Getting rejected from a TEFL job – or never hearing back about the outcome of your application and interview – is kind of the worst. Right?
… Or is it?
While it’s perfectly normal to not have pre-meditated this unexpected bump in the road towards your perfect life teaching abroad, feel comforted knowing that it happens to almost everyone.
It’ll probably still come as a bit of a shock, and a bit of a letdown. But honestly, it’s all part of the adventure, and you’re game for a little pushing of the ol’ comfort zone, right? Here are 4 proactive steps you can immediately take in the wake of a job rejection and how to handle an ESL job rejection like a pro:
1. Feel frustrated. It stinks.
Just because you’ve been dealt an obstacle to ESL job acquisition doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams just yet… but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. Take the time you need to really feel those lows.
Even though you will need time to “grieve” the life you thought you might have, try not to take it personally. English teachers are in high demand, and there is a surplus of teachers applying to any given gig. This one just wasn’t meant for you.
2. Send an email to the school expressing thanks and asking for feedback.
It never hurts to leave the school with good vibes about yourself as an individual applicant. Thank them for their time and, if you’re interested, you might ask them to give you feedback on what was the “make or break” decision. Was it your application itself? Your interview performance? Was the competition fierce?
Having insider knowledge from the school like this can be helpful in arming yourself to better crush it in your next job hunt.
3. Do some serious reflecting.
Now that you have reconciled your disappointment (at least a little) and have been given additional feedback for you to consider, it’s time for you to sit down and a have a long(ish) think. Since you are looking at this as an opportunity to grow and improve your job prospects in the future, there are a series of questions you can ask yourself, like…
Did you convince them you meet the qualifications for the job? If your resume and cover letter are long winded or answer questions that don’t relate specifically to the position open at the school, they will be left wondering if you fit the criteria. That’s bad. Make sure that you’re clearly communicating to the school what you have to offer.
Was your application riddled with ugly formatting, typos, or incorrect information? Nothing moves faster to the “no” pile than a resume that doesn’t look professional. How are you instilling confidence in your ability to educate my students if you aren’t careful enough to catch that misspelling? Did the school ask for a photo that you forgot to submit? That’s a quick jump to disqualification.
Are you limiting your search? Think hard about what resources might be out there that you’re not using to their full potential. It’s possible you are too hard-set on a specific location, job market, or school environment (i.e. public elementary schools or private language schools that require teaching after hours or on weekends). Should you be open to getting started at a school that pays you a little less than you wish, just to get your foot in the door and potentially gain future employment opportunities? Expand your thinking and identify areas with untapped possibilities.
❓Have you been using the same approach every time without success? This can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if you feel confident in your strategies for job applications. If nothing is panning out, maybe it’s not the school—maybe it’s you. It might be your writing style, your structure, your tone of voice in your introduction emails. Critically analyze how you fill out forms and correspond with hiring committees. Ask friends to grill you with interview questions and give you feedback on your responses.
✏️ Are you using the same application repeatedly? One of the major no-no’s (yet ever-tempting strategies) for the job hunt is to use identical applications between positions. While it is smart to have a basis or foundational template to work from, you must treat each individual job application, well, individually. One job = one application.
Are you following up after submitting your resume? Truth be told, your goal in applying to a job opening is to make the hiring team’s job as easy as possible. They are likely dealing with dozens of applications. You’ll be doing them a favor by following up with a polite email and staying top of mind. Make yourself more memorable, which will make them feel more confident and excited when your resume appears during their application review.
Are you getting interviews? If you’re being invited to interview for multiple jobs, that’s a good sign that your applications look sharp and promising. Phew! Unfortunately, though, that often also indicates that you’re not really killing it in the job interview process—and your interview skills may need some polishing. One strategy to improve these skills is to hold mock interviews. You might also ask your friends at Premier TEFL for inside tips on how to succeed in the ESL job interview!
4. Go at it again!
Hit the job boards, the placement services, the teach abroad program directories. Now’s not the time to admit defeat and settle back into your boring, 40+ hour cubicle life. Trust us. Keep your chin up and look for other opportunities that feel like they could be “the one.”
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A few more things to remember
To make yourself feel a little better, we want to make even more clear how likely this is to be a short-term struggle and not a long-term indicator of your success as an international TEFL teacher:
It’s a contract industry. TEFL jobs aren’t your normal 9-5 gig, which is a good thing. But short-term work contracts lend themselves to being a little flaky, unreliable, and inconsistent. So just as this one op flitted away from your grasps, there’s bound to be another in no time. Because…
There are easily hundreds of thousands of jobs available globally. This one wasn’t right for you, but there are many more out there for you find. Worldwide demand for ESL teachers has never been so high!
✅ You can’t connect the dots looking back, only looking forward. When you do land that TEFL job (because you definitely will!), you’ll forget all about that whats-it-butt school. You’re meant for these students, for this community, for this teaching position. And on that first day, when those eyes are smiling back at you and you launch into your first-ever lesson plan, you’ll know you’re in the right place.
Rejection is NOT a failure—but even more so if you take the time to reflect and give yourself critical, yet constructive, feedback. What went right and what went well? What things did just the opposite? Without identifying where your strengths and talents lie, you’ll never be able to build upon them.
The entire experience of applying and not “getting” the job is an invitation to grow in self-awareness, giving you the chance to better your odds for the next ESL job application that rolls around.
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