Having worked around the ESL traps for a while, I often hear stories of people who find it near-impossible finding a job. Whereas, in my own experience, I have walked in, been given a 40-second interview, and ended up teaching the next day.
The reports are quite varied, and I’ve heard of some ESL teachers who have incredible difficulty in being able to find a job. However, after I had taken my Academic Manager out for a few cool, refreshing ales, he managed to spill the beans and give away some of his secrets on ESL employments. Here’s just a few of the well-kept secrets I managed to find out:
ESL Employment: How to Proceed
Right place, Right time
When it comes to finding a job, the key is to be in the right place at the right time. In many cases, schools will hire only when they need a teacher – generally within the next 24 hours. So, if you have handed in your resume the day before, you may be lucky enough that it may be still on the Manager's desk, and not used by a children’s class to colour pretty pictures. If you pass around your resume to as many language centres, schools, universities, etc, you will have the biggest chance of getting a call back, and subsequently a job. Being in the right place at the right time means being on the ground, in the country where you intend to teach. As a teacher sends an application from his or her Chicago apartment, another teacher has probably done so living just around the corner from the school.
Very much a hotly debated question in the ESL industry is the necessary qualifications for various jobs. The industry standard is a 120-hour Certificate in Teaching that includes practical experience, in addition to a Bachelors Degree. If countries don’t ask for a degree at the present moment, it is highly likely that it will become a requirement in the future. Having said this, there is always the saying – ‘wherever there’s a will, there’s a way.’
Academic Managers have a profile of what they want
It’s all well and good to say that we live in a politically correct society where everyone is equal. This is not the case in ESL teaching. You will find that the Academic Managers have already made their mind up as to whether they want a young teacher, old, male, female, British, American, Australian, etc. So if you believe that you are a shoe-in for a job, and you don’t get it, it’s probably because you did not fit the profile that the AM had in mind.
When applying for a job as an ESL teacher, it’s important to remember that you are sending your application to an English teacher who is in charge of English teachers!
Ah yes, recalling the times when we all sat around the teachers room laughing at hideous grammar and spelling of cover letters brings a wry smile to my face. Proof read it, and then get someone else to proof read it for you. Also, do not send out a stock standard cover letter to everyone, this is likely to lose the attention of the Academic Manager who will then shuffle your papers far down the list. Include a nicely tailored letter that includes information that is relevant to the ESL job you are applying for. If you are applying for a kindergarten position, they won’t want to know how you taught English for Sales and Marketing to the director of a bank.
This if the well-presented little document that contains where you worked, for how long, what your responsibilities and tasks involved and other things relevant to your career. Most Academic Managers advise that it should fit on no more than two pages. Academic Managers have a lot of distractions, with friend requests, pokes and wall posts, so to grab their attention, keep all of the information relevant to your teaching career. That means you can scrap the Paperboy position from 1991 off the resume.
The Waiting Game
After you send all of your docs off to your prospective employer, you then often wait, and wait, and wait. Of course you get a few desperados who seem to call up within minutes of clicking the ‘send’ button, but sometimes you could be waiting a matter of weeks. In fact, I can recall a time when I sent an application by email in May, only to get a positive response the following February.
The Demo Class
You’ve had a brief chat with the Academic Manager, told you how wonderful the school was and totally avoided the subject of salary, and he’s invited you in for the incredibly awkward and nerve-wracking demo class. Almost every teacher has had to conduct a demo class at some point, and these can be quite stressful, given that while they are supposed to replicate a class, the fact that four English teachers are sitting in front of you instead of keen, learning students, makes for quite an off-putting experience. The whole point of the demo class is to make sure that you get up in front of a class, show off some grammar, use that wonderful charm that you have, and voila. They’ll call you back within two weeks.
Getting offered the job, about time
So after all that time and effort that you’ve put into the job application step so far, you have been offered a job with a reputable and well-known language centre. Don’t be too desperate when signing the contract. Take a read of it, and even tell them that you are interested and that you will let them know in 24 hours. This gives you the chance to talk shop with others and find out whether the price is right. If it is, by all means, go for it. If not, try and squeeze a few more dollars or head back into to the cycle of interviews and demo classes.
Ultimately, the biggest factor that influences the need for ESL teachers is supply and demand.
If the destination is renowned around the world as a holiday island in the tropics, then chances are that the supply of teachers will long outweigh the demand. But for a market where the demand for English teachers is high, but the teachers aren’t there, then of course, it’s easier to become employed.
If you find that you are not easily able to find employment, set your sights on some part time work to see you through, until that big 12-month contract comes in.
This is a guest article by Jared Sheldon. Feel like writing an article for BusyTeacher.org? See our guest article submission guidelines!