Great. You’re all set. You want to re-make your life and start a new career as an English teacher. You kiss goodbye to your old job and catch a plane, never to look back.
Even though choosing a career in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) often does mean a complete shift in your work life, don’t ignore the fact that a lot of your previous experience and education may come in handy in the English classroom, even if your old job had nothing to do with languages or education.
If your background means you can get a job teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP), then you’re already a few rungs up the TEFL ladder, in terms of prestige and, (who are we kidding?) pay.
As an example, consider someone who has training in the Information Technology, or IT, industry. When she transitions to TEFL, it would be logical to start the job hunt looking for a a position teaching English in secondary or tertiary institutions that have an IT specialty for their students.
There are plenty of examples of occupational specialties at schools and institutions overseas that require English training along with their vocational or academic training. Worldwide, people need English to publish papers at university, research for said papers, study advanced degrees and to start up many businesses.
It’s in your best interest to utilize all your assets when finding a job and your background is one asset you shouldn’t ignore. If you have knowledge or training in a special area, then you will already understand and be fluent in the jargon of that businesses, you’ll understand how the business works, and you may have an enthusiasm about it that other teachers won’t have. This will make you attractive to prospective employers.
Here are some more examples—by far not an exhaustive list, either—of areas of special knowledge that come in useful when teaching English overseas:
● Aviation training
● Marketing and Business
● Pharmaceuticals or anything else related to medicine
● Hospitality and Tourism
● Construction Technology
● Basically any other subject that you majored in at university
When looking for a job teaching students specializing in your ESP area at a university, avoid approaching the English Department first. A better tactic is to introduce yourself at the department in charge of your skill area, and then request that they recommend you to their colleagues in the English Department.
Some helpful links about ESP: Here are a pair of great examples of ESP work that new TEFL teachers may be qualified for: Hotel and Resort English and Business English. This might entail teaching a few motivated, engaged receptionists or concierges at a 5-star hotel (or maybe even at a resort on an island!). What sounds better, that or teaching 60 bored middle-schoolers all playing with their smart phones instead of listening to you, the teacher? See, ESP has its advantages!
TED’s Tips™ #1: Look within yourself to see what the BEST English Teaching Job is going to be for YOU. What will get you both maximum enjoyment and maximum pay? It just might be related to your personal skills, experiences and education. Don’t ignore your unique strengths—you might be hobbling yourself AND your new career.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Just because you may be new to teaching English doesn’t mean you have to start on the bottom of the heap. If you’ve got marketable skills, then by all means approach colleges, universities and businesses directly.