Posted on November 21, 2018 | By Max Kurasinski
27th Nov 2018
Do you find yourself searching Google longingly for ways to spend time in China, Vietnam, Chile or Thailand every time you have a spare few minutes (and often when you don’t)? It sounds like you need to find a job teaching overseas. To help turn your dreams into reality, here’s our step-by-step guide to getting your first job teaching abroad.
Step 1: Decide to teach English abroad
Teaching English overseas is a truly amazing way to work your way around the world but we know it can feel like a big step. If you’ve already decided TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is for you – congratulations! Head straight to Step 2.
If you’re unsure if you really should fly off into the sunset for good, a great way to give TEFL a test run is with a short TEFL internship or voluntary TEFL placement that you can link into a long holiday abroad (check out options from TEFL providers, such as i-to-i TEFL). And when you realise you love it, that teaching experience will put you in a brilliant position to bag yourself a paid TEFL job in an amazing destination.
Step 2: Get qualified
The only absolutely essential requirement for teaching English abroad is that you’re fluent in English – although there are some restrictions on where you can work if you don’t hold a passport from certain countries or don’t have a degree.
Assuming you are a fluent English speaker, the single biggest boost you can give your job search is to go on a TEFL certification course. This leads to the all-important TEFL certification that most reputable employers will expect you to have on your CV – not to mention giving you the skills and knowledge you need to deliver well-structured, engaging lessons once you start your first TEFL job.
Step 3: Find English teaching job vacancies
Once you’re TEFL certified, it’s time to start searching for English teaching job vacancies. There are four main ways you can find TEFL jobs:
These days, the majority of TEFL jobs are advertised online. Indeed our very own TEFL jobs board has a huge range of English teaching jobs around the world. If you prefer paper adverts, check out the education jobs section of English language newspapers both in your home and destination countries.
If you want to work in a specific location or school, you can contact schools direct. If you happen to be in the country already, feel free to knock on their doors. Otherwise, you can research schools online – these days even the smallest language schools tend to have a website of some sort. To give yourself the best chance of success, customise your application to the school and address it personally to the head of recruitment.
As potential teachers are often based in a different country to the school, recruitment agencies are fairly common in TEFL. Most agencies will recruit for a number of jobs simultaneously, so if you can be flexible about where you work, these can be a great way into your first teaching job. You’ll normally find adverts for recruitment agencies among the TEFL job adverts.
Tell everyone you know on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and in real life that you’ve got your TEFL qualification and are looking for a job teaching English abroad. It’s amazing how many people can put you in touch with somebody who’s already doing TEFL. Once you’ve made contact, TEFL teachers are usually happy to let you know about job vacancies in their school – often before they’re advertised.
Step 4: Focus your search
Highly paid teaching positions in the Gulf States may sound incredibly enticing but they’re also intensively competitive. This means you’re unlikely to land one until you’ve got a good few years teaching experience under your belt, so don’t waste your time and energy putting in job applications for these posts right now.
Instead, focus on jobs in countries where there’s a high demand for English teachers You’ll have a far better chance of finding that all-important first job teaching English abroad if you’re realistic. And it’s not exactly a hardship. There are great opportunities for first time TEFL teachers all around the world, including: Thailand, Vietnam, China, Central and South America, Spain and Russia.
Step 5: Create the perfect application
Now you’ve identified some exciting teaching posts, you need to make your application stand out. Don’t be tempted to simply ping off your CV to thirty different TEFL employers. You’ll have a far greater chance of success if you focus on a small number of applications and customise each one to the specific role.
Spend time reading the job specification and researching the school and local area, then use this knowledge to tailor your application. Include a brief personal statement that links your experience and skills directly to the school’s requirements and make sure you highlight your TEFL training and any paid or voluntary experience that relates directly to the post. With a huge pile of applications to work through, employers love teachers who make it really easy for them to see why they fit the role.
Think of your cover letter as a brilliant opportunity to make a fantastic first impression – not just a note to say you’ve attached your application. Use clear language that will be easy for everyone to understand, briefly flag the key reasons why you fit the job criteria and be really enthusiastic about this specific job.
Finally proofread everything – twice – and save the documents as PDF files to ensure that they arrive the other end in the format you intended.
Step 6: Ace your TEFL interview
Hurrah! You’ve been offered an interview. If you’re in a different country, this may take place via Skype or with a recruitment agency rather than the school. Treat it just as seriously – it’s still your interview!
Make sure you check where the interview is being held (or who will make the call if it’s by Skype) and confirm if you’ll need to deliver any teaching activities. Arrive on time and dressed smartly – first impressions count.
Most TEFL interviews include questions on your previous experience, specific TEFL knowledge (e.g. how you’d manage a classroom management scenario or explain a grammar point) and why you want to do the job. Think about these in advance so you can offer concise and focused answers. Be prepared for the unexpected too – some interviewers like to ask seemingly random questions to see how you respond (favourite joke, anyone?). If you get one of these, relax, smile and give it your best shot. Most of the time it’s far less about your answer than how you deal with the situation.
It’s also worth preparing a few questions that are directly relevant to the school, such as the types of course books that they use. Most interviews end with the opportunity to ask questions, so this is a perfect way to show you’ve done your research.
Finally, remember to smile and make eye contact. Interviewing is a nerve-racking process but a friendly, professional attitude goes a long way to leaving a positive impression.
Step 7: Keep trying
However brilliant you are, you may well not get the first job you apply for. Don’t be disheartened. It’s normal to have a few rejections along the way. Look at these as a learning process and you’ll get better each time. Most of all, don’t give up. You will find a job teaching English abroad – as long as you keep trying.
Step 8: Get ready to go!
It’s finally happening – you’ve got that job offer. Fantastic news!!
Take time to confirm the details, such as when and how you’ll get paid and whether you’re being offered any additional benefits such as accommodation, flights or health insurance. It’s fine to ask if you’re not clear about anything. Any reputable employer will be happy to answer your questions.
Remember to check your passport is still in date, apply for your visa and book those flights. And then it’s time to jet off to teach English abroad!
Read our top tips for new teachers to make sure you’re prepared. And, most of all, have a brilliant time!