Teaching English as a foreign language is more popular now than it ever has been. There are lots of applicants chasing the best jobs - from people looking for a life of excitement and adventure, to those looking for meaningful opportunities to help change people's lives. With a lot of competition, it can be difficult to know how to stand out from the crowd. Read on for our 6 top tips on how to land your dream job in TEFL.
There are a lot of myths out there about teaching English. Statements such as “anyone can do it” and “it’s an easy way to support your travels” are commonly thrown around. Don’t be fooled, however; being a native English speaker does not automatically make you an English teacher, and just because the job you’re applying for is in a foreign country, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to uphold certain standards.
In order to get hired in the TEFL industry, the first and most essential thing you need to do is gain the right qualifications. While these can vary slightly from place to place, you’ll almost always need a university degree and an internationally recognized teaching qualification from a reputable organisation, such as a CELTA.
There are hundreds of teaching jobs out there and with the convenience of the Internet it can be tempting to apply for anything and everything you come across. Instead, select a few positions that you’re really interested in and put the necessary time and effort into your applications. Don’t send out a vague, one-size-fits-all CV, but tailor each application to the specific job you’re going for. Research the company you’re applying to and think about how you’ll fit in to their culture and what you can add to the table. Your interviewer will almost certainly ask you why you’re interested in working for them, so prepare an answer that shows you’ve done your homework.
Be Enthusiastic & Professional
When it comes to interview time, make sure you’ve got your game face on. Teaching involves bags of enthusiasm, so you’re interviewer will be looking for this from the get go. Smile, ask questions, and show that you’re engaged in the conversation by nodding your head and keeping eye contact while the interviewer is talking.
Interviews for TEFL jobs are usually carried out over Skype or Zoom, which can make the whole experience feel a bit informal. Remember to treat an online interview in the exact same way you would an in-person meeting: dress smartly, be polite, speak clearly, and make sure you’re sitting somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted.
One of the great things about TEFL teaching is the huge amount of variety the job offers. There are all sorts of roles available out there, from teaching toddlers their ABCs to training CEOs in advanced business terminology. When you’re first starting out, you’re more likely to be doing the former than the latter. Like in any other industry, you’ll need to put the time in, gain experience, and work your way up before being choosy about the positions you can take. There’s no place for sentiments such as “I don’t teach kids” in the TEFL industry, so don’t pigeon hole yourself. After all, there are hundreds of other more flexible teachers out there that can take your place in an instant.
While there’s always going to be a level/age/type of student that you prefer to teach, stay open and adaptable. Many teachers would choose a one-on-one advanced adult conversation class over a room full of hyperactive 5-year-olds that don’t speak a lick of English, but your willingness to get stuck in and handle whatever is thrown at you will make you far more hireable in the eyes of an employer.
Variety is also a good thing in terms of your personal and professional development; it keeps you on your toes and stops you form becoming complacent. You’ll learn a lot more and gain a greater range of teaching experience this way, which will make you more employable in the future. Each type of teaching has its pros and cons, so the more variation you have, the better the balance will be. Sure, young kids can be crazy, but they’re also a lot of fun, and they tend to absorb English like a sponge. Similarly, while teaching a small, well-mannered group of advanced level adults in a fancy, air-conditioned office feels infinitely more civilized, the trade off is that you’ll spend much more time explaining complicated grammar points and marking long pieces of written work.
It goes without saying that you should be honest about your qualifications and experience in your application. You will always be asked to provide proof of your suitability for the job, such as copies of your university degree and teaching certificate. In your interview, you might be asked a question that you don’t quite know how to answer. In the stress of the moment it’s very easy to get flustered and try to wing it by talking in vague circles about something unrelated. This is the worst thing you can do, and your interviewer will almost certainly notice your insincerity.
Instead, keep it real and be honest; it’s OK to admit you don’t know something, as long as you show a willingness to learn and progress. This shows maturity, humility and self-awareness – all good traits to have as a teacher. It also reflects how you’re going to act in the classroom. Even the most experienced of teachers will sometimes be faced with questions form their students that they can’t answer fully on the spot (ah, the intricacies of the English language!). Being able to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for the next lesson” (and actually following up on your promise) will make you far more respected in the eyes of your students than someone who tries to breeze over areas of uncertainty for the sake of protecting their own ego.
As an inexperienced teacher, you might feel the need to jump at the first opportunity that’s offered to you. With all this talk of competition it may seem as though your being offered a position is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In reality, however, this is not the case. There may be a lot of people looking for teaching jobs, but there are also A LOT of teaching jobs out there. The EFL industry is booming and the world’s eagerness to learn English is not going to dry out any time soon. So, take your time and don’t allow yourself to feel rushed or pressured into accepting a position that’s not right for you.
The excitement and romance that surrounds the idea of moving abroad can sometimes cloud your judgment. It can also be used by employers to their advantage. “We may only offer three days annual holiday, but you’ll be working right next door to the beach!” and similar justifications for inadequate working conditions and dodgy contracts are not unheard of. Be discerning, make a list of what you expect from a job and your employer, and don’t make compromises just because of the exotic location.
Moving abroad is not something to be taken lightly, and while being picky about which job you accept might take a little longer, it’ll definitely be worth it in the end.