with their mission statement. Little caveats such as this show you did your research and that you are really interested in the position they are offering.
Back to the search. If your qualification provider doesn’t have a good job searching tool, go to reputable sites to continue searching. In fact, I would utilize your providers job pool along with one or two other sites at the same time to search for positions. Here are some popular destinations along with sites to search for positions:Other popular destinations include the Czech Republic, Mexico, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Brazil among others. Some of the lesser known countries on my radar are the Republic of Georgia, Myanmar, and Moldova. I have even seen an uptick in online ESL teaching as of late, which seems interesting but challenging.
The criteria I use (not in any order) to search for jobs are:
- Reputation (based on reviews and/or word of mouth)
- Years in business
- Qualifications required
- Response time to inquiries
I use all of these criteria with every job I search for. If the company has a great reputation, I don’t pay much attention to years in business as usual. If the pay and benefits are too good to be true, they probably come with either a catch or they are too good. Once you’ve chosen a country, focus in on a certain area within that country that fits your goals and needs. Then search for jobs in that area. Pay attention to qualifications required because if they will take anyone off of the street, they probably aren’t a good school and will pay you the lowest they can. Some schools will also want you to be in-country in order to apply but that should be stated in the post.
Once I find a school I like, I always send them an email with some questions. The questions matter but not as much as how long they take to respond to you. If they are seriously searching for a qualified teacher, the will more than likely respond back to you in a timely manner. I usually wait 1 week, or 2 max, for a response. Anything beyond that and I move on to the next job. I will typically send out 2 or 3 inquiries to different schools simultaneously to maximize my job search capability. I tend to do this every week until I find a lead worth pursuing. The questions I ask also probe for transparency.
I ask questions like, “Are all of the benefits and working stipulations written out in the contracts extended?”, or “Can you provide me with a reference from a previous teacher so that I may reach out and ask some questions?” If they are willing to do at least one of these things, it looks great on them. Ask transparent questions, things that will challenge the school to show their honesty. If they have nothing to hide, they will provide you with references of current or past teachers. How friendly they appear through email is also a good sign of working conditions but is not a tell all of course. In actuality, there is no real way to know how good the work environment will be until you start the job. Personalities differ, organization representatives can be misleading but convincing, or they may meet all criteria set out above and still be a bad place to work.
Doing as much research and digging as you can will help but is no guarantee. I would also be wary of posts on forums as they can also be misleading. If you find 100 posts all saying the same thing, chances are there is truth there. Pay attention to those types of signs.
Something else to consider is private vs public schools. There are pros and cons to both but here is an overview:
Now that you’ve chosen a school, vetted them, and you meet their criteria – apply! Be sure to use their online system for applying if they have one (this is usually for public schools) or shoot them an email with the following: your resume, cover letter, professional picture, a copy of your qualifications, and a short paragraph in the email letting them know which position you are applying for, your level of interest, and a way to contact you regarding interviews.
Now you wait! If they haven’t contacted you within 2 weeks time, I would send them a quick email to check for any updates and to ensure they received your materials. DO NOT do this if they specifically ask you to not contact them or if they give you a timeline to work by. Hopefully you receive a positive response and you can move on to the interview. If not, keep applying to other schools, you should have several lined up already as mentioned before.
The interview is usually straightforward: it will usually be conducted via Skype or in-person (if you happen to be in-country) or it will be on the phone if you don’t have Skype or a reliable internet connection. I recommend always trying to interview via Skype or in-person, as they can see you and get a good sense of your personality this way. Phone interviews should be the last option considered. Always dress professionally and have a clean and simple background for the video interview. Try to choose a space that is quiet and where you can focus.
You don’t want to interview somewhere noisy or that has a messy and unprofessional appearance. First impressions are key here. Portray yourself well and with professionalism and most schools only conduct one interview. Have previous teaching and/or professional experiences ready in your mind to draw from. I also recommend that you have several questions to ask the interviewer in order to show that you did your research and that you truly are interested in the position. Two of the questions that I always ask is, “What is the school culture like?” or “What is your ideal teacher?”
Before the interview is over, try to get the interviewers contact info, if they will supply it to you. An email will suffice. After the interview is over and you ROCKED IT, always send a thank you email to the interviewer, thanking them for their time and consideration. This will set you apart from the pack, trust me. Now it’s time for the waiting game. If all goes well, you will have several offers to choose from, which is always a great feeling. PLEASE do not get discouraged if you receive a negative response. Just keep applying to schools and stay motivated. If you meet the requirements and you follow the steps outlined above, you should do fine!
Once you land the job, it’s time to get ready to move abroad! Make sure you get a well outlined contract that includes the start and stop dates, pay rates, pay periods, housing, work hours, schedule, vacations (both national and paid), airfare (whether pre-paid or reimbursed), and anything promised to you whether through the online job post or via discussions with the organization (this includes the recruiter, via email, or via the interview). If they do not provide you with a detailed and inclusive contract, be wary and think about alternative schools. You don’t want to move to another country, only to find that you have no housing or get paid on time. This way, you are protected and can properly state your case with the proper authorities if needed.
Check out my next post – “Moving Abroad!” to see how I prepare for moving to a new country and starting a new job abroad.