LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!
Many people asked me, how I secured my job to teach overseas when I announced that this summer (prior to Covid 19) myself and my son, would be packing up to move to Almaty, Kazakhstan. I figured having answered this a few times, I'd pop it all in a blog post.
WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
I had always wanted to teach overseas, however, the timing had not been right. Through the weaving of life, elements slowly fell into place, that I was able to make the decision to start applying for an overseas role. Below I will outline some of the key steps and decisions I have had to make, during the process.
STEP 1: MAKE THE DECISION
The first for me was making the decision, seriously. Previous to that it had been a pipe dream, a topic of many conversations. The first step was to decide that, this was no longer a dream, but that I would put things in motion to make it an actualisation. This meant to mentally process, what would it mean to actually go and teach overseas.
1. What would be the impact on me?
2. Was I ready to leave my UK security?
3. What would my family feel? How important was their support?
4. What would happen if it all went wrong? Worst case? Best Case?
5. What would happen to my house here?
6. Could I financially do it?
7. Would it improve the quality of my life?
8. Would I cope? Emotionally?
9. Was my son ready to leave? Had I planted the seed enough for him to feel confident?
10. What would my son's dad's family say? How would my son cope?
As you can see there was a very long list of questions, and this list is not exhausted, there were many more questions. I would encourage, therefore, for you to think about or even write a list, of all the questions you think, you would need answering, good or bad. How would the answers make you feel? For example, raising third culture kids! Would this be my son? Does this make me a bad parent? All the crazy thoughts running through your mind, they need answers, for you to feel secure in the decision.
STEP 2: RESEARCH
Having asked myself all these questions, I started to research other people's experiences, as well as answers to questions I was unsure about. I read about other families, going overseas as well as solo mummies. How had they found it? What might be the impact on my son's education for example, as well as his security? There were some articles that put me off, and some that got me in a right tizzy. There were some amazing stories from those that had taken the leap, as well as questions I should be asking myself before making such a decision.
Within my research, I also looked at the best countries for us to possibly go to. Where would be safest for a solo mummy and her boy? I kept reading that I should keep a very open mind about destinations, but I also had an idea of the elements a location had to have. I researched the type of package I may want to secure, and what was a realistic expectation. What or where were the best places to find an international job? What should I look out for, in terms of contracts and types of school? After combing through a wide range of sites, from Teachaway to TES online, I found that I was now armed with a wide range of questions, as well as possible geographical regions of the world. I had also attended an international job fair at the start of the year in January, to get a feel of the whole process. It was now October, and I felt fully prepared to mentally and physically start the process. (For a full list of sites to visit, as well as questions, click to download a PDF breakdown below).
STEP 3: APPLY
Step 3 states the obvious, you need to make applications. Before applying for any roles, I had already carried out research as it states in step 2. There are a number of places/websites you can apply to, and my PDF breakdown gives you an idea of a few (not an extensive list). However, I personally found the most effective job hunting, was attending recruitment fairs. I had completed a large number of application forms, which as anyone knows takes time to complete. I found that these were not very successful (1 out of 10). This may be a great ratio for some, but for me, this was time-consuming and demoralising at times. However, I found that using recruitment teams such as TES, Search Associates, and Teacher Horizons, I had more positive feedback from schools. I secured more interviews and had more potential job offers. I am therefore going to focus my attention within this post, on recruitment fairs, as to be honest, that was where I secured my role. This would therefore be the most honest experience, I can give you on the whole applying process.
How to begin: For me, the process was pretty easy, and I have to say by no means is this blog post sponsored by TES.
I began by creating a profile on the TES website, filling in all my career history to-date. There is an option to select if you want the recruitment team to match you with possible vacancies. I selected this option. Sometimes I would get really random vacancies sent to me that I had been matched with, that was just not my subject or age range. I did contact someone at TES regarding this and was informed that it was an algorithm issue, but not to worry. Anyways, besides this little irritation, I also signed up to attend the TES recruitment fair in Manchester. This was the first recruitment fair that TES had held in Manchester, and was very early in the recruitment phase, November.
Having signed up for the fair, the recruitment team closer to the time started kicking into action. They matched me with recruiters that would be attending the fair on the day, with actual vacancies in my subject area. I was contacted by school principals and given specific interview times. This meant I was attending with actual interviews for real roles. One element I have to say that I read time and time again, and turned out to be very true in my case, was to be open to location. Now, before you run away with that one, don’t get me wrong, I had particular requirements that were non-negotiable, but as long as a school and location met them, I was open to exploring places I had not initially considered. This is exactly what happened with the role I decided to accept.
My application was sent to a school in Kazakhstan, a part of the world I really didn’t know very much about at all. My initial response was, and I kid you not, ‘Who’s going to Kazakhstan?’. Now let me defend my ignorance, I’m a solo female/mother, Woman of Colour, that doesn’t really dive into, traveling to destinations that are very cold, and just maybe, I might be a bit too much of a rarity. That’s not to say I don’t travel to countries where I might be the only brown person, but holidays and living overseas are very different variables. Anyways I was quickly corrected in my ignorance and rightly so! I decided to watch the recruitment video the school had attached with their vacancy, and after 10 minutes, my next response was, ‘I want this job! I want to live here, in what seems like a beautiful country!’. Yes, I got called out on my own bias! I own it with my whole chest…! This then sent me on the research path of the school and the country. I had decided that when I went to that interview, I was going to secure that job! Well, that's what I was trying to manifest anyways.
STEP 4: INTERVIEW PREPARATION
So I now have a few interviews set up and I need to nail at least one! Where do I begin? I started with researching the school, the school history, the parent school, the values, ethos, and philosophy. I made notes in a notebook, taking note of keywords and highlights of the school. I also researched the country, what was the history, what was it like to live there, culture, expats, and anything that seemed relevant. I wanted to show that I had actually thought about living and working in that environment. What might be the key challenges I would face? How would I cope? What was it like to teach students with English as a second language?
RESEARCH THE SCHOOL AND COUNTRY
When preparing for the interview, check out other employees already working there on Linkedin. Use any resource available, check out Twitter, do any of the teacher's tweet or blog? Check out forums such TES, where you can find information about people’s experiences, or answers to key questions you may want to ask. In my case, one of the staff had a twitter account, and I was able to see some of the information he had posted about the school, as well as him living in Almaty. This really helped me get an insight into life at the school. Further check out if the school has an Instagram page, do they post anything about the subjects, your subjects? Organise your notes for each school, so that you are not confusing any information about any of the establishments your applying to. Trust me, this is easily done when preparing for lots of interviews.
RESEARCH INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
After you have completed all the research into the school and country, make sure you research common interview questions. This will help you practice for the interview and already have responses in your head. For me, this was very important in particular questions such as, ‘Why are you leaving your school?’, as I was already at a very good private grammar school in the UK. Further, I had more than your average movement on my resume, for reasons I could explain, but it was important that I was very clear and confident about why this had been the case. At no point, should you avoid the truth if you have had any gaps or circumstances, that has meant you may not have the ‘traditional’ work history, whatever that is! A school that wants you will hire you. In my opinion, if you are unable to see that life happens and sometimes it isn’t always perfectly placed, then maybe you’re not the school I want to work at. But hey, that’s just my opinion and my approach. Do what works for you, however, I walked away with two firm job offers and two follow-up interviews. I put that down to all the above preparation, but also, I brought my whole self and owned it. I was confident and honest, but well prepared to be quizzed. Hence, research questions you might be asked and practice what your response may be.
Finally, research questions you want to ask the school? What do you want to know? What answers have you not been able to find? A good one is always, ‘Why do you work at the school?’, or ‘What do you think the biggest challenges will be for me, and what processes/support does the school have in place for this?’.
STEP 5: THE INTERVIEW
The interview can be either quick or pretty intense at job fairs. It just depends on the Principle/Recruiter. Timings are unlikely to go to plan, so be prepared to be waiting around. Clear your whole day and book open return tickets if using trains. This is because you don’t want to miss an opportunity to be interviewed. You will also meet loads of other schools that are there to recruit, as well as maybe other candidates. Be open to exchange numbers or emails to keep in touch. It is all about networking! The queues can be pretty long to speak with some recruiters, so arrive early would be my advice.
The actual interview will kick off with something like, ‘tell me about yourself?’, and they don’t want your CV regurgitated. How do you describe yourself in 1-2 minutes, without repeating the key points of your resume? Prepare for this. They will likely ask about your teaching experience, curriculums, subject knowledge, why that school/country? What challenges might you face? How have you prepared for these? Be open and honest, you don’t need to know everything, but you do need to show that you have carried out the research, know why you’re there, and that you are ready to take this leap. Recruitment is an expensive business, as well as being very competitive. Remember, however, that they are also competing to get you, so it is a two-way interview process. Think about the questions you have prepared to ask them.
Get to know the interviewee, you want them to remember you when you follow-up the interview. In my case, I had a wonderful interview with the Principle of the school I wanted, and initially, he had suggested a second interview with the current Head of Department, however, if I was offered any roles at the fair to come back to him. This was the case, and I then had a second interview with the Deputy Head right there and then. Recruitment fairs can move very quickly so be on your ‘A’ game. Recruiters have often flown in from their representative places of work/countries, such as Dubai or China. They don’t want to leave without securing the best candidates if they are there!
STEP 6: FOLLOW-UP TO THE INTERVIEW
You have attended your interview and maybe have had a job offer, or were asked to attend a second interview. Remember you are still competing, your competing for the best job offer, or to still secure the role. You, therefore, have two options here, negotiate your offer of employment, or make sure that the recruiter remembers you for your follow up interview.
FOLLOW UP INTERVIEW
They obviously like you enough that they want to see you again. This is where you need to ensure that you are remembered. Email the Principle directly, using the name they introduced themselves with. Make clear reference to the interview you attended and what you discussed. For example, ‘Following my interview at the job fair, in Manchester, I wanted to discuss the next stages as per our conversation’. This needs to be followed with, what was discussed. A follow interview? With who? Online? Face-to-face? Be clear and make sure you provide some availability. You should seek to do this within a couple of days of the recruitment fair. This gives a good indication of your commitment and seriousness about the role. State how impressed you were with the school presentation, (schools present at job fairs, or have stands), and that you would very much like the opportunity to work there.
Once you have constructed your email, be sure to say that you are looking forward to hearing from them soon. Schools know that there is a timed race. Candidates would have met loads of schools, and the schools that get in first, with the best offers and meet the candidate’s needs, secure the prize. If a school asks if you have other offers, don’t be afraid to say you do. You don’t have to give specifics, such as the school's name, but you should let the recruiter know that time is of the essence, if they want you that is. At this point, you again make sure that you are prepared for questions using your research, as well as identify any questions that you need to ask.
OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT
Right, you were offered a role. Congratulations…This is wonderful news, and is definitely a step in the right direction. At this point, you know that the school wants you, as they have made an offer. However, proceed with caution. You need to check the details of the offer. For example, I was sent an offer letter with a very tight deadline for accepting, but there were so many unanswered questions. The contract didn’t specifically state the allowance for accommodation, nor the cost of school fees remaining after the contribution the school made, nor did HR answer these questions when I emailed. It also didn’t state what school I would work in, but rather that I would need to accept whichever one they offered (they were an academy of schools). If you have children, this probably isn’t going to sit well with you! There were other unanswered questions also, which for me, personally wasn’t acceptable. Needless to say, I didn't accept this offer.
The role I did accept, however, had a very transparent contract, stating all of the benefits that were offered at the interview, as well as clearly detailing expectations, and the school's responsibility to me. I was able to directly email the Head Teacher and ask questions, regarding the contract and was immediately responded to by both the Head Teacher and the HR Director. Further to this, the Deputy Head Teacher provided her personal number for me to contact, and answered all my questions, such as concerns on settling my son and language barriers. This was fundamental in me making my decision to accept, as no question was too small, and showed a genuine interest in our well-being, and security in accepting the job. Make sure you are happy with the terms, therefore, benefits and salary. If not, negotiate or see what are elements you can compromise.
I totally get that not all schools will do this, however, this wasn’t the only school that went over and beyond in offering me a role. The school in Bangkok, also bent over backward to answer questions and reassure me. Setting out logistics in terms of living and traveling routes to work, and even costs of living. One of the main reasons I didn’t choose the school in Bangkok, was the financial package, being a solo mummy. Basically, all I am trying to stress is, this is as much a part of a school attempting to get you, as it is you wanting them. A school that isn’t prepared to engage in dialogue, beyond the interview isn’t maybe a school for you. Ultimately these are the very people that will form your community.
Finally, when satisfied, the final step is, accept the role and move on to the next step in the long, but very exciting process of moving overseas to teach in the global classroom. I hope you found this post useful. I know it was a little long, but I just couldn’t trim out all the good stuff!
Love Carole xx
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