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Teaching English Overseas as a Stepping Stone to an International Career

Teaching English can be a stepping stone for an international career
Teaching English is a job option that remains in high demand overseas, and can also be a great stepping stone to international career opportunities.

One billion people in the world want to learn English; so finding an English teaching job overseas is simple. Almost everyone reading this article could be on a plane heading overseas to teach English within the next three months. Your teaching job is guaranteed if you are a native English speaker, have a university degree, and have taken a short training course on how to teach English as a foreign language (often a TESOL/TESL/TEFL/CELTA certificate which can even be completed online relatively cheaply).

Opportunities abound in all non-native-English-speaking countries overseas (i.e., not Australia, New Zealand, or the U.K.). The hot markets are in Asia, including South Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Japan. In Western Europe, work permits and visa restrictions are stringent due to EU regulations, but there are still a few opportunities in Spain and France for the resourceful. In Eastern Europe, accommodations and salaries can be restricting; but Poland and the Czech Republic are actively recruiting teachers. In Latin America there is work to be found in Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil.

My purpose here is to show you how you can use the English-teaching experience to realize your specific goals and objectives. You can teach English in order to travel, learn a new language, or pay off student loans. What's more exciting is that teaching English abroad can be a stepping stone to other professional international careers. You will need to take risks, go out on a limb, and plot your way to success. However, the payoff is almost always guaranteed. There is actually little risk of failure. Remember, one billion people want to learn English. Keeping this in mind will help you achieve your goals.

Country-Specific Goals

Unlike other international job searches, it's easy to do a country-specific job search for teaching English abroad. With most professional international jobs it is the employer who selects your destination; for low-skilled jobs, there are always problems with work visas. But when teaching English abroad you can choose your country and you can teach English to achieve any number of parallel goals you have related to living in that specific country. Here are some ideas to get your imagination going.

  • Teach English to follow a spouse, lover, friend, or relative to a particular destination. There are many reasons to target a specific country to teach English: you fall in love with a foreign student studying in the U.S. and you want to return to his or her home; your spouse has an internship in Amsterdam; your best friend is living in a holiday home in Panama for a year; your long-lost relatives live in Italy; your uncle has just signed a 2-year contract to work in Bangalore, India. In all these cases you can join them and make a living by teaching English.

  • Teach English to further your cross-cultural goals. You can move to any country in South America, teach English on the side, and improve your Spanish. Or maybe you are studying Russian history: if you move to St. Petersburg or Moscow to teach English you can finance your trip and further your knowledge of Russia.

  • Teach English to pay off school loans. You can save as much as $15,000 a year, if you are frugal, while teaching English in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea. For most other countries English teachers receive just enough to live on while affording some local travel. You can, however, move up the salary scale by teaching extra courses, moving to better-paying schools, and giving private lessons.

  • Teach English to finance travel. If you want to travel around the world and spend a month or more in different cities, you can finance your trip by teaching English. There are short-term opportunities at private schools, and if you are an enterprising individual, you can talk your way into working as a live-in private tutor for children of wealthy families. While on the road, offer your services to hotels and tour operators to teach English to their staff, or to edit the English text of brochures and signage.

  • Teach English to fulfill a retirement dream. If you are approaching retirement age and want a rich and meaningful experience, consider teaching English overseas. Whether you are young or not so young, you have the same chance of finding work. So pick the country of your choice and take a teaching position that matches your desires.

Break into the International Job Market

You need international experience before you can land a professional international job. But how do you get it? There are thousands of ways, but teaching English overseas can be an effective back-door strategy to land the job you desire.

  • Teach English to others in your field of expertise. This is a powerful strategy that will help you gain career experience. The classic scenario is the MBA student who has just graduated and is determined to land a business job in Hong Kong. The fastest route toward meeting Asian business decision makers is to teach business English in Hong Kong. Who will you meet when you teach business English? Businessmen or women who can offer you jobs. You can teach science-English in a Chinese university, or music-English with Japanese cultural umbrella organizations. Costa Rica is the internet capital of Central America; if you are currently studying computer science or graphic design, offer to teach a specialized computer-English or graphic design-English course at any of the specialized private sector schools in San Jose. You can craft your own customized course or audit the Spanish course for terms to be taught in English (i.e develop a lexicon of English-Spanish terms specific to one field). With this strategy you will not only find many willing students, but at the same time meet others in your field and improve your Spanish.

  • Teach English as a stepping stone to a writing career. Many lovers of English dislike the very thought of teaching. Don't despair. There are many opportunities to work abroad as English language editors, writers, reporters, and communication consultants. Almost every major city in the world has at least one English-language newspaper. Large corporations are always in need of English copy editors. Every tourist destination needs English writers. There are communications and public relations firms located in just about every part of the non-native-English-speaking world, and they often need English writers and editors. If you have Web experience (and you should have if you consider yourself a writer), you can become a web page copy editor and writer. All of these careers are possible, but you may have to teach first to make the required contacts.

  • Teach English to gain broad international experience. Many university students want to have an international career, be it in engineering, political science, or economics. But international employers require previous international experience. For the recently graduated university student, teaching English abroad is an easy and sure-fire way to prove to international employers that you have what it takes to succeed in another culture. If you can't afford to study abroad, or if you can't find an international internship, then acquire your international experience by first teaching English overseas.

  • Teach English to gain professional experience while traveling. If you are an enterprising individual you can backpack your way across Africa, for example, and offer your English-teaching and editorial skills on a volunteer basis. You may want to work as an English editor for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). You could also offer to train their staff in correct English when using MS Word or MS Excel or in writing business correspondence. You could offer to write a tourist guide for an ecotourism organization. You may not get paid for this work, but it will help you build experience for your resume.

  • Teach English as a stepping stone to teaching in an international school. Many qualified teachers want to break into the exclusive world of teaching at an "international school." These schools are located in almost every large city and offer courses to the children of diplomats, international business executives, and wealthy local elites. Without international experience you will find it difficult to find a job in one of these schools. Teaching English overseas is a great way to prove your competency. Good luck and enjoy teaching English abroad!
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