Finding the ‘perfect’ teaching job is as much a matter of defining your expectations as it is a need to define the word itself. After all, what might be the perfect teaching job for you could well hold little to no appeal for me, and vice-versa!
Ask yourself the following questions before starting your job search in earnest:
Do I want to work in my own country or elsewhere? Next, other than a general impression gleaned from looking at pictures of beaches and palm trees, do I actually know anything about the conditions in my destination of choice as they pertain to work, rather than snorkeling and sunbathing, for example?
Do I speak, or am I at least willing to learn a little of the language of the country in question? And, do I want to work in a large school or would I be happier in a small school, with fewer students, and possibly more freedom of choice in lesson planning and implementation? Finally, how crucial is the matter of money? Do I need to earn a minimum amount, in order to survive or am I able to subsidize a stint in a location that appeals to me, but where teaching is not well paid?
Having asked and answered these questions, you should now have a clear idea of what it is you’re looking for. The following are what I consider the most salient points to remember once you’ve spotted the job and are ready to stake a claim to it:
Be Prepared: Research, research, research! With the internet at your disposal, there’s no excuse for not finding out as much as possible about the country you’ve chosen, your prospective employers and the school, college or the other institution they might run. Due diligence at this stage will help you weed out less appealing employers and allow you to concentrate on legitimate job offers.
With the internet at your disposal, there’s no excuse for not finding out as much as possible about the country you’ve chosen, your prospective employers and the school, college or the other institution they might run.
Be (more than) Qualified : In a competitive job market and in order to land that perfect job, you’ll need to be able to convince the employer that you are not only qualified by virtue of paper certificates, but that you have other (less tangible) qualities that might make you the perfect pick. If you are, for example, a world traveler, speak a second language, or are particularly knowledgeable about the country you’re wanting to spend time in, mention such advantages in the cover letter that accompanies your CV. Make sure that you are prepared to show your potential employee that you have the necessary skills for the job. In many schools or institutes teachers are asked to give a trial class during the interview process. In the event that this happens, make sure to have a somewhat clear idea in your mind about how you will deliver the class. Make sure to think about how you will begin and end your lesson, which activities you will give out and most importantly, how you will provide feedback.
Be Confident: If you get as far as a face-to-face interview, it’s probably because the school has already short-listed you for the position. Think of your interview as an ‘audition'; take all your certificates, letters of recommendation, etc. with you. Dress for the part, be prepared and don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Remember that even if you might not be super-comfortable with the interview process and with ‘blowing your own trumpet’, so to speak, this is your chance to show that you have a degree of self-assuredness.
Be flexible: If you’re asked whether you’d be prepared to take on the odd class, for age groups you’re not too enthralled about teaching, think twice before declining the offer. It could be that showing willingness can turn out to be the deciding factor in whether you land the job or not. The same goes for your working schedule- if in the beginning you are asked to work on Saturdays every once in a while, make sure to accept the offer. Later on when you have worked a bit more for your school you may request to change your schedule according to your personal preferences.
Be reasonable! : All jobs have their pros and cons but TEFL jobs have more than most! If and when you do land that job and it sometimes seems (after a couple of hours with the aforementioned teenagers, for example) less than perfect, ask yourself whether things are really so bad that you’d willingly sacrifice access to all that your new environment has to offer … just to escape them ! One measure of how ‘perfect’ your new teaching job is, is how quickly you are able to recover from periods of job-related stress. Assuming your new job manages to “satisfy all or most of the requirements” of your original wish list, you should be as good as new in no time!
Finally, if that once perfect job does, for some inexplicable reason, suddenly morphs into “the job from hell”, make absolutely sure that you have yourself covered, particularly in terms of having the funds to get back home from whichever far-flung corner of the world you find yourself in! And, for those working in countries with reciprocal health and employment benefits (EU members, for example) don’t forget, as I did once, that you’ll need to sign off on your contract, and have all the necessary foreign documents to hand in before you are admitted back into the system and able to claim benefits from (what you thought was) your ‘Motherland’!
Good luck in your quest in landing the perfect teaching job! Fortunately, there’s more than one out there. “If, at first, you don’t succeed …” persistence and practice make ‘perfect’.
How about you? Do you have any tips and tricks for landing the perfect teaching job? If so, be sure to share them with us here!