Tips for securing TESOL work as an older candidate
Beginning a new career can be daunting at the best of times but starting out in another country as a mature teacher raises additional concerns over age discrimination. That it does exist is pretty obvious from comments in our age bias in TEFL article, but success stories from mature Global English TESOL graduates all over the world also assure us that it can be done. So read on and discover how to use your maturity to your advantage and overcome age barriers.
If you are coming to TEFL from a previous career and are more mature, do think about freelance teaching as an alternative to the private language school market. In this way, there is no third party employer with preconceived ideas about a stereotypical ideal teacher; the relationship is between you and the student.
This will mean relocating before having work lined up, which can be a bit daunting, but could be worth it in the end. Do your homework beforehand and choose your country wisely; certain locations are more discriminating than others.
Use your background and consider specialising
Consider specialising in teaching business English, especially if you have a background in sales, accounting, customer service or business yourself.
In this sector, maturity can be an advantage since a business student may prefer to learn from someone with life and specific business experience. Think about how an earlier career could positively add to your contribution to TESOL. There are nurses, lawyers, engineers and financiers the world over who would be keen to learn English from a teacher with a similar background.
Keep up to date with technology and think about teaching English online. Become familiar with the technology used by downloading Skype (which allows free calls via the internet) and conduct a search for schools by typing ‘learn English by Skype/phone’ into a search engine.
Global English student Patricia Harrison says:
"There appears to be good opportunities for teaching ESL online, and this might also be less vulnerable to age discrimination."
Use maturity to your advantage
An employer may believe a mature candidate will be more likely to keep feisty Pedro in order in the classroom. A few extra years of maturity would certainly have certainly helped me in leading a boisterous class of young learners when I started teaching as a 22 year-old. Ensure you can convince the school director that your age is an absolute positive!
Again, GE graduate Patricia Harrison suggests older teachers can help themselves by maximising their training to set themselves apart from their younger counterparts:
"Asians in particular (and many Europeans) greatly respect a good education. Older teachers with solid training and experience are more likely to be seen as serious ESL professionals, not just as kids travelling the world, and perhaps likely to flit off without much notice. This is one reason I continue to take some Global English courses. We may be older but we don't want to be seen as out-of-date!"
Get some experience and make your CV stand out
Experience + maturity may be an impossible combination for employers to resist and can set you above the younger novice. Even a little volunteering work can put you into the ‘experienced’ bracket.
Make sure your CV is TEFL–ready and is not too long. There is no need to include every job you’ve ever had since the age of 16. Why not download this suggested sample TEFL CV/resume and use it to help revamp yours?
Be flexible and accommodating
Mary Rose, who actively set out to help more mature teachers find work in Hungary through the Central European Teaching Programme (CETP) maintains that while some of her placement teachers are ‘having a ball,’ inflexible attitudes among older teachers are a real issue. She says:
"We now have several schools that will no longer consider an older teacher due to problems incurred in the past… and I have to admit that I am more reluctant these days to place older people due to several such crab apples. (I can say that without prejudice as I am now 68). But as I recently told another interested senior, if you can assure me you’re a gala apple rather than crab, we would love to have you! If you can laugh at that comment, most likely you’re a good apple."
This is a real challenge to older teachers. Attitude is key in TEFL and to succeed it is important to keep a positive and flexible outlook, especially when in cultures that operate differently to our own. Read more about Marys’ experiences in the attached ‘crab apple or gala’ article at the bottom of the page.
With it being illegal to discriminate on the basis of age in many countries, the true extent of age discrimination will remain hidden, since the age limit for many jobs is not overtly advertised.
However, many of our Global English graduates are mature and successfully working overseas. In order to do the same, get started by choosing a good, accredited online TESOL course keep in mind the suggestions above, and most of all, stay positive!
If you are already a mature teacher, please share your real life experiences of the TEFL job market below.
I'm very interseted in this topice as I completed 140 of TEFL training earlier this year, at the age of 57. I didn't finish university and most of my training was done online. Before starting an internship in Vietnam, I applied for a lot of jobs in Europe. I got no replies to my applications. While I know that I lack certain qualifications and experience, my daughter was able to get work with no more qualifications and less TEFL hours than myself. Clearly age is an issue but I won't give up as I love teaching.
I'm 57 and currently on a TEFL internship in a Vietnamese university, having been unable to find employment after my course. Now, the group of interns have been told that we must co-teach with local teachers which means our internship will not have much value. We will only have had a couple of weeks of class management. The students are allowed to walk out of classes if foreigners are taking them. I have to put up with this because no one wants to employ someone my age
Naomi, what makes you stand out from younger candidates for EFL jobs is your work and life experience. It may be that your CV is simply not enough. Here are some thoughts:
1) go for business English positions
2) play up your business experience - for business learners, authenticity is paramount. If you can share with them meaningful experiences (you don't need to have been a CEO; just a thoughtful observer). If you've any soft skills training, play that up to - schools like to 'upsell' to soft skills training; they also pay better and are more prestigious...
3) Consider making a video to share with prospective employers. Having run a big teaching team for several years, I can say I did sometimes come across older teachers of the "enough about you, let's talk about me" variety. You can store the video in the cloud and email a link to it along with your CV. This will allow a potential recruiter to get a sense of you beyond your printed CV.
Thanks, Andrew for your valuable comments and insight. I agree, marketing yourself is very important. Hope Andrew's comments are helpful, Naomi. Where did you do your TEFL course, Naomi - have the organisations got any links to employers or agencies that can help?
Andrew, what exactly do you mean by "soft skills" ? Are you referring to software ----- or something else ?
Just wondering. I was placed successfully w/out having to highlight any of that, and I had a fantastic time in Korea.
I plan on going back ASAP ---- that is my hope, at any rate.
My background is originally in chemistry and medical studies, w/ a follow-up of two yrs in HS sci teachers' courses.
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