When we talk about teaching English abroad, we often focus on what our students are learning. Visions of compound verbs, euphemisms, and proper nouns dance in our heads — and for good reason. We have a job to do, and it’s important that we take that job seriously.
But what if we aren’t built to teach English abroad forever? What if we used TEFL as a way to live and work abroad for a short period of time, but we were never signing our name on the dotted line for “lifetime TEFLer.” While we appreciated the opportunity to work abroad and kicked butt while doing it, we are now ready to, perhaps, come back home to tackle another job or simply switch gears towards a different career path.
If you’re anything like me, you knew that your year working closely with students, teaching complex grammar structures, wearing the many hats of a teacher (friend, mentor, disciplinarian, confidant, mom, dad, photographer, magic maker, game player, facilitator, line leader all come to mind), and working hard for long hours were not an isolated experience. You picked up skills — important ones — that can transfer to many different job opportunities.
So, how do you articulate these skills when you are gearing up to nail that interview? Here’s what I’ve come up with, and I’d love to hear what you have done in your experiences, too.
1. Self improvement
Did you teach abroad in China and firmly decide to eternally adopt the mindset of Kung Fu? After all — it’s not just a fighting art but a complete program for personal development and a commitment to improving yourself. Or maybe you taught elsewhere but have a serious dedication to understanding and knowing yourself. Good news — employees that have a desire to be self-aware, and who don’t shy away from the work required to get there (reflecting, processing, seeking feedback, etc.), are incredibly useful for employers.
You have a strong understanding of your own own likes, dislikes, and needs, and make a point to communicate those factors to make a happier workplace. Well done!
Why self improvement skills matter in any workplace / job: When you have a high level of self-awareness, you are able to take project requirements and tailor it to fit your own style. You oftentimes receive AND give feedback regularly and effectively — the mark of a true team player.
2. Time management
Juggling hours of lessons and free time in the classroom for a year is no easy task. Through all of the last-minute adjustments and sudden school schedule changes, you picked up some seriously awesome time management skills. You know how to prioritize goals and allot time to accomplish each — you TEFL all star, you!
Why time management skills matter in any workplace / job: Employers employees who can self-manage their time well. They end up being more productive, efficient employees who can be trusted to meet deadlines.
And you thought all of those hours spent lesson planning (and subsequently re-adjusting because, well, teaching can sometimes feel like a zoo) were all for nought. In fact, your ability to plan is an incredibly useful skill for any career path. Oftentimes, certain tasks require overlap and are interdependent. But thanks to your planning skills, you’re able to suss out, step by step, which tasks need to be completed before others can start. These are uber important factors to consider whenever you sit down to lay a game plan for a particular project, making you a likely candidate to be the next big project lead.
Why planning skills matter in any workplace / job: Planning is one of the most essential skills in the modern workplace — it allows you to foresee all of the tasks required to complete a project and, most importantly, how they will all best fit together. You’re a wizard, Harry!
4. Cross-cultural Communication skills
All of those awkward conversations with your principal weren’t just for a sweaty brow. Working effectively with others, understanding how others like to work, and listening to others’ goals and expectations allow for a happy, productive, and perhaps most importantly — efficient — job done. Your ability to sit through the (not always, but sometimes) uncomfortable pauses as two individuals with two different native languages, backgrounds, life stories, etc. is not a skill that all people have. And the best part? You take it a step further, allowing yourself to communicate soundly between parties and translate any necessary steps into action items.
Why cross-cultural communication skills matter in any workplace / job: Whether you exemplify your intercultural know-how through your foreign language proficiency, your well-established cultural sensitivity and flexibility, or your ability to adjust your communication for different cultural contexts, modern workplaces agree that these skills will move your resume/CV to the “interview” pile.
5. Problem solving skills
Remember when your technology failed you in the classroom (#typical) and you had to think on your feet to keep the kiddos entertained (and educated!) for the next hour? Or how about when you showed up at the hostel you booked months ago after a looooong bus ride to town, only to find that they lost your reservation details and their beds are all taken? Yikes! Now think about the strategies you employed to resolve these problems — how your strategies to find solutions expanded and you were able to conceive multiple paths towards that solution. You were learning how to problem solve (on the fly, no less), and are thereby an attractive applicant for any company’s next vacancy.
Why problem solving skills matter in any workplace / job: Problems come in all shapes and sizes; working out where you’re going wrong — and coming up with a strategy to get around it — shows you’re willing to put up a fight. Further, solid problem solving skills are indicative of well established analytical and critical thinking skills (employers LOVE these).
6. Creativity Skills
Computers can do a lot of great things. They can play a mean game of Chess. They can execute and automate tasks a million times over and over. They can find structure and patterns in big data sets. One thing they can’t do? Be creative. To secure your job prospects and hireability in the long term, tap into (and rejoice!) in the creativity skills your teaching job abroad bestowed on you. From improv to making do with few resources to finding new ways to connect with different learning styles (here’s looking at you, aural students!), you are one bright, imaginative, innovative, original-thinker. And #hired.
Why creativity skills matter in any workplace / job: Creativity skills go hand-in-hand with the skill highlighted above, problem solving. But it goes a step further. Workplaces value creativity because it fosters an environment where failure is allowed — where complex problems can be met with outside-the-box solutions. These solutions are never perfect, but your ability to think through their shortcomings and recognize flaws to further tweak your creativity makes for stronger possibilities. HECK YEAH!
Getting hired after TEFL? Not so hard it turns out.
This is just scratching the surface for all of the incredible skills that you picked up during your English teaching job abroad. So let your resume/CV sparkle — you earned it!
What skills from teaching abroad do you highlight in your job interviews? Share in the comments to support our community.
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Free Job Hunter’s Guide anyone?
To help you start your own adventure, we’ve put together the Job Hunter’s Guide – 36 pages of insider tips and advice for securing your perfect TEFL contract.
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