If you’ve ever expressed an interest in teaching TEFL abroad, you’ve probably met at least a couple of snobs who put it on the same level as a gap year. However, talk to any seasoned TEFL teacher and they’ll tell you that this is a job as valid and worthwhile as any teaching position.
Whether you have a genuine interest in teaching or just want an opportunity to earn money while you travel, embarking on a TEFL journey is time well spent. Getting experience as an English teacher abroad can boost your resume in ways you might never have expected, from raising your employability to helping you gain life experience. Read on to find out why we think TEFL is a great way to kickstart your career, in any sector.
Gain Experience working with Children
If you love young people and know you want to work with children in the future, it’s natural that gaining experience working with them in any capacity will help you in your future job hunt. While you might think that TEFL teaching will only give a boost to candidates in certain fields of employment, having been a TEFL teacher can help you find employment in any field where you work with young people. Here are just a few examples:
Teacher: This is the obvious choice, but remember that there are many different types of teacher and your TEFL experience won’t limit you to just one role. As well as providing great experience to aspiring infants, primary, secondary and even university teachers, TEFL is handy to classroom assistants, special needs teachers, private tutors, subject specialists, learning support, and non-teaching staff in the education sector.
Paediatric Nurse or Doctor: You have to be able to put people at ease when you work in the medical field, and this is even more important with young patients who will need a lot of reassurance. Having worked with children before will put you in good stead, whether you’re a dental hygienist, child psychotherapist, school nurse, or dental receptionist.
Youth Social Worker: Any roles related to social work, for example, a counsellor, youth worker, play therapist or family support worker, require an understanding person, and your time as a TEFL teacher will provide you with valuable experience.
Children’s Librarian: Your specialist area may be books and literature, but you have to think about the readers. Knowing how to talk to children will help you to make great recommendations.
Day Care: The differences between a three-year-old and a five-year-old are endless, but even if your teaching experience is with older children, this will help you in your work with the very young. Whether you go into work in a nursery, kindergarten, as a childminder or babysitter, TEFL will boost your CV in numerous ways.
Entertainment and Tourism: Want to work in a hotel? Children stay in hotels too. How about a job performing dance routines at festivals and parades? Kids are likely to be in the audience. If your future job has anything at all to do with children, your experience as a TEFL teacher will help make you a better employee.
Build Your People Skills
Working as a TEFL teacher isn’t just for chatty, confident people. If you feel like you’re shy and introverted, a year of TEFL will help you to come out of your shell. Teaching doesn’t just build your skills when it comes to interacting with children, even if you do specialise in young learners.
If you’ve lived abroad, you’ll have interacted with countless people who don’t understand your language, and yet survived the experience. Ever tried to convey your vegetarian diet to a waiter who doesn’t speak your language? Or perhaps you’ve navigated the cultural faux pas that can arise when you spend time in a foreign culture? With these challenging experiences under your belt, you’re building your people skills in so many ways other than communication.
Gain Experience in a Foreign Language Setting
Getting a year or two of experience in the TEFL industry doesn’t just help you get a career working with children. Living abroad will help you gain a huge number of skills, which will help you navigate any foreign language setting.
Perhaps you already speak a second language and picked your travel destination to improve your skills? If so, this might be the gateway to getting translation work, or work in another sector. Working for a travel company would be a natural step, even if you’re not fluent in a second language, because you clearly have a love of travel and appreciate spending time abroad. Working as a tour guide is another option, as you’ll have an understanding of the types of things visitors will want to see and do.
What Skills Do TEFL Roles Equip You With?
Teaching English abroad doesn’t just equip you with the ability to teach English. There are a multitude of skills you will pick up when you embark on a TEFL career, and these transferable skills make you all the more employable in your future job hunt. Here are our top ten transferable skills that you’ll take away from a stint of TEFL:
- Planning, from all those lessons you put together.
- Confidence, from standing in front of a crowd and knowing what you’re doing.
- Communication, from making foreign students understand you.
- Timekeeping, from getting to lessons on time.
- Linguistic Skills, from learning about pedagogy, teaching methods, and perhaps even learning a foreign language.
- Achieving Goals, from delivering successful lessons and helping students pass tests and exams.
- Adaptability, from unavoidable schedule changes and learning how to live in a foreign country.
- Flexibility, from getting the job done despite obstacles.
- Quick Thinking, from getting classes enthused on their unmotivated days.
- Public Speaking, from teaching group classes and growing in leadership.
A TEFL Gap Year is Time Well Spent
Prove the snobs wrong by showing them that a year doing TEFL is vastly different to a year of hiking around with a backpack. Teaching English as a Foreign Language sets you apart from graduates who basically just had a holiday in their gap year. Even if your primary reason for teaching English is to travel on the cheap and have fun, you’ve still achieved something worthwhile, gained work experience, earned your keep and brought back something more than postcards and fridge magnets.
Broaden Your Horizons
Working abroad, you’ll do and see things you never thought possible. Even if your teaching contract keeps you tethered to one location, your weekends and holiday time can be spent exploring. Hike the Great Wall of China, sample chicken’s feet, get spiritual vibes in an ancient temple… the experiences you have as part of your day-to-day life when living abroad will be a world apart from your life back home.
If you’re doing TEFL after graduating, you’ll feel the transition between being a young person and becoming an adult even more so than when at university, and you’ll return home feeling like a new, grown-up person. It’s a cliché, but TEFL gives you the opportunity to really find yourself, and become the person you want to be.
Not only can your TEFL journey give you the opportunity to make lifelong friends, but it’s also a brilliant way to network with like-minded individuals. If you want to continue in the TEFL sector, you’ll have so many contacts you can approach when it comes to finding teaching roles. Even if you don’t stay in TEFL, the friends you make are likely to, in a few years’ time, be spread far and wide across the globe, giving you contacts in numerous countries and fields where you could find employment.
A First Job in a Tough Market
After graduating, you may find yourself in a pool of potential employees that are remarkably similar to yourself – qualified, but with little experience to set you apart from other candidates. Depending on what field you want to get into, it can be tough to find your first job after university, particularly if you weren’t top of the class.
If youth employment is stagnant where you are, get out of the pond and into some meaningful work until you figure out your game plan. Even if TEFL doesn’t have anything to do with your chosen career path, taking a break away from the job hunt can help bring a fresh perspective. Not only that, but after your year of teaching English abroad you’ll come home with broadened horizons, another year of life experience under your belt, and a great reference to show what a top candidate you are.