Teaching English Abroad Step 3: Getting an EFL job

Where to start from? How do I know which job to go for? How do I choose? Should I go with the best paid position or the one with more benefits when it comes to professional development or the best location? LOCATION! Should I go for Asia, Latin America, Europe? What if it’s not a good school? What if I end up overworked and underpaid? Who should I trust? WHAT SHOULD I DO?

A minefield. Overwhelming. Stressful. At least not as stressful as the CELTA (nothing is as stressful as a CELTA).

If you are a newly qualified English Language teacher you certainly had all of these thoughts whilst trying to do the impossible, decide what teaching job to go for, especially for your first one.

There are, no exaggeration, hundreds and hundreds of EFL teacher job posts everywhere: on Facebook, on EFL websites e.g. tefl.com, teachaway.com, tefl.org, on some of the largest International School franchises e.g. International House (IH), British Council, English First and the list goes on.

I managed to secure my first EFL teaching job pretty much straight away, through word of mouth. My cousin recommended me to a language school and also Cambridge exam centre director in Cyprus who offered me a part-time position.

Getting my first full time EFL job was easy (the process was) but deciding where to apply for and which position to go for was incredibly difficult.

One of my CELTA tutors recommended a language school in Southern Italy as well, which offered great professional development and it’s an IH school, which guarantees at least a good level of organisation and support, though the money and the location (a small, quiet town) were not ideal. I also applied for a position at another IH school in Hanoi in Vietnam and I had an interview with a private school owner in Genoa. I had also applied for a few other positions that were filled but were still advertised.

In the end I went for IH British School Reggio Calabria, where I’ve been working at for the last month. I remember my tutors pointing out emphatically how our first year of teaching will be the toughest and we won’t have much free time to do anything else other than lesson plans and preparation and teaching, so I decided it was better to go somewhere with not many distractions and get as much experience as possible. And that’s what I did. I don’t know if I made the right decision, only time will tell, but all my fellow teachers, senior teachers and Directors have been tremendously supportive so far, not only with lesson planning and teaching so far but also with settling in, and important life adjustments and situations one needs to deal with when moving to another country, especially Italy (I’ll tell you all about in another post!).

So what did I learn from job hunting so far?

Word of mouth is highly ranked. Schools recommended to you from people you trust e.g. your tutors or fellow classmates/teachers or people recommending you for a job, that most of the time means you’ll get it!

Don’t trust random people/recruiters on social media. If you are a member of the big TEFL job seeking groups on Facebook, you will have already noticed how many profiles with fake pictures and fake promises are out there. I was offered a job in China, though I was aware that it’s illegal to teach in China if you are not an English native speaker. The recruiter insisted that wouldn’t be a problem. Emm, no thanks, I don’t want to end up in a Chinese prison.

Research the city you are applying for. Cost of living, bills, transportation etc so you can avoid nasty surprises when you get there. Make sure your salary covers all your expenses!

Don’t be shy to ask all the important questions in interviews e.g. working hours, whether there’s a syllabus, age groups you’ll be teaching, professional development opportunities, which days you’ll get off (some schools are open on weekends and/or you may not get two consecutive days off), whether you’ll have split shifts, what textbooks does the school use, holiday leave, sick leave, salary, national insurance, ask to speak to a current teacher etc. Thankfully our lovely CELTA tutors gave us a list of questions to ask which I religiously used in every single interview. Happy to share. If anyone would like that, let me know.

Update your CV. As you can imagine recruiters get a large amount for applications from all over the planet, so you need to make your CV stand out. Have relevant teaching/CELTA qualifications and experience on the top as well as any other relevant, impressive achievements. That’s the first thing employers will see.

Prepare for interviews. It’s difficult to come up with answers on the spot if you are newly qualified and you haven’t taught before the CELTA, so prepare a few examples from your CELTA on important topics e.g. classroom management, your most/least successful lesson so far, lesson planning, time management, dealing with challenging students/situations etc.

Be confident. Interviews are nerve wrecking, especially if you are a newly qualified teacher but remember at this point they are looking for confident, energetic, enthusiastic teachers, they are aware you have no experience. Also you are interviewing them as much as they do. You can tell a lot from an hour long interview, particularly when it comes to organisation, knowledge and professional support.

Trust your instinct. If a job seems too good to be true or if your interview didn’t leave you with the best impressions, then you know. Trust yourself and listen to your gut feeling.

If you are a non-native speaker that doesn’t mean you can’t find a decent job. Unless it’s a legal requirement e.g. in China (which I think it’s obscene and unethical and unnecessary but anyway) then there’s no reason you can’t apply for any teaching job. Yes, in some countries recruiters favourite English native speakers and there’s no market for NNES but there are hundreds and hundreds of positions out there elsewhere.

Don’t sign anything until you read the contract and terms of employment carefully. No need to explain this in detail but I’ve heard plenty of horror stories.

Finally as with jobhunting in any profession, be patient and don’t take rejection personally. You need to remind yourself, particularly in this occupation, recruiters get lots of applications from candidates across the world. A lot of it is down to luck.

Wherever you end up, good luck and take care of yourself. The first year of teaching is hard work (if you are at a decent language school and teach a variet of different groups full-time) but there’s only one you and you need to be strong mentally and physically to be able to cope. More on that on another post.

Hope this was helpful!



Author: Eleni

HE support staff/Mental Health Advocate/ Blogger/ Foodie/ Amateur guitarist/ Love singing/ In love with my home island, Cyprus.

4 thoughts on “Teaching English Abroad Step 3: Getting an EFL job”

    1. Oh amazing! I’m actually putting together a ‘survival guide’ for newly qualified teachers based on other teachers experience I’ll be sharing with everyone and I’ll also present it at the IH South Italy conference in two weeks. If you have some time and would like to share your wisdom, I set up a Google survey to gather all the data. It takes about 10 minutes and it’s completely anonymous (and all questions optional!). Feel free to share with fellow EFL teachers as well! https://forms.gle/SMAWNYr88pjyKCgU6


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