How to get my first TEFL job?
Congratulations if you have recently completed a TEFL certification course and are now looking for that all important first teaching position. As learning English is commonplace in the majority of countries around the world, qualified TEFL teachers rarely find it difficult to secure a good job. However, the level of demand can vary greatly from one place to the next, which also means the level of requirements can vary. What is required in one country might be completely different to the requirements in its immediate neighbor.
Can I teach anywhere as a first-time EFL teacher?
As mentioned above, the demand for qualified TEFL teachers varies considerably and can have a big effect on where you might end up working in your first teaching position. Certain countries also have stricter rules and regulations than others, as do individual schools and language centers. In the Middle East for example, most schools in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will require their job applicants to have a high level teaching qualification and at least one or two years of experience in the classroom. Because of these restrictions, most newly qualified TEFL teachers head to countries where the demand is high and the official requirements are low.
How hard is it to get a TEFL job?
The truth is that securing your first job after qualifying as an EFL teacher is by far the hardest. Once you have gained a year of experience you should have a lot less trouble finding the teaching jobs you want in the locations where you really want to be. However, as there are so many vacant positions available across the world, it is often just a case of going where the demand dictates rather than where you might actually choose initially. You can then look at moving onto more desirable destinations once you have some experience under your belt.
How can I get a TEFL job with no experience?
Now that you are TEFL qualified you are in a position to start applying for teaching jobs in countries all over the world, but how do you maximize your chances in the job market without any previous experience?
The first thing to sort out is your CV/resume. Ensure that there are no errors or mistakes anywhere in the document as there is no quicker way to get ruled out of an English teaching job than by sending in paperwork containing spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Keep it short, clear, and very easy to read, with the main information such as your teaching qualifications and your classroom history towards the top of the document. If you have no EFL teaching experience, add whatever you can instead, such as relevant skills and any mentoring type roles from your past jobs.
The next step is to start looking for suitable jobs via online TEFL sites and job boards. Simply do a Google search for TEFL jobs followed by the countries you are interested in. You should find plenty of options that don’t specify that experience is required, however, you can also apply for jobs that are asking for one year of experience as these do not always get the number of applications they might be expecting. Any job that specifies two or more years experience is probably best avoided at this stage.
Another option if you are particularly keen on being in one country or specific area is to send your CV/resume on spec to as many potential employers that you can find. This can be a time consuming operation, but it often bears fruit as not all schools choose to advertise their vacant positions online. Send your details to the Director of Studies, or whoever is in charge of recruitment, alongside a professional cover letter and wait for a response.
Head to where you want to live and work and apply for jobs on the ground
While a large proportion of first-time teachers secure a job before they leave home, it can be an excellent idea to actually go where you want to teach and start the job hunting process from there. This is a particularly common tactic for teachers in Western Europe as many employers prefer to interview their candidates face-to-face rather than online. In some areas this is the sole method of recruitment for many employers and you would never know about their vacancies if you only look for jobs online. If you follow this path you are also likely to come into contact with other teachers who are working in the area. Finding a teaching job via word of mouth is way more common than you might think.
Sign up with a TEFL recruitment agency
Another option that works well for many first-time teachers is to sign up with a recruitment agency that deals with employers in your chosen areas. Although you might get less choice following this route than job hunting on the ground, it can still be a relatively easy way to get yourself on the employment ladder. The other good thing about this option is it won’t cost you a cent as all fees are paid by the employer.
Add some experience to your portfolio
TEFL qualified teachers looking for their first classroom job can help themselves enormously by gaining some relevant experience to add to their CV/resume. Before applying for jobs or heading off to look for work it can be a real boost to your chances if you can complete even the smallest amount of teaching. You could volunteer your services at a local language center or community service that provides EFL teaching. You can find local non-native speakers and offer to teach them for free, even teaching other subjects than English can all add up to experience that you can add to your job applications later. If a job you apply for has ten applicants and you are the only one with any classroom experience on it, you will be in a strong position.
Follow up on every job application
Once you have sent off a bunch of applications it is not unusual to hear nothing back unless you have been successful. However, as the person in charge of recruitment is almost certainly very busy, it can be beneficial to follow up with a call or email to see how your application got on. This extra effort can sometimes pay off and get you noticed, especially when the employer has a large pile of applications waiting to be sorted through. Many teachers got their first break by being proactive and impressing an employer with their enthusiasm.