How to fly to a country and job-hunt in person
In this guide, we are going to look at how you can safely fly to another country and secure a great English teaching job.
Teaching abroad is a life-changing experience. You’ll commit to taking a new path away from the norm, away from the usual 9-5 work life, and into a world of the unknown. As part of this process, you’ll be challenged, you’ll develop new skills, and you’ll grow as a person.
Your first step down this path will likely be getting your TEFL training, so that you can learn how to teach English effectively. The next step is usually finding your first teaching job.
While there are lots of English teaching jobs advertised online, this might not always be the best option for you. Sometimes, it can be better to fly to another country and interview with schools the old-fashioned way – in person.
It can be a daunting step to take, especially if you have limited travel experience, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds.
What are the advantages for job-hunting in person?
Job-hunting in-person offers some great advantages compared with applying for jobs online while still at home.
Knowing your location: If you apply in person, you will be able to see exactly where the school is located and get a feeling for that area. You could visit during the daytime and again at the night-time to see if it’s the type of area you would enjoy to work in. You would also be able to see the transport links available, and the local restaurants/convenience stores that you would be able to use on your way to work/on your lunch breaks.
Meeting your potential colleagues: Talking with current teachers is one of the best ways to gauge if a school is going to be a good place to work in. If you are interviewing in person, you might even be interviewed by one of the fellow teachers at the school, always get a chance to talk with them when you visit.
Seeing your school environment: You will also be able to view the whole school surroundings in their present state. Online job adverts will often use fake pictures from other schools to lure you into applying with them. After you arrive you might find the school to look a lot different than what you’d seen in the brochure. With applying in person you’ll be able to see what it’s really like.
Local preference: Some countries have complicated visa processes that might require teachers to be in their home country while making the application (in China for example). Others might have easier visa processes that let teachers process the whole application while already in the country. This means many schools might only hire teachers that are already there and ready to get stuck in.
With these advantages, applying in person can often result in you finding a better school more aligned with your expectations. It can also help to avoid frustrations from applying for jobs online without hearing back from schools.
Budget for your trip
When moving to a new country, you have to set yourself up for success. Success means savings. You’ll need to save up enough funds to cover a range of costs involved with your move. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.
What you’ll need to budget for:
- Flight tickets
- Costs of accommodation + meals for 2-3 months*
- Costs for local visa applications
- Apartment deposit costs
- Safety net
It can be tough to work out a rough budget, but here’s how you can start.
Flight tickets: Use Skyscanner or similar comparison websites to search for tickets to your ideal destination. Be sure to check a range of dates to find the cheapest price in any given month.
Accommodation and meals: Depending on your destination, these costs could vary quite a bit. You can check websites like Hostelbookers to get an idea of cheap hostel prices. This is an area that you can save money on if you have a tight budget, or spend a little more on if you’re looking for some more comfort. Using a shared dormitory with a secure place to store your bags could be one way to cut down on a lot of costs.
Pro tip 1: Start with booking 1 week in your hostel. You’ll be able to change to a different hostel if you’re not happy, and if you ask for prices in person, you’ll often be able to haggle a little and cut down the rate.
Pro top 2: We recommend budgeting for 2-3 months as you’ll need to consider the amount of lead time involved with arriving, job searching, and then the time period up to your first paycheck.
Local visa costs: Depending on the country that you’ll be heading to, you might need to pay for certain visa application costs. These could range from $20-$100 depending on the country.
Apartments costs: This is another area that you could save money on if you have a tight budget. You should keep in mind that some schools will cover your apartment costs, but many won’t. If you’ll be renting an apartment, you might have to pay up to 2 months in deposit along with your first month’s rent. This essentially means having enough cash to pay for three months of rent upfront.
If your funds are particularly limited, you could weigh up the costs of renting an apartment with the costs of a cheap hostel – it might work out better to stay in a hostel for an extra month or so until you’ve built up more wages from your job. Once you have enough cash than for an apartment or room share.
Safety net: One of the most important things prepare is a safety net. We recommend at least having enough funds for a plane ticket home +$300 kept as a safety net just in case you need to return home. This safety net should be kept in a separate bank account from your usual funds to avoid accidentally eating into it.
How can you cut costs?
You can begin by changing your spending habits at home. While it can be tempting to continue with your current lifestyle to enjoy your home life as much as possible before leaving, you’ll need to prioritise things. Take a look at your current income and outgoings and see where you can cut some things out.
Do you really need Netflix? Can you downgrade your phone plan? Can you cook more at home instead of eating out? Can you stay at home and hang out with friends instead of going out? Can you walk/cycle/take the bus instead of a taxi. Small adjustments in your daily life can have a big impact 6 months down the line.
How can you save more?
Teaching English online before heading overseas can be a great way to build up extra funds with any extra hours you might have in your day. It’s quite competitive to secure online work, and you need to prepare well, but that’s something we can help you with. Our 120 our TEFL course comes with a whole extra video module showing you how to do this type of teaching.
More info here: Teaching online & overseas 2020 guide
Use Google to find schools before you fly
In the olden days, it could be difficult to find schools overseas. You’d either need to rely on face-to-face networking, walking countless miles, or going through phone directories (in foreign languages) to find schools that you could call up. It could take a lot of time to come up with a list of leads, and a lot of energy too.
Thanks to Google maps we now have a powerful tool that can be used to quickly build a list of schools that you can target when job hunting.
Click the post above to discover how to use Google to create your own list of schools to apply with overseas.
Get off the plane, rest, then start networking.
After the plane lands, you’ll want to take a shower, have a quick rest, and then start using your time to hunt for job prospects.
While your first thought might be to start visiting the schools from your Google list, there’s something else you should do first – start networking. Talking with local people and getting current first-hand advice can be extremely useful for narrowing down your search efforts.
Networking with your hostel:
Hostels and local BnB’s are a huge resource in a new country. The local staff can usually hook you up with all of the foreigner hotspots. They know where foreigners go to be tourists, and more importantly, they’ll likely know where long term foreigners go to hang out. This is something to keep in mind – you’re here to find work, not be a tourist.
Some of the staff may even know the top cram schools because they studied there, or they see school advertisements during intake season. The staff at the front desk are usually the biggest pool of knowledge, but you might get lucky and find a returning visitor or a local who is doing a staycation. These people might be able to refer you to their friend who is already teaching. The point is, go where the people are and start finding your resources.
Note: Schools are usually situated near to residential areas. While you might find schools in city centers, they’ll likely not be near busy bar streets, nightclubs, or tourist traps. If you find yourself heading to one of these areas, you should have a clear objective in mind – talking with people to find possible school leads, and not getting distracted. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy these areas after you’ve got settled in.
Networking with foreigners:
Now that you’ve talked to the locals, it’s time to talk to the foreigners. Where do you find them?
Expat bars: People that have lived In a particular country for a while are more likely to congregate in particular bars. They will likely have grown bored of the more touristy areas, and will have found other areas. You can search on Google to find expat bars in each city to help narrow down your focus.
Facebook groups: There are plenty of groups online for different expat communities in each major city of the world. If you open up Facebook, and search for “ESL teaching”, “teaching jobs” along with the name of the city/country that you’re in, you’ll likely find groups to join. You might also stumble across ladies only or expat only groups that might hold more relevant advice.
While not all expats are going to want to play an active role in helping you find work, you might get some good leads, hear of some schools to avoid, and which areas to look for. You might also stumble across recruiters…
Keep an eye open for recruiters
It’s very common to find recruiters in most major English teaching destinations around the world. There are several types of recruiters that you might find.
HR recruiters: For larger franchise schools, they will often have several HR employees that will be responsible for hiring teachers. They’ll often rely on job postings, but may also hang out in the local expat areas to discover potential new teachers. As these recruiters directly work for the school hiring you, they will usually have more accurate and transparent information to give you.
Agencies: These can be some of the best places to find work quickly, but you should exercise caution. Agencies network with a range of schools to help them find English language teachers. The schools then pay the agency a certain commission for each new teacher. As these agencies network with a large range of schools, they’ll often have a greater ability to find a job for you.
However, as they’re working on a commission basis, they might be inclined to exaggerate your promised pay/work conditions in order to get you to sign with them. You should check whether you’ll be employed directly by the school, or employed by the agency, and you should be prepared to push them to put things in writing.
Teachers: Schools will often offer teachers a commission if they can recruit friends or other teachers to join their school. This means that you might find expats willing to introduce you to their school, so that you can get a job, and so that they can earn a commission from it.
Independent recruiters: This final type of recruiter is one to be careful with. They’re usually locals that earn a commission in a similar way to an agency to earn extra income on the side. Unfortunately, unlike agencies, they have very little accountability, and can easily disappear if you have any issues with them.
Note: Do not pay any agency or recruiter to help you find a job. They will always receive their commission from the school directly after you’ve been hired, so there should be no need to charge the teacher up front first.
Apply with schools directly
Alongside your networking and recruiter efforts, you can start to apply directly with schools from your Google list, adding any potential leads you’ve heard about or seen since your arrival.
You can call up schools and ask if they have any vacancies, but it can be better to visit them directly and ask in person.
What to take with you:
When approaching schools, you’ll want to be well-prepared. This means having a plastic folder with the following:
- TEFL certificate copy
- Passport copy
- Degree certificate copy (if you have one)
- Resume + profile photograph
You should make lots of copies of each document, and put them into pre-made packs with plastic wallets so that they’re ready to hand over to schools. If you don’t prepare like this, you’ll likely show up with wrinkled documents in a disorganised way – this would be a bad first impression for any school.
What to wear:
Schools will generally want to see well-dressed teachers with neat hair and freshly shaven faces (it’s possible to get hired with a beard, but it’s not the most ideal thing that schools have in their mind).
You will want to wear trousers or a formal knee-length skirt, along with a relatively plain buttoned shirt. It can help if you bring a shoulder bag or laptop bag (not a backpack) to keep your documents in. You can also keep one or two ironed and folded shirts inside this bag so that you can change your shirt if you get too sweaty while travelling between different schools throughout the day.
What to say when you arrive:
You’ll want to approach the school calmly, and confidently. When you walk in, you’ll likely see a receptionist first, and will be able to chat with them about any vacancies they might have.
Here’s a great opener to try when visiting a school:
“Good morning! My name is ____.
I’m an English teacher from ____, and i’d like to check if there are any positions that I could apply for at your school.
Is there somebody from HR that I could talk with?“
After introducing yourself in this way, the receptionist would likely respond in one of three main ways:
Rejection: You might be told there are no current openings. In this situation, you could thank them for their time and ask where to leave your resume in case any positions open up. Alternatively, you could ask who you can contact to check about openings in the future – you might be able to collect a name card/email to use.
Postponing: You might be told that there is nobody to check with at this moment in time. In this situation, you could lead with asking what time would be better to return. If they’re aren’t able to give a clear answer, you could ask how you could contact their recruitment team. The receptionist might not have this available to give you, or might not want to hand out their contact details, so you could follow up with leaving your resume pack with the receptionist.
Interview: This is the best-case scenario. The receptionist might be able to call somebody to come by and meet you. They might ask you if you have time for an interview on the spot, or you might be able to chat with them and arrange a time to interview later in the week. If you feel particularly confident, and have been practising your demo classes at home, you could even mention that you would be interested in giving a demo class for them.
Not all interactions will go this way, but by preparing for the most likely outcomes, you will be able to walk into the schools with more confidence, and walk out with a higher chance of securing a position.
While it might seem like a daunting task at first, It actually isn’t all that difficult to fly over to a new country and find work. If you save up, prepare well before your flight, and take destiny in your hands when you arrive, it can be possible to quickly find your dream job overseas.