Around the world, there’s a sky-high and ever-growing demand for English teachers to work at local schools.
After all, English is seen as the global language of business, with one in four people able to speak or understand it worldwide. The usefulness of knowing English is pushing more people to learn—from young professionals to parents enrolling their children in schools to the parents themselves.
With this elevated level of demand, you might assume that landing an ESL job is an easy feat, especially as a native or fully fluent speaker of English. If you can communicate in English with excellent pronunciation, spelling, and grammar, what else could you need?
The truth is, you need more than your English fluency to impress an international school looking to hire a new ESL teacher. With hundreds of qualified applicants competing for the same jobs, your application needs to rise above the field, rather than falling flat.
Let’s walk through the items you should complete on your to-do list before submitting your application to teach English abroad.
Earn a TEFL certificate
First things first: to teach English abroad, you should have a TEFL certificate. While there are some teaching jobs available for those who lack a TEFL certificate, far more opportunities will be open to you if you get certified. And even the jobs don’t ask for a TEFL certificate, will view your application more favorably if you have one.
If you aren’t certified in TEFL, there’s a high chance that your application will be passed over. Going into an ESL classroom without a TEFL certificate is a lot like driving a car without driving lessons. Even if you guide the car to its destination, you’re bound to hit a few curbs along the way.
To truly thrive as an English teacher, you need to learn how to become one. This is where the TEFL certificate comes in. Usually requiring around 120 hours to complete, a reputable TEFL certification program will teach you what you need to know about teaching English abroad, from lesson planning to engage your students. It’s the key to unlocking a successful career as an ESL teacher abroad.
Cultivate teaching experience beyond ESL
Some schools abroad will hire inexperienced ESL teachers, who are totally green to teaching. However, and this is a big however, having previous teaching experience will open up many more doors for you.
When we say “previous teaching experience,” we want you to think outside of the box—or outside of the classroom, so to speak. Sure, having the experience of teaching in a classroom setting would be amazing, and if you have it, we applaud you! But if you don’t, there’s no reason to panic.
Working with kids or adults in any teaching capacity can easily boost your job application. For instance, tutoring children through a local agency in your city is a great place to start. Or even teaching an artistic or athletic skill to students, such as violin, creative writing, gymnastics, or pottery.
These types of vocations show your willingness and ability to guide students through the process of learning. You can even gather recommendations from your past students. Their written praise of you, as a teacher, is an excellent way to show your commitment to teaching, plus showcase how enjoyable it is to learn from you.
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Strengthen your ESL resume and cover letter
In most instances, your resume and cover letter are a potential employer’s first introduction to you. To enhance your chances of getting an interview, it’s imperative that both documents be flawless, from the grammar and spelling to the information conveyed by them.
If you have the budget for it, we recommend hiring a professional resume consultant to look over your teaching application. However, a trusted friend will do in a pinch, especially if you pick someone with proven English language skills.
Ensure your resume is fully up-to-date and highlights your previous teaching experience, such as tutoring and teaching in your home country. Past jobs where you worked with children or young adults are also highly valued by international schools. So, if you were employed as a nanny, camp counselor, or even as a swimming instructor, those jobs should be listed on your CV.
On a related note, your cover letter needs to be airtight. Ask someone to proofread your writing for errors, and ensure that the letter paints a clear picture of why you want to work at their school as an ESL teacher and how you’re an ideal candidate, including a detailed summary of your skills and experience.
And finally—make sure the information in your resume is the exact same as what you provide in the “experience” section of your Teacher Profile that you have registered on Teach Away. If schools see that this information does not overlap exactly, they will be confused.
Practice being interviewed for an ESL job
Landing a job interview with your dream school is a great first step towards working there. But keep in mind: it’s still only the first step! For a real shot at earning the job, you need to nail your interview, and practicing is the best way to do that.
We recommend enlisting a friend to help, who can ask you direct questions (and follow-up questions) about your relevant work experience, ESL teaching skills, and reasons why you’re the perfect candidate for their school. But if you’re feeling too shy, just interview yourself in front of your bathroom mirror!
You can also find more tips here: 4 ways to prepare for your teach abroad interview.
If you want to teach English abroad, take chances
When you’re searching for an ESL teaching job abroad, don’t be afraid to be ambitious. If you’re interested in a cool position, send off an application to that school. Never tell yourself that you’re being overly ambitious or engage in negative self-talk like “I bet the other applicants are way more qualified than me, so why even try?”
Be bold. Take chances. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t hear back. But what if that school reads your application and likes what they see? You never know until you try. And hey, if you’ve followed our list, that means you’re working hard to be the most qualified applicant that you can be.
So, put yourself out there and see what happens! Your dream job could be right around the corner.