As an experienced ESL teacher will tell you, finding and starting your first job can be nerve-wracking. Fresh off getting your TEFL qualification and, often, arriving in an unfamiliar country, your self-doubt is at its highest, and the little voice in your head that frequently likes to say ‘you can’t do this’ has never been louder.
However, those fears will soon subside as you apply for jobs and the offers for interviews and demo classes start rolling in. With that in mind, here are 5 tips to help you land your first teaching job.
Get a Good TEFL Qualification
The first way to place yourself in a position to land your first job, before you apply for a single role, is to get a high-quality TEFL qualification. Getting one with a reputable company, such as The TEFL Org, the UK’s most experienced course provider, will make it far easier to land a job with schools and centers around the world. They’ll have confidence in the fact you’re a competent and well-trained teacher worth hiring and investing in.
Better still, completing a comprehensive TEFL course will make you feel more prepared and confident when applying for jobs and conducting interviews. It will help to erode away feelings of being unqualified and the imposter syndrome that many new teachers experience before, and often during, their first job.
Bookmark the best job boards and check them every day until you secure a job. For the quickest results, I suggest forming a routine, where you visit each board twice a day – morning and evening, in order to apply for jobs within a few hours of them being advertised.
As well as places like Craigslist and renowned job boards like Dave’s ESL cafe, check for popular job boards in the country you’re looking for a job. Thailand, for instance, has a job board called Ajarn – where I found my first teaching job!
Additionally, many course providers have their own job boards, with exclusive access for former students. The TELF Org, for instance, grants their students lifetime access, giving them an additional resource for finding their first job – and every one after that.
Now, be prepared for the fact that while on some days you’ll find a number of suitable jobs, others will see you find little of interest. However, do this daily and you’re bound to find something to get you started.
Join All the Facebook Teachers Groups
Once you know where you’d like to work, join all the Facebook groups for teachers in that area. Not only do they consistently have schools and recruiters looking for staff but they’re full of teachers who’ll offer helpful advice, should you need it.
As well as applying for jobs that pop up, be proactive and introduce yourself to the group. This is a chance to tell people where you’re from, what your qualifications are, and the type of work you’re looking for.
Also, join substitute request groups, where teachers ask for cover for their classes. By doing so, you’ll earn a little something while getting a foot in the door if you impress.
Apply to Schools Directly
Applying to schools and centers directly gives you access to unadvertised jobs.
The advantage of this strategy is that there are always way more teaching vacancies than are posted. Schools are always looking for new staff for a variety of reasons, such as teachers returning home, moving onto another job – or because it’s simply not working out. Applying directly gives you an insurmountable advantage over other job seekers that rely on job postings.
You can apply through a company’s website or if you’re already where you plan to work, hand in your resume personally. In fact, when you’re looking for work, get into the habit of carrying a stack of resumes with you everywhere, so you can stop and drop one off when you come across a potential employer.
Make Friends with Teachers
My final, and best tip, is to simply go out and meet other teachers in your chosen location. This is highly effective because some will be aware of places that are hiring or know people that are leaving soon and who’ll need to be replaced, giving you the inside track. If you happen to already know people where you plan to work, great – you’re already plugged in and just need to make an effort to meet up with them.
Conversely, if you don’t know anyone, that’s cool – you’ll just have to do a little research and have a little courage. First, find out if your chosen location has an area where ex-pats tend to congregate, like Thao Dien in Ho Chi Minh City, or Tay Ho in Hanoi. Then look up bars, clubs, events, places where you can take part in your favorite sports or hobbies – and go!
Now, just to clarify – I’m not suggesting that you ask someone for a job as soon as you start talking to them. However, eventually, they’ll ask what you’re doing – whether you’re traveling or looking to stick around, which brings the opportunity to enlist their help. For example: “I’m looking to stick around for a bit, and I’m actually looking for work, so if you know of any vacancies, I’d appreciate it if you let me know.” Better still, if they’re good at their job, there’s a chance their school will ask if they know teachers looking for work.
So, not only is this handy for finding out about off-the-grid jobs but being recommended carries far more weight than if you’d just applied yourself. Also, if someone does help land you a job, remember to buy them a drink or two, when that first paycheque comes through!
You could land a fantastic, first teaching job with just one of the above tips – but, use them in combination with each other and you’ll have more potential employers knocking on your door than you’ll know what to do with. Your problem won’t be finding work, it’ll be deciding between all the amazing job offers. And hey, there’s no reason you should only use these ideas to lock down your first role, you can use them to find subsequent jobs when you’re looking for a new challenge. Good luck!
teacher in front of class -DepositPhotos