Want to know how to find your dream TEFL role once you have your qualification? Then read on!
Your TEFL qualification opens doors to fabulous teaching opportunities online and around the world. But how do you find that all important first job after you graduate? Well, we’ve got your back! TEFL teacher Audrey, from the USA, joined i-to-i’s TEFL jobs guru Jordan live on Facebook to share her expertise on everything TEFL jobs related and her top tips for finding that perfect TEFL role when you graduate. Watch the full webinar here or read on for edited extracts.
How did you find your first TEFL job?
After I got my TEFL certificate, I started looking for an in-person job in Milan, Italy, where I was living at the time, and wanted to continue living! I emailed all of the bilingual schools and the private schools that taught English to see if anyone was looking for an English teacher.
I sent them my resume and a cover letter explaining I was an American girl with a TEFL certificate and experience with kids from camp counselling and being a teacher’s assistant in America. I got a call from a school asking me to come in for an interview the next day – and the school then offered me a position as a kindergarten teacher while I was there.
Why did you contact schools direct rather than applying through a TEFL agency?
In some countries, such as Spain, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan you can apply though an agency that will place you with a school and help you with your visa application. It’s great for the schools and it’s also amazing for you because the agency does all the work and you can choose if, say, you want to teach adults or kids or business English.
However, Italy doesn’t really have TEFL agencies, so I had to find a TEFL job myself. I looked at LinkedIn and I went on Google and searched for bilingual schools in Milan. There are tons of private schools all over Italy – not just in the big cities but everywhere. They often don’t advertise on TEFL jobs boards, so I just emailed schools instead and they responded.
If you want to live in a certain country, go for it, be independent and make the first move. They might not be the best at advertising their vacancies, so they might have more than you know, and it’s definitely a bit more leg work for you initially but I had a job secured in a day, so it’s worth the effort!
How did you start teaching English online?
When Covid hit, the school I was teaching in closed so I had to figure out my next step. I don’t have a degree, so I was little worried about whether I could find a job teaching English online. However, I did a Google search for online English teaching jobs without a degree and a whole load of companies came up. PalFish has been my main company for the past two years, and seems to have survived the change in Chinese regulations! I also work with Cambly which is another great platform.
If you’re looking for an online teaching job, go onto Google and type in what you’re looking for, such as: ‘online English teaching companies for adults’ or ‘online teaching companies with a degree’ or ‘companies I can teach English online with an iPad’ and see what comes up. Or if you want to make it even easier, head to TEFL jobs sites like the LoveTEFL Jobs Board. Make sure you research each company thoroughly. Take a step back and ask questions like: who does this company teach? Am I interested in teaching this age group? Do I like this company’s graphics? That way you can make each application personal and stand out to your potential employers.
Can South Africans and other non-EU citizens find TEFL jobs in Europe?
I’m a non-EU citizen and I teach in Europe. I also know quite a few South African teachers in Milan. I don’t think you’re limited as a South African or a non-EU citizen. Of course, if you’re from the UK, the US, South Africa, Botswana or anywhere outside the EU, you’re going to have to go through more steps for the visa paperwork. That’s normal when you’re a foreigner who wants to move to a new country though.
I went through some stress figuring out visas but, when I look back on it, it truly wasn’t that difficult. You have to decide if a place is really worth it for you. If it’s number one on your list, then it’s worth that bit of inconvenience to be there.
Can I find a TEFL job if I’m over 35?
Some TEFL programmes are aimed at younger teachers who haven’t travelled so much and want to go out in a group. But don’t assume that you can’t teach overseas because you’re outside of the age range for these specific products. More people are surprised that someone younger is teaching them rather than someone who is older. People don’t go, ‘Wow, you’re such an old teacher. Are you sure you can teach me?’ People go, ‘Oh wow, you’re quite young.’ Age really is just a number with TEFL.
I was 22 years old when I started teaching at my school in Milan and I was the youngest person working there. I had a few co-workers who were late twenties or mid-thirties but most of the teachers were well above 35. There honestly is no age restriction. I have friends who are 18 doing TEFL and I know teachers who are aged 60+ as well. As the saying goes, “You’re only as old as you feel”. So, if you feel young enough to TEFL, you are! No matter what your age.
Is the online TEFL market over-saturated?
I don’t think the online TEFL market is over-saturated. There will always be people who are looking for online teaching jobs but there are also always people leaving online TEFL. If you work hard and find something that you’re passionate about, you’re going to succeed.
When I applied for an online TEFL job in 2020, it was right at the beginning of Covid-19. There were a lot of teachers applying for online jobs because people were going from in-person teaching to needing an income at home. The reason some teachers weren’t successful was because they didn’t click with the audience, not because the market was over-saturated. For example, there were people who wanted to teach business English but were applying for companies teaching kids. You need to make sure you’re applying for a job that’s a good fit for you and your skills.
There were also new regulations announced in China in 2021 that made some online teachers feel insecure. The rules did change a little bit but I’m still teaching at the same company and fully booked with the same students, so not much seems to have changed for me in practice. And remember: China is not the only market. The world is your market! English is the universal language for education and business, so there are always going to be plenty of students out there. If you put in the work, you’ll be employed in no time.
How can I land my first TEFL job when I don’t have teaching experience?
If you’re a new teacher, use any bit of experience with people or training that you might have as your focus on your resume. For example, if you want to teach young children, did you ever do a summer camp or soccer coaching? Did you go to your cousin’s school and help the teacher? Were you a parent volunteer on a school field trip? Did you help your friend’s child do their homework? Did you babysit? Those are things that you can put on your resume to show you’ve connected with children and have experience of managing them. Even if you don’t have any of that experience, it’s still totally possible to be a teacher – maybe you can take a few months to volunteer at an afterschool programme or a school before you start, just to give your resume a little boost if you’re not getting the right responses from schools.
If you want to teach adults, obviously your resume will look a bit different. For example, if you work at a hotel, you might say you have experience of working with non-native English speakers in a hotel location or if you’re a manager at a bar, you could say: ‘Bar manager: trains new staff in their duties and monitors progress’. Although it’s a different type of teaching, it’s still teaching.
It’s your job to extract these experiences and make them obvious to your potential employer, so they know straightaway that you have relevant life experience, even if it isn’t directly in teaching. Companies aren’t just looking for teacher, teacher, teacher written everywhere. They’re also looking for personality. Show who you are. Show you’re willing to learn. Show you’ve had experience with people. Teaching is a lot about being good with people. Show those small experiences and you’re good to go.
For more tips on how to showcase your transferable skills and create your perfect TEFL resume, check out i-to-i’s articles: Your Transferable Skills for TEFL and Building the Perfect CV / Resume.
Do I need to learn the local language to teach English?
If you’re a TEFL teacher, you’re getting paid to speak English, so you don’t need to know the local language for teaching. I found that it was good to learn a few words, such as ‘It’s time to sit down,’ or, ‘Stop that,’ but you don’t need to be fluent. And often you’ll find that the school would prefer that you didn’t speak any of the students native language, to encourage the students to learn English, rather than relying on their native language to communicate with you.
However, if you’re living in a different country, it’s respectful and nice to know the language, so you feel a little bit more at home and you can communicate with locals outside of the school – it will help you feel more connected to the place.
Where can I find a TEFL job if I’m not a native English speaker?
Some employers, particularly in Asia, do request what they call ‘native English speakers’, which normally means someone from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, US, Ireland or Canada. We’re hoping this will change over time, because there are so many people from countries such as Zimbabwe who’ve been brought up speaking English as their native language or individuals from Europe who are multi-lingual and fluent in English, despite it being a second language, and these people should have the same opportunities to teach.
Europe currently has more opportunities for TEFL teachers who do not have one a passport from one of the 7 countries listed above. I think it’s because there are so many countries with different languages so close together. They are more open and understand that, just because you speak one language, it doesn’t mean that you can’t speak another language to near native-level fluency!
Is it easier to find a job teaching English online or teaching English abroad?
In 2018, when I graduated from my TEFL course, it was definitely easier to get a teaching job abroad because that was more common. Online teaching wasn’t really popular yet and it wasn’t really well-known. With the pandemic, online teaching had to advance and evolve. People had to learn online or they couldn’t learn at all.
We’re kind of getting back to normal, with a move again towards more teaching jobs abroad, but people are still being a little more cautious. I feel that in the 2022 to 2023 school year, Europe will open up more. However, right now, I think it’s probably easier to get a job teaching online, because some countries are still worried about lockdowns.
And remember you can still travel if you teach online. You just need to make sure you have a stable internet connection wherever you go, and then the world is your oyster!
What are your top tips for finding a TEFL job?
It’s very important not to waste your time sending out your resume to anyone and everyone. Research the companies you want to work for: why do you like that company? Why do you want to work at that company? What things about that company impress you? Narrow it down and tailor your application to each one.
Use your cover letter to say, ‘This is me. This is why I want to work for you.’ If you just send out very generic applications, it doesn’t show that you’re interested in a company or you want to grow with them or even that you know anything about them. When I was applying for the school in Milan, I went onto their website. I found small things that I really was impressed with (like cooking classes and the kids cleaning up their tables after lunch) and mentioned these in my cover letter. They LOVE those personal touches!
When you get to the interview stage, research how to do a demo class. See if you can find a video of one of the company’s demo classes on YouTube and practise, practise, practise, practise until you have it almost memorised.
You don’t want to rush into an interview or seem as if you didn’t get ready for it – even if the interview is online or the demo class is not with a real student.
You need to do your research. You need to be truly involved in that company and want that company to grow. I feel that is where people make their biggest mistakes. They don’t look at the details. They just say ‘Hire me’ but aren’t willing to put in that little bit of extra. I feel that little bit of extra is what gets you hired.
Happy job hunting!
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Want to hear more from Audrey? Follow her Instagram account @travelrichmoneypoor for more great insights!