What TEFL Training Courses Don’t Teach You #5

What to take to the embassy with you when applying for a working visa

People actually ask me this quite frequently and my answer is always the same: Take Everything!

Take your degree(s), take copies of your degree(s), take your TEFL certification and copies of it, your transcripts and copies of them, take your passport and copies of the ID page, take several professional passport type photos (usually 2 inches by 2 inches) and double check on the back ground that is required. Take your resume/cv and take copies of it. Take everything your future employer sent you and copies of everything they sent you.

Yes, take a big folder with everything in it – and copies of everything.

Why all this fuss and why take EVERYTHING?

To some degree this has nothing to do with the job. It has everything to do with often uncooperative embassy and consulate workers around the world. Foreign service workers in consulates and embassies sometimes (not always!) have an attitude of entitlement and if they can find a way to avoid having to do your petty paperwork, they would like to find that way.

That way is often to ask you about what you have brought and what you can provide. And sometimes you will be facing a worker who will run down a long list of things they would like – that sometimes are not even required. What they are looking for is something that you did not bring, so they can send you away to go and get it and maybe someone else will have to deal with you when you come back.

You will even, more than once if you live abroad for a while, meet workers who are obviously disappointed that you brought everything and rather grudgingly go ahead and process your paperwork. You might even be made to feel like a trouble maker.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Take EVERYTHING! And copies of everything. Take more photos than required.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t take this part of the process personally. It is just one of the cultural games you will play while living overseas.

BTW, don’t think that your own country’s embassy won’t do this or you will be quickly sent away to bring the one thing you didn’t take. Don’t forget you will still need to visit your own embassy from time to time for a variety of paperwork, passport renewals, notarized documents, etc.

Teach English in Resorts and Hotels

An Interesting ESP Niche

More people are becoming aware of this area of ESP and this is a good opportunity to address how to find those niche jobs. And, since many new TEFL Teachers are former restaurant and or hospitality workers, they are well qualified to teach in this area. Much more so than teachers who have never worked in the hospitality service industry and who are not familiar with what some people will call a “service mind”.

I taught and coordinated teacher training for a year in a resort hotel and though I didn’t have previous experience in the industry, I was lucky to have a GM that took a personal interest in the instruction of his employees and even sat in on the classes with some regularity. So, when we got off track – he was there to set us straight as he did from time to time. I had also previously spent time teaching at a hospitality training college – so I wasn’t a total newbie to service mind.

The most frequent questions I get about these jobs is how to find them. You won’t see them posted on job boards very often.

Here is why:

Most resorts don’t even advertise their English teacher positions as they are swamped with applicants from overseas – people who will never even show up for an interview – and they also get swamped with backpackers who are just “passing through” and won’t take the job seriously.

Fact: LeMeridien Resort on Phuket Island in Thailand advertised a position several years ago and got over 60 applicants. Less than twenty were willing to come to Phuket to interview.
Only three actually showed up . . . !

That is a quote from a page I wrote for the Hotel TEFL English eBook page over at TEFLeBooks.com

So, how do you find such a job especially if they aren’t usually advertised?

You need to apply directly to resorts and hotels: Anything five star is a start. Take you resume and if you can’t connect with the HR manager leave it at the front desk in a nice envelop addressed to the General Manager. If the GM gives it to the HR manager, you can be sure HR will follow up.

Focus on five star, but some international chains will hire even for four star settings – they KNOW how closely tied the good use of English and customer satisfaction are. Below four star don’t bother. Those places don’t generally care or will do their best to hire people with English skills rather than training them.

When you apply for a five star job, dress and groom at a five star level. That generally means no facial hair, no visible tattoos or piercings. It usually means a long-sleeve shirt and tie for men, even in hot tropical environments. While you may not have to dress so carefully on the job, you do need to dress carefully when making initial contact.

Approaching the initial contact confidently and pleasantly is critical. You are, after all, going to teach people how to greet and deal with people in English. how to be tactful using English in situations where guests (and they ARE guests – they are not “customers”) may be unhappy or have a problem created by the hotel/resort.

The best reference around for this type of ESP is the HOTEL TEFL eBook, as mentioned above.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Dress and present yourself professionally, it is critical for these type jobs. You’ll likely not land that job if you dress casually or approach your contact casually.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Resort and Hotel teaching jobs can be some of the best jobs overseas and for obvious reasons in some of the best locations in the world – they are worth researching and seeking.

Teaching in the Middle East – for Good Money!

Teaching English in Saudi Arabia

A recent TEFL training graduate recently asked me about teaching in the Middle East and specifically in Saudi Arabia. Since we talked a bit about ESP the last couple of weeks this might fit in as another specialty area.

Would I recommend heading to the Middle East to make good money for a new teacher? No. Read on . . .

The better jobs in the Middle East – not just Saudi Arabia – tend to require a relevant graduate degree and usually a minimum of 3-5 years experience – usually more than less. Students in that part of the world can be difficult to work with and schools there tend to prefer more experienced and older teachers as they know how to deal with such difficult students.

The culture can be very argumentative and students can be quite spoiled and sometimes view teachers as servants. Therefore, you’d better have an excellent handle on how to deal with discipline problems BEFORE you go.

The lifestyle is not easy to adapt to, but that is quite an individual question. Some people adapt well to different cultures and not to others, but the failure rate of teachers who went to Saudi Arabia while I was there was high, even though schools tended to be very careful and thorough in their selection process.

They culture of Saudi Arabia in particular can be very difficult to adjust to. It is important to do some reading on the country and visit forums of people who live there to understand better. There, for example, is no such thing as “dating”. It is against the law with very harsh penalties. No movie theaters. No night clubs, no nothing. And on and on.

Wages were good because they had to be good to get and keep only the best of teachers who could survive the culture and handle the discipline problems. I spent five years in Riyadh Saudi Arabia and it was a real education about things we have no idea about in Western Christian countries.

I taught at the university level and I met a few people who taught at the high school level and it was generally thought to be “hellish” – I wouldn’t even try it and that is likely where you might end up with just a TEFL certification and only a BA/BS degree. Even the students at language schools are difficult. So, be aware that wages are high for a reason. And there is a reason why they hire only seasoned and well experienced teachers. Because the culture will chew up and spit out the inexperienced and underqualified rather quickly.

Now, there are some people who like the culture and parts of the Middle East are a haven for gay men – as it is a man’s world – though it is a bit underground. If that is your world then you might want to explore further but I don’t know that world. I went and left as a married heterosexual. If you are a single male, realize you may well live in that subculture and be housed and sometimes room with members of that subculture. If you are married, as I was, you are housed in different housing settings for married people and families.

Do know though that the local culture, as a result of a lack of recreation and/or sexual outlets, is high tension and argumentative. Especially in SA, as a male you will teach and be allowed to interact ONLY with men. My wife taught a branch of the same school where I taught, yet in five years I was never allowed, nor would I ever be allowed, to set foot in her school. She visited mine only once – when the school was closed – on a tour with other female teachers to visit the library.

That said, can you break into that world to teach? Probably, but it will depend on your qualifications and experience. And your goals or ability to adapt and survive in a very different and difficult culture.

All the above said, once I had spent a couple years in Saudi Arabia and learned the best ways to deal with the discipline problems, my time there was virtually trouble free. I thought, before I went, that I was an experienced and tough teacher, but I came out the other end much more experienced and much more capable of dealing with difficult discipline issues.

TED’s Tips™ #1: My statements about teaching in that part of the world are strong, but it is not a place for the weak.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get a few years experience under your belt before heading into the culture of the Middle East to teach.
It’s not bad, it’s just different.Very different.

What’s up in China? Learn what kind of jobs are on offer if you would like to Teach English in China Discipline is NOT much of a problem in China!

Teaching English at Multi-National Corporations

Teaching Business English: at the corporate level

You’ve already figured out that much of the current material on this blog comes from the great questions you readers ask and I will feature another one today.

This one we will do more as a Q and A than most others.

This reader was interested in teaching ESP and focused on the Middle East as an option and he had a specific interest in Saudi Arabia. Here we go:

Hi Richard (name changed to protect the innocent!),

You wrote:
You mentioned that you had vast experience teaching for corporate companies.

I am not sure “vast” would be the correct word, but yes, probably more experience than most teachers.

When you taught, for example, Roche Pharmaceuticals (Taiwan), did you adapt the English course to suit the pharmaceutical industry e.g. English for special purposes?

Absolutely. Yes. But what was adapted was based on a good Needs Analysis of what they felt they were having difficulty with. It was not based on a preconceived notion about what I might have thought they needed.

Would you say today, that corporate companies want specialised courses to fit their industry, so if you did teach a petroleum company, would it be necessary to study courses in geology/petroleum engineering etc.

Yes, they want a course focused on their business needs. No, you don’t need to excessively study their specialty, but it would be important to understand and have some idea about what the people you are teaching actually do on the job, when and how and why do they use/need English, and what kinds of problems they need help with. Showing up completely prepackaged is not the answer. Good needs analysis when you arrive is critical.

Also, which industry sector needs English instructors the most??

It’s a big world – I don’t know. I would say a need exists probably everywhere and in every industry. It has more to do with WHERE, rather than What. If, for example, you are teaching in the Gulf States – well, it is likely the need is in the petroleum and perhaps hospitality industries. If you are teaching in Nepal – probably tourism and hospitality, in Switzerland probably banking and hospitality, and so on.

These days many students study abroad, so their English is a higher level than students 30 years ago, so where would there be a niche market for English instructors in corporate firms?

Same answer as above. The need is Global and not always where you might think it is. It is not just about foreigners speaking to English speakers. It is about English being the only common language between perhaps a Chinese exporter and the Brazilian who needs her product. Or a Japanese construction company working with local engineers installing a high speed train in Bulgaria. Got it?

And finally, what was the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Helping people improve their career prospects. And that was a GREAT reward.

TED’s Tips™ #1: It is better to focus on teaching ESP perhaps in a an industry in which you are familiar and preferably experienced rather than looking for an industry and trying to adapt to it.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Understand that businesses want an end product. They don’t hire a teacher or pay for English classes just to take classes. They hire you to solve a language problem and you need to focus on and get to the root of what your ESP students need. If not, you will quickly be out the door.

What’s up in China? Learn what kind of jobs are on offer if you would like to Teach English in China

Teaching English for Special Purposes

Develop your own ESP

Yeah – and I don’t mean Extra-Sensory Perception . . .
This is one of my favorite topics and one that newbies and especially us oldies ought to make sure we pay attention to.

There are many ways of being disadvantaged in TEFL around the world: If you are old, black, non-native speaker, not pretty, not handsome and the list can go on and on and we haven’t even talked yet about your skills!

How to deal with that discrimination? How to create an advantage for yourself? ESP. English for Special (or Specific) Purposes.

Most people have a work history from which they can draw draw special skills. And usually the older you are, the more in-depth skills and/or the greater variety of skills you will have.

I recently met an older guy looking for a teaching job in a wonderful destination resort area. He was older and not likely to be picked up by the local school system who like younger women for teaching the younger kids. Nor did he really want that type of job.

We talked a bit and sure enough – there was his ESP – he had been through corporate management training with one of the worlds larger five-star resort chains.

Let see – teaching screaming kids in a hot classroom – or teach hotel receptionists in small groups in an air-conditioned corporate training room? Up to you as they say . . . Me? Give me the hotel job! So that is where this man is headed. Nice resume focused on TWO things: His hospitality training and experience and his TEFL training and experience. The perfect ESP marriage.

So let’s beef up his job search a bit. Not just hotels and resorts, but what about colleges and universities that have hospitality training programs?

TED’s Tips™ #1: Take a good look at your resume – before you got into TEFL. Identify what ESP skills you might have. Exploit them!

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t forget colleges, universities, technical schools, specialized vocational secondary schools and more who might also value your EXTRA skills.

Don’t ignore your ESP advantage. It will not only open many more doors for you, but you will also likely teach people with similar interests as your own. You’ll probably like the higher wages that ESP classes tend to pay too.