When Changing your Career to TEFL: Think ESP

People who have lost their jobs often wonder if a change to TEFL might solve their problems and offer some optimism and opportunity to what is a difficult time.

They ask if teaching English abroad might help meet some lifelong goals of seeing and experiencing the greater world (goals that were seeming quite impossible recently)?

It might well do that.  The demand for EFL teachers has never been greater.

Steps in Transitioning to Working Abroad

1. Get some training

There is increasing competition out there, but still not nearly enough teachers.  Getting a bit of training says you care enough to at least begin to learn the skills for the job you are seeking.

Many people are seeking teaching jobs and the only thing they have to offer is being a “native speaker”.  If you have more than that to offer, you are already in front of 25-30% of your competition.

2.  Don’t forget the value of the skills you already have

This is where English for Specific (or Special) Purposes – or ESP – comes in.   If you have as little as 3-4 years in the workforce,  you probably already have some special skills that will be sought somewhere.  You just have to find out where!

Around the world there are vocation high schools, two-year community and vocational colleges, academic colleges and universities and even specialized private vocational schools that teach the skills of almost every occupation in the world.

In most occupations abroad, at one time or another, workers will need a few English skills.  If that occupational area is where you have been employed, that employer of teachers would usually prefer to hire you before they hire me.

What this means is don’t head across the world after twenty years in finance and take the first kindergarten teacher job you can find.   Ten years as a lawyer (you’d be surprised how many lawyers are teaching English!) should land you nice job a college somewhere, teaching Business English, Contract English and possibly even International Commerce – in English.

A few years as a public school teacher can help you land either the same type of position at an international school abroad (very competitive market) or teaching English to future teachers at colleges and universities.  Three years at Walmart?  Walmart probably offers English classes to their managers in Korea and China.   And the list goes on.

A few more examples?  A friend once taught Airline English to Korean ladies at an airline stewardess training school.  My previous work experience has had me teaching accounting and management (in English) at an international hotel management school in Thailand, Business English to business teachers in Saudi Arabia, Email English to employees at Roche Pharmaceuticals in Taiwan, Business English to international executives in Korea, Telephone English to staff at a MasterCard call center and even more stuff I wouldn’t want to bore you with.  But none if it was boring to me!  🙂

But . . . can you see that I never taught kindergarten?  I started in TEFL at about age 40 – twenty years ago.

3. Get your Foot in the Door

Okay, you are right – sometimes you just have to get your first job and get your foot in the door.  Do whatever is needed to land that first job. (TEFL training will help!).   Always keep your eyes open for opportunities to teach ESP in areas in which you have skills that other teachers probably don’t.  It is the best way to compete, to increase your income and job satisfaction and a great way to meet people with similar interests.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Try to not start your TEFL journey on the bottom rung of the career ladder.  If you must do that, keep your eyes open for opportunity to jump a few rungs ahead of everyone else.  Those opportunities are there.  You will need to look for them and they often are not heavily advertised as employers believe that it is difficult to find you.  Help them find you!  Colleges, universities and vocational programs are where these jobs are hiding.  Go get them.

Teaching Internships in China