Friday, 21 November 2008

Life After Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Updated 2 April 2014

TEFLing is a wonderful experience and a great way to learn about new cultures, however, some people look for new career opportunities after a while. Here are a couple options if you're looking to move on. You might also want to look at jpvanderwerf2001's post about careers after teaching abroad and his post on a career progression on Dave's ESL Cafe.

Skills Learnt
While TEFLing there are a number of skills that you can pick up along the way and use them to help you in your job search. You may find that you are:
  • Adaptable
  • Adventurous
  • Constructive criticism: able to give and receive
  • Creative
  • Cultural appreciation
  • Easy-going
  • Empathy
  • Energetic
  • Flexible
  • Focused on creating good lesson plans
  • Goal orientated
  • Humourous
  • Independent
  • Knowledgeable
  • Language skills
  • Optimistic
  • Organised
  • Passionate about teaching
  • People skills
  • Perspectives have changed
  • Professional development
  • Punctual
  • Self sufficient
  • Team player
  • Tolerant
  • Well-travelling
  • Worldly view

Jobs in Education
Many teachers stay in education. Their classroom experience gives them knowledge that will help them in their second career. More ideas can be found in how to improve your TEFL career.
Jobs in Related Fields
As a teacher you have many skills applicable to other fields such as the ones below.
  • Chain school positions (such as HR or accounting) at schools such as EF (English First), IH (International House), or BC (British Council)
  • Editing / proofreading / writing
  • Human resource management
  • Intercultural communication
  • International Relations
  • Linguistics
  • Management
  • Public speaking / presentations
  • Publishing (related to curriculum or materials design)
  • Record keeping
  • Statistical analysis (related to assessment and testing)
  • Training
  • Translator 
  • Web design (related to CALL)

Changing Careers
Teaching gives you many skills such as management and organization. Like any job it will come down to how well you can sell yourself and make your teaching skills sound relevant. Try talking to people in the field you want to enter, doing some research about the current requirements, or taking a couple of courses. If you speak another language, you might be able to get a job within your field. For example, if you speak Chinese and you're an engineer, you might be able to get a job at an engineering company in China and be totally immersed in the language. Persistence pays off.

Cool Careers for Dummies recommends calling people who work in fields that you want to get into. See if you can ask them about their work. If they say yes, here are some things you can ask them.
  • How did you get into this career?
  • Can you walk me through a typical day?
  • What do you find to be the best and worst things about your career?
  • Can you think of anything I should know about this field that is unlikely to find its way into print?
  • What skills have you found crucial to succeeding in your career?
  • Can you think of anything you know now that you wish you'd known when you were deciding to enter this field?
  • Tell them about your background and interests. Then ask: Do you think I should consider this field? Any other fields I should consider?
  • Are there any particularly interesting specialities within your field?
  • Any advice about the smartest way to prepare for this career?
  • Are there entry-level jobs in this field that provide particularly good learning experiences?
  • In this field, where are good job openings listed?
  • What kind of salary can I expect?
  • How is the field changing?
  • Why might someone leave this field?
  • Do you kow someone else you think I should tak with or something else I should read before deciding whether to pursue this career? Any events I should attend? Any organization I should join?
  • Any other advice you'd give someone entering this field?
If the conversation goes well, you could ask whether you can spend an hour watching them at work. 

Update your CV
You need to take the time to update your CV and reflect what type of job you'd like. It might be worth hiring a professional CV writer. Think about how you present yourself. Take a look at these from ryleeys at Dave's ESL Cafe. While both options are true, Option 2 portrays the jobseeker in a better light.
  • Option 1: Bob spent 3 years picking through trash to find cans to sell.
  • Option 2: Bob spent 3 years organizing a recycling program in inner city neighborhoods.
  • Option 1: Bob spent 4 hours a day staring at Chinese kids while trying to prevent them from peeing in the classroom, followed by 6 hours of heavy drinking 7 nights a week.
  • Option 2: Bob gained valuable classroom management experience in elementary education. He also gained valuable insight into dealing with the nuances of a different culture.

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