Ten Jobs That Have Transferable Skills

What Do You Know?

Many teachers of English as a Second Language transition into teaching from a totally different line of work. Before I began teaching, I was a social worker. I know other people who were business people, stock brokers, marketing agents, scuba divers, military personnel and who held a whole range of other jobs before they decided to live the good life abroad as an English teacher. There’s no one right way to prepare for being an English teacher, and, in fact, having skills from another job or field can add a lot of depth to your lessons.

Here are 10 jobs that have transferable skills to English teaching. Can you think of any more? Let me know what and why in the comments!


As a parent, you learn a lot about teaching, perhaps without even realizing it. You know about organizing groups of people who depend on you; you have experience with convincing people to do something that they might not see the need for; you are used to occupying a position of respect. Also, you know that feeling of achievement when one of your charges does well.

Childcare professional

Like a parent, you’ve learned a lot about patience, compassion, solving arguments, and the value of occasional silence. If you’ve dealt with young children, you also have an idea what it’s like to communicate with someone who might understand you perfectly, but has a hard time making himself or herself understood verbally—just like an ESL student.

 Retail clerk

 Service is your goal, and you know how to put on a bright face and communicate with people in a positive manner. You understand the importance of being well groomed and prompt, and about making your students or customers feel valued and appreciated. You also have experience explaining complicated products or services to customers, which directly correlates to being able to answer students’ questions.


You are familiar with important of details and orderliness, both of which help when teaching difficult concepts to students and when designing lesson plans. Teachers who can lead lessons in business English are sought after in many markets, and with an accountancy background and some understanding of general business concepts, you’ll be a natural choice for those jobs. Plus, if you can explain tax laws, you can probably explain anything.

Bar staff

You know how to draw people out and get them talking to you. You know the value of patience and when to be firm but polite with a customer who is talking a bit too much. Many people who have worked in the hospitality industry find that they enjoy teaching English because they get the pleasure of working with the public without the hassle of late hours and tipsy customers. The biggest skill, however, is that of being able to work well with a variety of people.

Call center employee

Communication is key, and you know just how easily misunderstandings can occur in verbal English. Having a pleasant, well modulated voice and being able to follow a script (or lesson plan) will work for you in ESL as well. You’ll also be able to give great examples to the students of polite, professional English as it’s used in the real world.


You can take charge and make important decisions quickly and without regrets. You’re also used to putting your patients’ needs before your own, just as you’ll do with students in the ESL classroom. Having a background in health care will also help you if you decide to teach English for specific purposes. Many foreign medical students and medical professionals need help with their English language skills.


You’re good at drawing people out of their shells, and helping them realize the best in themselves. You’ve developed a demeanor that people who are feeling stressed or overwhelmed (traits you’ll recognize in some English students who expect results too quickly) feel comfortable with. In addition, you’re good at remembering details from what people have told you and analyzing those points—just as you’ll need to do when you assess someone’s language ability and help them set and achieve their goals.


You know how to put the best face on things and put people who are uncertain at ease. You also have an eye for creating a pleasant atmosphere, for example one suitable for learning. Realtors also need a certain professional confidence to do well at their jobs—similar to the teaching persona you’ll want to have in the classroom.

Personal assistant

Super-organized and on the ball, you’ll do well at leading large classes or designing curricula to help students achieve their long-term goals without much stress. You also know the importance of notes and clean reports, and are ready to help as much as you can and to expect the unexpected in your working life.

Ted’s Tips No. 1:  There’s no one career path or educational background that creates the best English teacher. No matter what your background, if you have a passion for teaching and the desire to improve, you’ll be a great teacher.

Ted’s Tips No. 2:  Patience and organization are key character traits of a good ESL teacher, but don’t worry if you’re not the most patient or organized person—these skills can be learned!

Where to find Jobs Teaching English

I don’t usually like to do pages or posts of just links, but the job search is an important part of getting yourself abroad.  While we could probably list 100+ jobs websites, we will focus on the major and more reputable jobs sites.

All the jobs websites will open in a new window, so you won’t lose the list on this page.
And, usually, the link is to the international jobs page – not to the home page of the website.

These jobs lists will be a good taste for you as to just how much in demand YOU are!

Here are some of the BEST Websites with Jobs Teaching English Around the World

Probably the busiest TEFL jobs website in the world:
Dave’s ESL Cafe

A few of the more popular jobs websites with international coverage and LOTS of jobs:

Total ESL



ESL Employment

ESL Jobs Now

ESL Base

TESOL.org – This website is more oriented toward the professional TEFL instructor with a graduate degree.

A Couple Regional Websites with Jobs Teaching English

Jobs Teaching English in China

Jobs Teaching English in Thailand

If you are a qualified and experienced teacher in your home country seeking employment at international schools abroad, check out International School Services They do charge for their services, but they are the exception to the rule that you should never pay for placement.   They aren’t cheap, but their fee is well worth the end result.

TED’s Tips™ #1: IF you work with a recruiter, work with only one at a time.  If your resume shows up at an employer via several recruiters, schools will assume that interviewing you will be a waste of time as you will have so many options.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  NEVER pay anyone for your job.  The demand is great enough that you don’t need to.

TEFL Job Search: Finding that Job Teaching English

Maximizing your Options when Looking for a Job Teaching English

Just a few ideas here as I often see people using inefficient strategies in looking for their next job. Don’t put yourself in the back of a big queue like the one to the right, get yourself in the front of a very short line for more opportunity.

If you look only at current job openings on TEFL websites for your next job, you are missing out on huge opportunities.

Go to any jobs website, particularly the ones where they don’t scroll the older jobs off the list and start researching the schools that are NOT advertising now, but were advertising three months, six months or even a one year ago.

Build yourself a nice database of schools and send them your resume/CV and a letter of interest. The odds are that when they ran their advertisement (depending on which website where it posted) they may have been swamped with applicants. Websites like Dave’s ESL have so many people reading them that you can face pretty intense competition even for simple entry-level jobs right at the time they are advertised, but that is not true perhaps a few months later.

Those busy websites like Dave’s ESL are great for the school that is advertising but not so great for you. Ideally you want minimal competition so that you can have your choice of several jobs and take the one that most suits you. The best way to do that is to contact those schools that advertised in the past but are not now advertising.


Because many schools have ten, twenty and sometimes as many as a hundred or more English teachers. Any school that has about 10-12 teachers is, on average, going to have an opening about once per month. Wouldn’t it be nice if your information showed up in their inbox? Just when they needed it? Large schools often have multiple vacancies and know they are coming, but don’t want to advertise until they have to (advertising can be expensive). In some cases they are waiting for you to send your information in.

I’ve never worked at a school that enjoyed looking for new teachers. This task is always piled on top of other duties and is really time consuming. Given the option of contacting a teacher who just sent their information and is appropriate for the job versus running an advertisement and having to sort through many potential candidates, most schools will opt for contacting YOU first.  And if you fit the bill, the job will be yours.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Schools are often waiting for you to contact them. Don’t wait for them to advertise.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Apply when there is minimal competition, not right after a school advertises on a major website.