Joe the Intern on: Finding your first job in four easy steps
Hello there, my name is Joe and I’m currently the intern at BridgeTEFL in Denver, Colorado. I recently completed the CELTA course here and found a job overseas. These last few months of searching for jobs and preparing to move have been a great experience for me, and I’m writing this to share with you some of the reasons that finding my first job was a relatively pain free and satisfying process. While you read this, keep in mind that not all of this will apply to people who are very experienced at finding jobs overseas or who have many connections in the places where they want to work. I wrote this for people like me who have not worked overseas before and are starting the process of finding their first job.
1. Know the area in which you want to work inside and out.
It is not a good idea to simply spin a globe in its frame and stop it with your pointer finger when you are finding a place to work. Think about what kind of cultural elements you want to immerse yourself in on a daily basis. Do you want to learn a new language? If yes, what kind of language would you be more comfortable learning? Do you want to live in a modern city or in a place with great history? Do you want to live in a culture where men and women are treated as equals? How about a culture where the society’s needs are held above the individual’s? These are all questions to ask yourself before choosing a place to work that will allow to do sufficient research, which in turn will enable you to pick a location that is truly right for you.
2. Read forums written by other EFL teachers in your desired area before applying for jobs.
For me, reading forums was a must before I applied to different schools. One reason for this is that schools in China are notorious for taking advantage of unaware teachers. By spending many hours reading forums on websites like Dave’s ESL Cafe, I was able to recognize problem schools and remove them from my list of potential employers before I even began applying for jobs. The schools I avoided were ones that multiple teachers online warned others about for various reasons. For me, problem schools were ones that required teachers to work ridiculous split shifts, schools that would not help with the visa process, schools that regularly failed to live up to their contract, etc. Obviously some teachers are going to have isolated bad experiences, and some teachers just like to whine about needing to work hard, but if you see a pattern of warnings from fellow English teachers about a specific school or location, it is probably worth keeping in the front of your mind when you apply for jobs.
3. If you don’t have contacts in the place where you are looking for employment, use a TEFL resource website.
I actually happen to know a lot of people in the city that I am moving to, but none of them are involved in education, so the best that they could do was to give me suggestions on schools I should apply to. What I did then was go to www.tefl.com and create a free account and online resume. Their job feed is extremely active during the hiring seasons, and I was able to one-click apply to jobs because the website would automatically use my saved resume to apply for the job on my behalf. If the school liked what they saw, I would be emailed back rather quickly. In my first week of having an account on this site, I sent applications to eleven schools and heard back from five or six of them. Using websites like this is a very efficient way of finding a job, but beware: many of the best jobs will not show up on these websites. That being said, the most sought after jobs are usually difficult to find if you are not already in the country or if you do not have any good connections in that country. If you, like me, are willing to work a decent job for your first year before moving on to something better, then these websites (www.tefl.com is a good one but not the only one of its kind) are a great place to start your job search.
4. Compare your contracts side by side.
After I received several job offers, I started to become very frustrated while reading over the contracts of intent that the schools had sent me. I had learned in my CELTA course how to go over a contract and what kinds of things I should look for, but it was still difficult looking over real contracts for the first time by myself. Here is my suggestion to any of you who will face this task in the near future: decide what things are important to you, write all of these down, and then put your contracts side by side and compare them to see how they measure up to your standards. For me, a few things that I deemed important were that I would be compensated for absolutely everything I did in the school (lesson planning, monthly meetings etc.), that I would be paid regularly every month on the same day, and that the school would provide a furnished apartment for me that I would not need to share with a roommate. I had other standards as well, but the list could very take up a whole page. When I laid my contracts out side by side and directly compared them to each other in terms of how they met each of my standards, it became clear rather quickly that one of the contracts was meeting or exceeding my standards on a more consistent basis than the others. Of course, I still used the sample contract from the CELTA course and all of the advice that my two trainers had given be about reviewing contracts, but when the process began to feel overwhelming, the best thing I did for myself was lay the contracts out side by side and compare them in regards to my personal standards.
These four tips are not the end all, be all of finding a job teaching English overseas, but they are what I believe allowed me to easily find a job that met my standards and that I would enjoy. Remember, this is not a process that you need to go through alone. Keep in touch with your classmates from the CELTA course as you have the potential to be valuable resources and friends for each other for years to come. Don’t hesitate to ask your trainers questions about any of this because if they can’t help you, they probably know someone or something that can. I hope that you have found these tips helpful. Good luck and happy travels!