If there is one thing that can make or break your entry into Korea, it's your certification and your teaching experience.
As time moves forward, more and more people are starting to realize the wonderful opportunities that can be had teaching English abroad. Whether it's in the techno-historic world of South Korea, the sun-swept sands of Afghanistan, or even right here in the United States. What that means is that jobs are getting harder and harder to come by. This growing market is swelling and it's beginning to be over-saturated. So how do you make yourself stand out?
It's all about how you look on paper. So today, I'm going to tell you what can get you that coveted job. And this isn't just from my own limited personal experience, but also from those around me who have been in the field for years. What is it that makes you a better fit for a position than the person sitting next you? What can make you a better teacher? What, in the end, can get you a better paying, more enjoyable teaching experience?
First things first: What makes you stand out in a crowd that is bursting at the seams with people from all walks of life, desperate to find a job that will carry them forward and fulfill them in ways that a corporate position just can't?
Simple: Get certified to teach English as a foreign language.
What's important to note, however, is that not all TESOL/TESL/TEFL/ESL/EFL courses are created equal. It's a lucrative business that has grown so much in recent years, and there are tons of scammers looking to get in on that easy money.
So some tips from me, and from the internet as a whole, and from my professor pictured above.
-Don't do one of those online courses that promises you the moon. They're not worth it. They'll take your money, throw some lessons at you that you may or may not complete, and then give you a certificate at the end saying that you can teach. But you can't. Nothing beats classroom experience, and employers know that. A 120 hour course online is not a substitute for classroom work and observation. Period.
-If you really want to look good on paper, volunteer. Get that teaching experience under your belt and you'll be more likely to get hired. It's a sensible stepping stone to a paying position and can make all of the difference in the world.
-Shop around. Don't put your plastic to the first course that you see. After shopping around for months, I finally found a program offered by one of my local colleges, the University of Georgia. Most big name colleges will offer a form of TESOL as part of their continuing education classes. It cost the same as most of the online courses ($389/class for a four module program), but I got to work with other people and get classroom experience. One of the modules even covered how to get hired, how much you can earn, and networking.
Another thing that can make or break you is your resume. Your resume is what recruiters and employers see before they ever hear your voice, Skype with you, or fly you out for you job. It's your first impression, and your chance to stand out.
A TESOL certification helps, obviously, but there are some other things that you might not think about.
-If you majored in English, make that the highlight of your resume. If you have teaching certification, highlight that. It's great if you have experience in the business world, but unless you taught English in that position, it's not going to make you stand out in the field. Think about what your employer wants to hear, and give them that information first. The rest is just fluff.
-Make your photos look good. Most countries require a photo attached to your resume. It's sad, but a lot of them will judge you based on that photo. If you look presentable, pleasant, and educated, you'll be more likely to get job offers. So get a professional photo, look nice, and think about who YOU would hire. If you have tattoos, cover them. No garish makeup, even if it's what you wear on a daily basis. No graphic tees, business casual, etc.
One of the last things you need to focus on is your pay. Many jobs will have establish compensation points based on your experience and education. But for those that don't, there's just one thing to keep in mind: The power of three.
My professor recommended having three wages in mind. One should be absurdly high. Something so high, it's nearly laughable. Think about what a good psychiatrist earns here in the United States and set it at that or a little higher.
Why? If your employer can afford it and wants you bad enough, they'll pay it. If they say it's too high, you have room to negotiate. Let them talk you down to a more reasonable amount.
That reasonable amount, which should let you live comfortably and enjoy life, will be your number two. Your acceptable wage.
And that third amount? Your charity amount. Usually, it's free or so low that it's basically free. This is the amount you can use if someone is desperate for your help and can't afford anything else. Offering something like this is at your discretion, but it's always good to have it in your back pocket.
So when it comes down to it, your certification, experience, resume, and compensation are what is going to set you apart in this field. There are others, of course, but these things can set up an impression that will stick with you whenever you're looking for work.
Keep all of it in mind, and be aware of what kind of foot you're putting forth. You're not the only teacher with your skill set, but you are unique. Make sure to let employers know that, and you will be desirable.
Writer, Photographer, Dream-Seeker