Preparing for Life After ESL: Advice from a Former Teacher


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Teaching abroad is an extremely rewarding life experience. Whether you’ve been teaching ESL for one semester or thirty years, you’ve likely tried speaking a new language, eaten strange foods, traveled to exotic lands, and even learned new skills.  But for some of you ESL teachers out there, pursuing a lifelong career in teaching is not necessarily your true calling.

It’s likely the second semester out there [this post was published in February 2017] for many of you ESL teachers and you are facing a tough decision. Will you continue teaching ESL?  Or will you take the plunge into an entirely different industry or line of work?

I’m here to tell you that preparing for life and a new job after ESL is not as daunting as it may seem, but you need to be proactive.  Most ESL teachers have about 4-5 months left until their contract is up, but if you follow these tips, there’s no reason why you can’t take some serious steps towards a job for this summer in the line of work you are pursuing.  

Time’s ticking, so let’s get started on some tips for preparing for life after ESL:

Narrow down the industry and type of work you’d like to pursue

It’s important for anyone who is not pursuing ESL as a career to constantly be thinking about what kind of work they’d like to move into after ESL teaching.  Reflect on your strengths, values, personality and skills.  What specific industries or lines of work would utilize your best characteristics?  Maybe you discovered this year that you love education but teaching is not necessarily your bread and butter. That’s ok! There are plenty of lines of work within the education field that you can begin researching. The point is you are doing this now versus the last day of your ESL contract.  These tips are not supposed to serve as a makeshift career counseling session, so do some due diligence on your end and find the resources or people you may need to speak to in regards to what line of work is a good fit for you.

Gain some experience in your chosen industry

Sometimes taking a leap into an entirely different industry can be intimidating. How does one go from teaching ESL to selling real estate or designing web pages?  There are many places to start and the fact that you are doing this now will get you ahead of the game! Some thoughts on finding and securing this experience:

Start local: Depending on where you are currently living, opportunities to gain experience in any industry can range from few to numerous.  This is the time to begin networking with both expats as well as locals. Pop into any networking events or job fairs that may be held in or near your area as well as scan local job boards or classifieds online. The key here is using the opportunity to meet someone face-to-face or that at least lives in the same city as you. This proximity and chance for personal connection gives you a great competitive advantage in being considered for work.  

Be humble: When you are meeting people in the industry you’d like to work in, don’t be afraid to take on unpaid internships or low hourly rate positions if you think the experience is worth it.  Your main goal here is to gain some real-world experience so that you are ready to interview and be hired on for future better-paying positions when you are finished.

life after esl reddit divi

Join industry-specific groups: You want to be surrounded by people living and working within the industry you’re focused on entering. Don’t live in a neighborhood conveniently filled with people in your chosen hospitality and tourism industry? Find them online. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Reddit are all great places to join industry-specific groups and immediately get involved in topics and discussions.

Tailor your resume

As mentioned, this article is primarily serving as a method for getting into another industry or job role besides ESL teaching. That being said, you don’t have to be afraid to include your teaching experience on your resume if you are able to show results.

What do I mean by results?

I’m talking quantifying the work you’ve done in easily digestible numbers so that recruiters or interviewers can see what kind of impact you’ve made at work. Here’s an awesome article by The Muse on quantifying your resume if you think your work is hard to measure.

Take this teaching example:

  • Original Bullet Point 1: Taught 4th grade students oral English using flashcards and Powerpoint
  • Revised Bullet Point 1: Created dynamic oral English lessons for over 200 students and increased their overall vocabulary by 200% utilizing the direct teaching methodology

I’m not sure how you’re tracking your teaching results or planning your lessons, but you can see how the original bullet point gives us nothing in terms of how you work, while the revised bullet point shows that you are a results-driven and effective educator. Think about other ways you can achieve similar results

That being said, the highlight on your resume should be shifting from teaching to the new work experience you have worked hard accomplishing tips #1-2.  Be sure to include this work on your resume (again, even if you are interning or doing part-time work), to show potential employers that you are gaining experience in this field.  List this at the top of your work experience.

Apply for jobs or schools

I’d like to say that the hard part is over. For some of you, maybe it is.  For others, you’re going to need to take a chill pill and have patience as you begin your job application process.  This is where things get pretty personal as to whether you are planning on staying in the country you are living, finding work back home, or moving to an entirely new city or country.  Once you have chosen the geographic location for the work you’d like to do, either reach out to a recruiter or begin sending in applications. How to write your cover letter and proper follow-ups would require an entirely separate post, so, for brevity’s sake, do your own research and tailor each resume and cover letter to the position and company you are applying.

If you are not joining the workforce immediately and found that additional schooling is optimal, then your time will be spent applying to schools versus jobs.

I wish you all luck as you start a new chapter of your life after ESL. You’d already made a great choice moving abroad and gaining work experience through teaching, so I have no doubt that you are onto bigger and better things!

Kristine Thorndyke is a former ESL Teacher in China and now works for Test Prep Nerds, a site aimed at making test prep just a little bit easier. From the MCAT to the SAT (and everything in-between), they offer expert tips on purchasing materials, information on your test, and helpful cheat sheets. Check out our latest work at Best MCAT Prep Books


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