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!

Job Search: Finding Jobs Teaching English Abroad

 In July we got this note from a reader over at our sister website – TEFL Newbie:

You advised me about 5 months ago to try teaching in Thailand. I want to thank you because I’ve been teaching at a Thai university for nearly two months and I’m greatly enjoying my life here.

Mailing a lot of resumes from a distant country was doing me no good. Once I arrived in Thailand and was able to hand people my resume, it made a huge difference in getting considered for the positions I wanted.

If you are not having luck searching for the job you want overseas, try going there and applying in person.  This is a common theme in job search and it works.

Let’s look at YOU from the employer’s point of view.

Lots of people apply, many don’t show up.

This is especially true for popular tourist destinations, such as Thailand – as suggested above.  People go to Nepal, China, Japan, Thailand, Mexico and other places and decide, sometimes on a whim, to move there to work.  It was so wonderful to visit – it must be great living there.  Yes?

The number of people hired from a distance compared to the number who actually show up on the job – can be as low as 50%.  So, in the employer’s eyes – hiring you from a distance is a bit of a gamble.  The students need a teacher at the front of the room, how much risk can the school take about you showing up – or not?

Many applicants misrepresent themselves.

If you interview in person at least the employer can see you and what your level of sincerity might be.  They can easily ask follow up questions if something doesn’t make sense.  And they can follow up on the follow up if need be.

They can see your documents in hard copy and not in an easily doctored digital form.  They can have much more confidence in knowing that you are the person you say you are, with the skills you say you have and the experience and qualifications you claim to have.

Many people really should NOT be teachers.

Some people, some potential teachers and even some real teachers – are not friendly people that you would enjoy being around.  This is really difficult to know from abroad.  Asia – in particular – puts great emphasis on work place harmony and they want to know if you can get along on the job.  Will you be friendly to staff and to students?

Language schools in particular – but even many universities and colleges these days – are businesses.  The students are their customers.   These customers can go out the door and down the street to another school.  Or they can tell their friends how great their teachers are and bring them into the school and help the business make a profit.

Interviewing you in person will help the school have a better sense of how you will get along with your coworkers and students.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  If you are having difficulty landing that “dream” job with email applications, your best bet is probably to head on over and interview in person.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Before you go, check out the employment visa regulations for that country and also plan on a “visa run” to a neighboring country to change your tourist visa to an employment related visa.

TED’s Tips™ #3:  All a bit of a hassle?  Sometimes the best things in life require a bit of effort to make them happen.  If you are not a native speaker, not young, white, attractive, blond-haired and blue-eyed – (those are the people most easily hired from abroad) – then head on overseas to get what you want.   People do it every day.  I’ve done it.  You can too!

Teaching Internships in China


Passive Job Searchs in TEFL – Often Don’t Work

Finding that TEFL job that you want . . .  Get up off your butt and go get it.

My apologies already for being TOO direct!

I hear all too often from people who sent out a few emails and weren’t offered a perfect job that met all their fantasies and dreams.

A job where they would get free airfare, free accommodation, don’t have to teach much and get lots of paid vacation – just because they are a native speaker!  Wow!  Sign me up too.

Part of the problem is that many TEFL Training schools – which shall remain nameless here – promise the ability to travel the world, make big money and all in exchange for simply taking their course.

Many have TRAVEL in their company name – very few have the words TEFL or even WORK in their names – because they are mainly interested in marketing and selling you something.

They really don’t want  you to think too much about actually having to work while you are traveling the world for free on someone else’s money.

That Perfect World DOES Exist – for a few people

Well, let’s face the reality that such a world does exist for a few blond-haired, blue-eyed, young and attractive white people  Of the model sort if you know what I mean.  The wind blowing through their perfectly blond hair as they smile into the sunset.

That’s the stereotype that many foreign language school directors believe their customers want in a teacher.  What should be standing in the front of their classroom.

Yeah, it’s out there for them, but what about the rest of us?  What about me?  I’m 59 and kind of old looking.  Maybe really old looking!  Might have been blond once, but now the hair is white!  Aaggghhh!

Yep, even I would have difficulty landing a job from abroad these days.  Great qualifications.  Lots of experience.  Too d*mn old.

We have numerous posts here and www.TEFLnewbie.com about conducting a good job search.  Read them and get with the program.

Here is what to do if you are too old . . . like me:  TEFL Jobs Search for Older People

What if you are overweight, gay or just plain different?  Read this: Overweight Teachers and Other Baggage

And . . . here’s an important post on the attitude that helps most: TEFL and Your Attitude – the easy path to success.

If you persist in having problems, then try an internship – check out the banner link below.

TED’s Tips™ #1: I’ll be the first to admit that blogs are not easy to find your way around.  But – you might well find it worth your time and effort to search around this site and also over at www.TEFLnewbie.com for information about how to best conduct a good job search.  It can make all the difference in the world.   And, you know what?  It’s still easier than landing a decent job in your home country.  I promise!

Teaching Internships in China


Resume CV for Teaching English Abroad

TEFL Job Search Resume CV

How you present yourself matters much more than you might think. Much of the world pays close attention to how you present yourself. They consider it a matter of importance whether you do, or not. If you want the job, do what is required to get it.

#1. Put your photo on your resume and be sure you are dressed professionally. Yeah, yeah, this is illegal in the USA and a few other places, but are you applying for a job in the USA? No.

#2. Put what qualifies you for the job at the top of the page. Don’t make a potential employer struggle to find out if you meet the minimum qualifications for the job.

#3. Professional photo and professional email address. I once had a teacher candidate apply for a job with the email address of hotsex69@something.com How willing would most schools be to employ this person? Not!

People sometimes send photos of themselves drunk with friends, sometimes even photos of them fondling members of the opposite (or even same) sex! What are they trying to show or prove?! Send a professional photo with you in professional dress.

Get real – while you might be seeking employment overseas as a one year vacation – party – lark – your employer is looking for a real teacher who has a commitment to their students and not just to the local bars, babes and dudes, and beaches.

#4. Stress anything and everything related to teaching and training that you have ever done before. Even volunteer work.

Answer the question: Why should this employer think you are qualified to stand in front of his students? The very students that determine the success of his/her business?

#5. Focus on the job you are seeking. Your resume need not reflect a training course you took twenty years ago about computer security. Unless, of course, you are seeking a computer security job, but then you are on the wrong website.

DOUBLE CHECK your entire resume for spelling and grammar problems. Don’t write in email shorthand, use proper English. In fact, if you intend to teach English – ever – anywhere – start practicing now using English properly.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Approach your job search as professionally as you would in your home country.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get a professional photograph taken with you wearing professional dress. Just that one small factor alone can improve your chances over 100%. Much of the world puts STRONG importance on presentation. Why not win from the start?