Next steps for newly qualified ESL teachers

How to successfully navigate the application process and get that first ESL teaching job

english teacher jobs

If you’ve just completed your TEFL course, or are thinking of doing one over the summer, you’ll have your eyes set on new classes coming up in the next academic year.

But when you have limited classroom experience, how can you make yourself stand out in a market full of more experienced teachers? I asked Janina Knight Director of Studies (DOS) at Advantage Languages and Dan Shepherd, DOS at Oxford House Barcelona, for their advice to newly qualified TEFL teachers.

Here’s what you need to get in order to give yourself the best prospects of getting a job.

1. Your qualification

Don’t be fooled into thinking that every qualification has the same value  – in fact that can make or break your job application.

See my recent article Running the TEFL Gauntlet: 3 Tips for Finding the Right Teacher Training Course For You.

Dan Shepherd, Director of studies at Oxford House, Barcelona, said  “When looking for a new teacher, the first thing I look for on the CV is their relevant qualifications. What they studied at university, whether they’ve done a TEFL course, and if that course is accredited by Trinity or Cambridge.”

If you don’t have an accredited qualification, however, you’re still in with a good chance of getting a job. This is especially true if your course was at least 120 hours, you had the opportunity to teach real students, and received valuable feedback from experienced trainers.

“If so, I would probably still consider a candidate that didn’t have an accredited TEFL certificate – unless I had a similar candidate with similar experience, but with a Trinity CERT or CELTA under their belt.”

When you don’t have much teaching experience, and aren’t hearing back from academies or schools, one option is to seek out temporary volunteer teaching opportunities for charities close to you. With just a couple more hours teaching work a week, you will have a more filled-out CV and paid work will be much easier to come by.

2. Your CV

As with any other industry, you must make sure that have an up-to-date CV. No matter if you’re right out of university, or have 15 years of retail experience – and nothing whatsoever to do with teaching – it will tell your future employer what they need to know.

If you’re changing careers, write a short mission statement at the top highlighting how you are a strong candidate. Explain your motivations and show why you want to become an English teacher.

Underscore your new TEFL qualification, your leadership and communication skills, as well as any key responsibilities you’ve had. Perhaps, for example, you led a team in your previous job, or ran occasional training sessions. Even if not, show that you are enthusiastic, willing to learn, and happy to work with people

3. The application process

While you could send out 500 applications and CVs and hope that a percentage get back to you, it will be far more effective to spend time writing individual cover letters. You could even drop into schools and academies with your application in person; it will make more of an impression, and you’ll get a feel for each school too.

By investing more time and energy in your job search, the chances are you’ll find a better school. Your application will also have a greater chance of standing out.

Janina Knight, Director of Studies at Advantage Languages told me, newly qualified teachers “should try to personalise their application email according to the vacancy and have an eye-catching CV that is no longer than two pages.”

4. The interview

If you’ve fought your way through the crowds of other TEFL applicants and made it to the interview, you have every chance of making it into the classroom.

But don’t be surprised if you’re faced with a few challenges before you get there. It’s quite common to be tested in a TEFL interview situation. Sometimes you’ll be presented with a coursebook and asked to plan out a specific lesson, or the interviewer will possibly even ask you to teach them something, right there, on the spot.

Don’t panic if this happens to you. Treat it as a chance to showcase your teaching skills. Remember that you’re being tested on your ability to think on your feet, communicate ideas, and to present a mini-lesson. The main thing is to show that you are calm, confident, and can work under pressure.

Mostly importantly, though, is that you are excited about working for that school.

“The main qualities I look for are someone who is enthusiastic with a natural flair for teaching as well as being willing to learn from their peers,” said Knight.

It’s important to bear in mind that newly qualified TEFL teachers often find themselves working strange hours, for more than one academy, in different parts of the city. It can be challenging, but once you get through it, things become easier.

Your second and subsequent years of teaching are usually far stabler because once your DOS knows you better they will be more willing to give you regular hours. Good luck with the job hunting!

Looking for more resources for English teachers?

Check out our English Teaching section, with lots of great articles for new and experienced English teachers as well as tips on where to find free ELT resources.

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Acerca de George Chilton 7 Articles
George Chilton first started teaching English in 2007, in Wonju, South Korea. He then moved to Barcelona, Spain - where he moved into freelance writing, translation and materials design, eventually beginning the teaching materials blog Designer Lessons in 2011. George then became a full-time writer and editor when he went to work for Pearson Education in 2012. From 2014 to 2017 he lived in Medellín, Colombia, working as an editor for a PR company. He's now back in Spain and remains a part of Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona, a language services cooperative, which he co-founded with other teachers, writers and translators.

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