You’re going back home and moving on to another career after teaching English abroad for a year or two. You’ve reached the cap on how much time you can spend in a classroom and are heading into a different line of work.
This is when most people who’ve taught abroad begin to have doubts. How do you explain this random year teaching English when you want to go into the medical field? Or law? Management?
I’m sure that most of you know at this point that teachers wear many different hats throughout the day. From parent to nurse to mediator to caregiver, teaching is a job where certain skills are absolutely crucial. And those skills are applicable to any field.
So, as you’re on the lookout for your next job, here are some things to keep in mind when you sit down for an interview post- teaching abroad.
Oh and by the way: how do you really ace the interview? By thinking of concrete examples from your own experience to prove what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown during your time in the classroom. Anyone can say they’re flexible or a good problem solver, but not everyone can give concrete situations. Take advantage of the experiences you’ve gained by sharing them with your interviewer.
You cannot be a teacher, teaching assistant, or language assistant without being flexible. Schedules can change on a minute by minute basis, lessons get interrupted, activities don’t go smoothly, the students are restless and can’t focus… The list goes on and on. No doubt there have been times when you’ve had to be extremely flexible and adjust to some unexpected circumstance.
Why sell it: By learning to be flexible it makes you a strong employee because even in the most “routine” jobs, circumstances come up that require you to be able to change course and handle anything that comes your way. It means you are adaptable and skilled enough to manage the unexpected.
This goes hand in hand with being flexible. I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where a lesson goes bust and you’ve totally lost the attention of the class. As a teacher you have got to think on your feet and be able to change course within a matter of minutes. Think of a time when you had to come up with immediate solutions to unexpected circumstances. Maybe a teacher was out and didn’t leave you a lesson plan so you had to scrap together a last-minute lesson. Or maybe there was a disruption during your class and you had to resolve it then somehow manage to get the class back in order.
Why sell it: If you are flexible but can’t think on your feet, then how valuable does that make you as an employee? If you are adaptable but unable to resolve those unexpected circumstances or situations what good does that do? But, if there have been times in your classes where you’ve been able to both adapt to and resolve issues that came up throughout the day, then it makes you a much stronger candidate.
If you think teaching young children is any different than working with adults, well, you’ve got another thing coming. Adults can sometimes seem like children in bigger bodies. Conflicts will no doubt come up, no matter what field you are in, no matter what age of child or adult you are working with. No doubt you have had to help mediate spats between students and even teachers.
Why sell it: It’s easy to sell a skill like “team player” and explain how you work well on a team, but I think an even stronger asset is getting into the nitty gritty of team work: solving conflicts. Teams can’t function if they can’t mediate. If you can translate mediating student or teacher conflicts into your ability to mediate conflicts amongst co-workers, you are setting yourself apart from other team players, who yes, know how to work on a team, but may not necessarily know how to work on said team when someone doesn’t agree, or when one person doesn’t like another.
So not only did you teach children but you taught them in a different country, in a different culture, with different rules and expectations. And this is not an easy feat. Cultural adaptation can be super challenging. By teaching in another country, you have lived through and learned how to adapt to cultural norms you may or may not agree with. This is not something that everyone has the opportunity to experience.
Why sell it: Each workplace has its own unique culture. Because you’ve adapted to the culture of another country, it will make it easier for you to adapt to the culture of a new workplace. You’ve also gained new perspectives and insights into your own culture and the culture of the country you lived in. People say it all the time; there’s nothing like travel to gain new perspective. During an interview give some concrete examples of those realizations and insights you picked up during your time abroad and talk about how that would help you in this different industry.
There’s no doubt there are other things that you’ve gained as well. From picking up another language to being more creative, teaching abroad is an invaluable opportunity that you’ve hopefully fully taken advantage of. Though teaching may seem far off from your new career focus, it really isn’t. Teaching is one of the most demanding jobs out there, and if you survived the year and had successes along the way, then you will totally be prepared for many challenges that come your way.
What invaluable skills have you gained during your year(s) teaching English abroad?