Expat Panda’s step by step guide to start teaching abroad
The decision to move abroad to teach is not only a massive one but can be quite confusing. I get a lot of requests asking me, “where do I start?” in the whole process of finding a job. Well the good news is that, you start RIGHT HERE.
You will need the following items when you begin your search so make sure you have digital copies that are scanned:
-Copy of your passport information page
– Comprehensive CV which you can cut & paste from
-Clear photo of you against a plain background wearing professional clothes and looking approachable (this should be a small file)
-Clear copies of your relevant degrees
-Clear copies of your teaching license (if applicable)
-At least 1 letter of reference
Most recruitment agencies will ask for these documents to be emailed to them in the beginning of the process to see if you are eligible to work with them. You may also need to cut and paste information from your CV into recruiters’ own CV format or onto their website so be prepared for all of this to take a long time. I used to search for jobs for at least an hour everyday in addition to all the time I spent gathering, documents and interviewing for positions. This isn’t something that will happen overnight.
2. Finding a recruiter
In the world of teaching abroad, a recruiter’s job is to source qualified applicants for teaching abroad positions.
Note: Whenever a teacher successfully arrives and starts teaching, the recruiter is paid a commission by the school/company. This means that for you, working with a recruiter should be completely free because they’re paid by the school that ends up hiring you. YOU SHOULD NOT PAY A RECRUITER MONEY TO TEACH ABROAD.
I always advise that people who are applying for the first time use a recruiter because you will have someone to guide you through the long process and find you reputable schools.
These are the recruiters that people currently teaching abroad recommend (this list is not comprehensive and I have not personally used all of these recruiters):
You will have to read the fine print when using any recruitment agencies as some of them will only deal with you if you are of a particular nationality or they only recruit for a certain region. Please be flexible when it comes to location in order to have the best offers to select from! I have also not included recruiters that I have used in the past who have placed me in rubbish schools. If you know of any more that you would recommend, comment at the end of this post and I will add them to my list! To read about my experience when looking for jobs in the Middle East, click here.
3. The interviews
The recruiter should do a quick interview with you just to check your English speaking ability and to double check the information you gave in your CV. Once you’ve passed this, then they will start matching you with schools.
A lot of recruiters will expect you to work with them exclusively and not any others. I don’t see the point. What if they don’t have schools suitable for you? Increase your chances of finding a job by working with as many recruiters as you can.
A lot of people become dejected at this point in the process when they do interview after interview and don’t hear anything back. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONALLY. In the world of teaching abroad, some skin colours are more worthy of hiring. For example these faces:
Are about ten times more likely to be considered for a teaching position than these faces:
Even if the latter individuals are more qualified, experienced and interview better. Also remember that some passports…
…Mean you can speak English better than others (even if your Masters degree is in English literature) and means that they deserve to be paid more. The teaching fraternity is still stuck in the 1920’s regarding these issues. BUT DO NOT DESPAIR AND DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONALLY. Keep searching and the right opportunity will find its way to you.
When a prospective school wants to interview you, the recruiter will liaise and set up and interview time that suits you both. I have written more about my experience when interviewing with schools here and I have also written a guide with possible interview questions for teachers here.
Be honest and ask as many questions as you feel is necessary. If you don’t know what to ask, check out my entire post dedicated to asking questions before accepting any teaching job here.
3. Accepting an offer
If you persevere and survive the previous steps, you will most likely receive an offer whether you’re in the game for months, years or mere weeks. If you get sent a contract, read it very carefully taking into account your owed holidays and what the school will/won’t provide. You are allowed to negotiate the salary and you are allowed to turn down jobs. Recruiters will still help you if you reject offers that aren’t a good fit for you.
Once you’ve signed the offer letter/contract then you will begin the process of document collection. Your recruiter should have all the required information as to what you need and how you go about obtaining these items in the required manner. If you need more information, phone the embassy of the country you are going to and ask for help. (For example if you are going to teach in Jordan, phone the Jordanian embassy in your country and explain that you’ve accepted a new job and would like to know how you can obtain a valid work visa). Some countries have a super easy visa policy like the UAE where the company emails you your visa once they have the required documents and then you just print it out and take it along with you. If your school is refusing to send you a work visa then refer back to this important post.
Remember that attestation of documents will take time and money. You may have to courier things back and forth. You may have to do medical tests. You may have to get things translated. This is often the most frustrating stage where a lot of people fail. Be strong, the paperwork will soon be over (well, sort of).
4. Prepare to take off
I recommend not resigning from your current until you have that visa in your hand. If that is not possible then try to set aside some money and have a contingency plan ready if you find yourself without work while you await your visa.
Be money conscious. Calculate how much you would need to live in your new country for two months without any income and add 20% on top of that. Make sure that you have enough to buy a return ticket, if you need to come back earlier.
When packing, try to only take things that you will absolutely not be able to find in your new country. Do research and see if your favourite products are stocked there. This will save you suitcase space and cut down your weight. Don’t be afraid to ask people who have already been there what to take. Read the blogs and send messages to the bloggers or people you know who already live there. If you Google “(country) + blog” you will find a wealth of bloggers currently living in the country you intend to move to. Leave a few comments and reach out to the blogger, and you will find someone more than happy to help you with your move. Don’t be shy to ask for help! I have written a post on what I packed when I moved to Kuwait which you can find here. You may find it useful no matter where you are moving to.
It is difficult to leave your family and friends. If you choose a country that is far away from your home you will most definitely miss occasions, such as Christmas, Eid, Diwali, birthdays, parties and funerals. You will miss home and you will miss your friends. That’s just the way it is and I’m not going to lie about it. But, it can also be the most rewarding risk you ever took- an experience that allows you to grow into the person you never knew you could become and allows you to experience things you have never dreamed of. However, nothing this good comes without sacrifice, determination and a lot of challenges!
-I always advise people to get a few years of teaching experience in their home country before moving abroad. This will allow you to develop your own teaching style and adjust to the career without being overwhelmed with a foreign country too. Remember- if you hate teaching in your home country, don’t believe that your opinion will change if you move abroad. You will probably hate it even more. Read this post about the truth behind teaching abroad.
-If you’re an unqualified teacher, please don’t email me asking for tips on how to teach abroad. I have none for you. In the 21st century you should have the necessary qualifications and have gone through a vetting process to declare if you’re fit to influence the minds of children.
-I have specific blog posts on my experiences working in Kuwait and working in the UAE. Click on the menu options at the top of my website to see more detailed information.
– This post is a reflection of my experiences of teaching abroad. Yours may be totally different or absolutely similar. This is my 4th country that I have lived in and my 6th teaching job. Use the advice as a guide rather than a “must do” list.
If you’re a teacher abroad, I would love for you to share your experiences in the comments below! Were your experiences similar or different from mine? What advice do you have for teachers wanting to move abroad?