TEFL 101: Skype Interview Success

So you’ve done your research, searched high and low and had some positive responses from your application emails – yay you!

As with any job, you will be expected to go through some sort of interview process before landing yourself a TEFL job.  This interview process will vary greatly from place to place, from vigorous multiple interviews and teaching demonstrations to a more laid back ‘just doing this for a formality’ face to face chat.

Due to the nature of TEFL work taking place across the globe, and that most undertaking a job search are doing so from a different country than their destination of choice, more and more often the go to method for TEFL job interviews is via Skype.

Interviewing via Skype carries its own positive and negative points.  For some, a layer of nervousness is removed by the virtual setting.  For others, the thought of adding the extra potential complications of technology – laptop, webcam, internet – in fact adds another layer of things to worry about.

Time zones

If you are looking at TEFL positions, it is likely that you may be interviewing for a job that is in a different country and therefore different time zone.  Most potential employers will take this into consideration, however it is likely that the interview will need to take place during their office hours, and so you may have to make some compromise.  You may find yourself with an interview in the middle of the night or extremely early in the morning – be prepared for this!  Another point on the topic of time zones – triple check the time difference and confirm the time of your interview in both your local times – you don’t want to end up sat in front of the computer at 9 am your time when the interviewer meant 9 am their time, which isn’t for another seven hours…

What to wear

Just because you are interviewing virtually, it doesn’t mean that you should be any less prepared or should take your interview any less seriously than if it were face to face.  It may seem odd getting dressed up without leaving your front door, but you really should dress just as formally as you would for a regular interview.  Yes, technically you could wear your pajama bottoms and fluffy slipper with a shirt and tie on top, but what if you need to get up to get something, or if the camera slips and your outfit choice is revealed?  Not only will it be ever so slightly embarrassing having your dodgy bedroom attire revealed, but it will also reveal that you don’t consider this interview to be as serious – not the best impression to give to a potential employer.

Location, location, location

You may be more comfortable perched on the end of your bed, but it doesn’t really set the right tone for an interview and you are risking having your potential employer spotting all sorts of things (I’m not even going to go there…) – choose an area of your home that is free from distraction, preferably well lit (near a window for natural light if you can) and that doesn’t suffer from bad internet signal.  If you have pets, shut yourself away from them (a visit from the cat may be cute and funny but could completely throw you if you are feeling a little nervous) and the same goes for people.  I think that most people would prefer to interview alone but if you have an overly inquisitive housemate, politely tell them to get lost and leave you alone!  A sign on the door to warn others away in a busy household will also help you to avoid having anyone burst in unexpectedly.

Double check EVERYTHING

Get yourself set up at least 30 minutes before the pre-arranged interview time.  Make sure that your internet connection is running smoothly and that your computer is ready – Skype installed and updated (the last thing you want is for Skype to start updating when you are expecting an important call in 5 minutes), no task bar full of internet windows and unsaved word documents (this will only slow your computer down and may cause unwanted pop ups or other distractions).  Carry out a few test calls on Skype to make sure that your audio levels are OK, and open up your webcam to check the camera angle and lighting.

Your secret weapon

The beauty of having your interview on Skype is that you can have a variety of things within your sight that can’t be seen by the interviewer.  Do your research on the school and the specific job you are going for  and have some notes to hand – think about the person specification and how you best fit and make yourself a list of things to try and include in your responses when being interviewed.  Try to make your notes using key words rather than full sentences; you want to remind yourself of key points to mention rather than providing yourself with an autocue.


Your computer is all set up, you are in the perfect location free from distractions, at the right time, dressed to impress and with your prepared notes within view – if you have done your research on the job you are interviewing for, all you can do now is be yourself, SELL yourself, and hope for the best.  GOOD LUCK!

Do you have any Skype interview tips that I missed out?  Feel free to leave a comment below – sharing is caring :)

TEFL 101: The Job Hunt

With the entire world at our fingertips on the internet, it is completely possible to search for jobs on the other side of the world without even getting out of bed.  Long gone are the days of lugging piles of CVs from place to place or of scouring the newspapers for jobs that had probably already been filled by the time you got in touch.  Now we are able to have immediate access to the most up to date job opportunities out there – perfect for looking for a TEFL position in any destination of your choosing.

Before exploring any of the options laid out below, make sure you have an up to date and relevant CV, a working Skype account and email address, both of which don’t have inappropriate names (sexymama101 might not be as funny to a prospective employer as it is to your friends) or profile pictures.  You may also be asked for scans of your degree certificate and transcript, your TEFL certificate and potentially a criminal record check.  It helps to have all of these things already attached to a draft email so you are good to go without having to run around looking for a working scanner at the last minute.

Websites

Quick, easy and up to date – job sites provide a hassle free way to look for a job.  Here area few websites that I have used myself when looking for a TEFL position;

ajarn.com specialises in jobs in Thailand and lets you search by area and salary

tefl.com has jobs from around the world including online work

Dave’s ESL Cafe has country specific job boards for China, Korea and beyond

Be warned – some schools are notorious for posting ads and then never getting back to the applicant, filling the position in person with a friend of a friend – don’t be put off but be aware that you may not be flooded with responses!  Persevere and over-apply – it’s always better to have a choice of job offers than becoming desperate and jumping into a position just because they said yes.

TOP TIP” be aware of and look out for scams asking for the applicant to spend hundreds of dollars in made up administration/application fees, or dodgy looking positions for phony companies.

Facebook

If you know which destination(s) you are looking at, do a few searches for expat facebook groups in the area.  These groups are not only useful for meeting other expats living in the area but will also be a good place to find local job adverts that you may not find on national websites.

A few good groups for Thailand include Teachers in Thailand, English Teaching Thailand, Thailand Foreign English Teachers Network Group, and more locally Phuket Teachers and Friends (there are similar groups for locations across Thailand.  More international groups include TEFL English Teachers Networking Group and ESL Teachers.  There are countless more groups out there, these just happen to be the ones that I have ended up joining myself.

TOP TIP: Just because you are using an informal platform for your job search, it doesn’t mean that you should treat it any differently to any other enquiry about a position.  Don’t just comment on the post – a well worded private message with a forwarding email to enable you to continue the enquiry outside of facebook is better.

REMEMBER!  Potential employers can and do check out your facebook profile before considering hiring you – so either get those privacy settings on lock down or think hard before posting that picture of you doing shots on the bar on Saturday night.

Agency work

If you find yourself moving to your destination of choice and looking for work, consider working for a teaching agency.  Yes, you should do your research first – ask around, try to speak to people who work for the agency to make sure that they are 100% legit (AKA can get you a visa and pay you a full salary).  Agency work can range from being a substitute teacher to providing maternity cover or doing one off english camps.  Many agencies are linked to a language school and so part-time evening and weekend work can become an option.  It is definitely worth considering even just to make sure you have a bit of income while you look for a more permanent position of your own.

Agency work issue of contention in the TEFL world; many, many people have had their fingers burned by agencies and so tar them all with the same brush.  You will hear tales of non payment, or broken contracts or visa troubles.  I myself was placed with an agency after completing my TEFL Heaven course and I continued to work with them for 18 months with no issues.  If anything, working for an agency meant that I got to void some of the pitfalls of working directly for a school – I was less involved in school politics and I knew that someone had my back if the proverbial hit the fan.  If I had to take a day off sick, all my classes would be covered by the agency.  All of my visa and work permit paperwork was processed by the agency with no problem.  I never had a problem with unpaid tax bills.  Yes, that agency must have been making some money off me but I earned exactly the same amount as my colleagues who were working directly for the school.  Maybe I was just lucky.

TOP TIP: If you are looking at working in the south of Thailand (Hat Yai, Songkhla and around) and don’t mind working for an agency, go say hi to Visions and see if they can help you out.

The old fashioned way

While I don’t recommend rocking up in person at every school in your chosen destination (unless you are prepared to do a lot of aimless wondering around looking for someone who can speak englishand has the time to help you), a little bit of research can go a long way.  Search the internet and find the local schools.  Get an email contact (preferably the HR department) and try your luck with an email including your CV.  Yes, many of those emails will bounce back.  Yes, many of those emails will go unanswered.  But, you may just have some luck.  I actually got my last job doing just this.  I sent out over 20 emails to schools in Phuket and of that 20 I had 3 replies, all of which were the standard we will keep your CV on file.  I didn’t have much hope.  However, 2 of those schools did keep my CV on file and did in fact get in touch when a job position came up.  Having already made the first contact I was already on the minds of the HR department and was told about the job before it had been put on job websites, putting me at an immediate advantage.

TOP TIP: It’s not a good idea to send one blanket email to all 20 schools – they can easily see that your email is completely generic, and this makes it look like you aren’t putting much effort into your job search.  Do a little bit of research and take the time to tailor each email that goes out.  Sure, you can have the same main body but adding in those little details that show you have taken the time to actually think about the school you are contacting will make you stand out from all the other emails they get asking for jobs.  It’s worth a shot!

It’s not what you know…

If you have already relocated and are frantically looking for a job, go and make friends with other teachers NOW.  Not only will they be able to tell you which schools are best to be avoided, the teachers already on the ground will be the first to find out about job positions as soon as they come up and will be able to put in a good word for you.  This is certainly the case in smaller communities where it really can be a matter of knowing the right person that will put your chances ahead of the rest.


Do you have another tried and tested method for finding a job?  Please share in the comments below…

TEFL 101: Frequently Asked Questions

TEFL101FAQ

Some people are able to pin point exactly the moment that they decided that they were going to pursue a TEFL adventure abroad, for others it is more of a slow build up than a sudden realisation – however you come around to it, soon enough thoughts of sunshine and new surroundings and cute children and idyllic classrooms begin to fill your mind.  You begin to peruse the internet reading TEFL blog after TEFL blog, looking at this course and that course, this destination and that destination…  with all of the options that are out there it can be a confusing world of TEFL courses and Internships and online courses and 60 hours and 120 hours and Asia and Europe and South America and… Here are some of the questions that I am asked here on the blog and on my facebook page, and I expect this page to grow – I will continue to update with more FAQs as they appear…


Is an online course worth as much?

Put simply (not simply) – yes, and no.  If you are just looking for a piece of paper to land any teaching job (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if you are only looking at a short term TEFL stint) then the online courses are not only cheaper, but can be completed from the comfort of your own home, in your home country.  You could even complete an online TEFL before you have even thought about booking flights or looking for a job. However, if you are looking to actually gain some in-depth learning and experience from your TEFL course, then a classroom based course is much more worth it.  Whether completed in your home country or in your destination of choice, being able to interact with other people and try out different teaching methods and activities is priceless.  Another benefit of taking part in a classroom based TEFL course, especially in your destination country, is that you will develop a network of friends that will provide a great base for future friendships throughout your time working abroad.


Are the TEFL packages offering ‘guaranteed jobs’ too good to be true?

I chose to do my TEFL course with TEFL Heaven – taking part in their 120 hour course in Koh Samui.  This course came complete with accommodation , support from TEFL Heaven before, during and after the course, and a guaranteed job at the end of it. The team at TEFL Heaven have a vast network of schools and agencies across Thailand and it does offer some sort of reassurance that there will be a job offer at the end of your course.  These jobs are mostly your run of the mill, Thai government school in a random town kind of jobs, but this is realistically what you would be looking at as a first time TEFLer anyway.  When I did my TEFL, everyone was placed near at least one other TEFL trainee from their course so no one was left completely alone and in the sticks. For me, it was a case of having the stress of a job search in a foreign land taken out of my hands, and it added a sense of adventure not knowing where we were going to end up.  I was lucky enough to get placed in the south of Thailand (hello beaches!) and although I have moved around a bit, I have always stuck to the south, so for me it really worked out well.


Which country should I pick?

This largely depends on why you are choosing to embark on your TEFL adventure. If you are in it for money, then look at countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Japan or the Middle East, or out in the sticks where it is impossible to spend any of the money you earn.  Countries in Europe also pay well, but this is offset by high costs of living. If you are looking for culture shock, countries outside of the comforts of the Western world check all the boxes, with Asia being a popular destination with TEFL opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan… each offering their own unique cultural differences. If you are looking to change the world or do your bit for humanity, then lower paid or possible unpaid positions are available all over the world, from working in the favelas of Brazil to teaching street children in India. You will also need to consider the requirements for each country – some will require a degree or will only accept those with teaching experience under their belt.


Can I get work without a degree?

This completely depends on which country you are looking at and what kind of job you are going for; countries including China, Cambodia, Russia, Mexico and Peru do NOT require a degree.  However, the majority of countries do require a degree; and in fact this will not only be a requirement to gain employment but to secure a work permit and legal visa.  Here in Thailand, plenty of people work without degrees but they are either not working as a teacher (for example, you can work in a language school as an instructor without a degree) or they are working illegally.  With immigration clamping down on every type of visa here in Thailand it is becoming more and more risky to do so.


When is the best time to look for a teaching job in Thailand?

There are many different types of schools in Thailand and so there are multiple academic calendars being followed within the country.

If you are looking for a TEFL teaching position in a Thai government school or Thai private school, their school year runs from May to October and November to March.  Most recruitment takes place during March/April for a May start, but with a high annual turnover of staff and a general lack of organisation, most Thai run schools tend to be looking for someone throughout the year.

International schools in Thailand usually follow the academic calendar of the country that their curriculum is based on, with some minor adjustments.  Most British international schools will run from August/September until June/July and most recruitment will take place during Jan/February as these schools tend to have a more rigorous interview process with multiple stages to get through.


Are you in the midst of making plans for your TEFL adventure?  Feeling lost in an ocean of TEFL confusion?  Ask away in the comments below – I promise I don’t bite!

Yet another accidental animal addition…

Yet another accidental animal addition…

cockerell-5788

Intruder alert!

Yes, that is a one-eyed cockerel.  He mysteriously appeared in the garden yesterday morning.  I’m guessing from his missing eye and the fact that he walks with a limp that he is an ex-fighter.  I’m going to ask around but I have a feeling he may have been thrown over the garden wall – we are a bit of an animal sanctuary anyway so it makes sense to add a battle worn fighting cock to the mix.  He spent the day following Marjorie around and it wasn’t until after a few hours that he actually made any attempt to have his wicked way with her.  I’m not sure what this means in terms of eggs and chicks and all that, I guess if she gets broody and sits on her eggs then perhaps we will have mini Marjories on the way!

Any ideas for a name for the gent?

chicken and chick-5781

One day child, you shall be free range like me…

In other chicken news… the chicks are well into their teenage stages of development.  Marjorie has had a turn around from her initial dislike of the chicks and now won’t leave them alone!  We actually released the chicks into the garden free range this weekend (maybe the cockerel has a taste for the younger lady and this was the reason for his arrival…) so they are having fun running around and chilling out in the shade of the banana trees.

We also have a group of four jungle fowl that have taken up semi-residence in the back of our garden.  They are like skinny, long necked chickens and I am hoping that they join the ever growing flock that I have.  We are leaving them alone but each day they edge closer and closer to us – the more the merrier I say!  Just need to brush up on my egg recipes…!

That’s all for this backyard jungle update – stay tuned for more riveting news as it comes!

James Bond Island Trip – an honest review

james bond blog

If you are looking for a travel brochure style review you are in the wrong place – this is all based on my own experience and I tell it like it is!  Feel free to skip past my musings on this trip to view my pictures at the end of the post.

The name’s Bond… James Bond.  James Bond Island to be exact.  Or, as it is actually named; Khao Phing Kan.  This island in Phang Nga bay was the setting for the bad guy’s lair in James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun.  It’s the one with a midget (sorry, little person) butler man and a lot of martial arts.

I had my family staying with me and it was their first time coming to Thailand and it was therefore my mission to try and demonstrate to them why I haven’t come back to the UK yet, mostly so my mum stops asking me and making me feel guilty (jokes… sorry mum!).  My dad has arrived armed with not one but two Phuket travel guides, and having spent many hours on not one, not two, but three flights to get here, they had all had a good look at what was on offer and had compiled a pretty jam packed list of things to do while they were here.  Going to see James Bond Island was pretty close to the top.

Personally, I’ve never fancied going on a trip to see James Bond Island.  This probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t actually like James Bond films, or activities on or near the water.  Nevertheless, the parentals were in town and the trip was being funded by the bank of mother, so now was the best time for me to check it out for myself.

Luckily for us, T had recently taken some other visiting friends to see the island a few weeks ago while I was slaving away at school (how rude) and so we had a little bit of background knowledge on whereabouts to go and a rough guide on pricing.  We weren’t keen on booking a package trip through an agent in Phuket as these almost always end up overpriced, overcrowded and always involve some sort of unwanted stop off at a crappy factory outlet store where you are given a free drink (yay!) and have to listen to a rubbish talk about an equally rubbish product that no-one actually wants (sad face).

After a lazy morning we headed up through the north of Phuket and onto mainland Thailand, Phang Nga province.  We drove for about 30 minutes, past lots of signs promising tours to James Bond Island, but these places are yet again your trusted packaged tour from your money grabbing agent.  We wanted to get to the boat man ourselves and bargain us a deal.  We reached a right hand turn off for can’t recall the name pier (really should have paid more attention).  The car park was full of Chinese and Korean tour coaches so we knew we were in the right place only it was 1-0 to us because we didn’t have to endure a visit to the driver’s wife’s cousin’s daughter’s jewel shop beforehand – winning!

No sooner had we pulled up, a rather brash woman wearing a huge sun hat was on us proclaiming, “I have boat! I have boat!” but she was quickly pushed to the side when another lady recognised T from his previous visit a few weeks ago.  “My friend!  You come back!” – everyone is a friend when money can be made.  We were swiftly escorted to the pontoon and told to wait while a boat and driver were arranged for us for the price of 2800THB for the whole group of us.  Compared to the minimum 1200THB per person that all the tour agencies want this is a good deal, and you get a boat and driver all to yourself for the afternoon.  The boats could easily seat 12 people (they definitely squeeze on at least 20 Chinese/Koreans but I’m being realistic/not ridiculously unsafe) so at that price it could work out at a really cheap price per person.

Our driver was called Khun Wim and he was happy to follow our lead for the afternoon. We started our journey travelling up river among the mangroves, which quickly opened out into the sea of Phang Nga bay and those infamous limestone cliffs jutting out of the water.  It’s stunning scenery, but when you cast your eyes down from the ginormous cliffs you see the sheer amount of boats out on the water ferrying mostly Korean and Chinese tourists around the bay.  Maybe during low season it might be a different story.

Khun Wim our driver - he put on the hat especially for this picture!

Khun Wim our driver – he put on the hat especially for this picture!

Our first stop was to go canoeing – this was at an extra cost to our original price but we were aware of this.  We paid 400THB per person to be canoed around by friendly Thai guys who pointed out rocks shaped like elephants and took us through caves that were so small you had to lay down flat in the canoe.  Last time that T went they had to pay 500THB… so the price is probably only 250 or 300 in reality.  Next time…!  Again, the landscape was beautiful, and it was really fun going in and out of the caves but doing so among hundreds of other people wasn’t quite the idyllic experience.  I’m getting more and more keen to check this place out once tourist season is over.

Next on our itinerary was James Bond island itself.  Our driver told us that for 200THB per person (surprise, another added cost) we could go onto the actual island and walk around.  We took one look at the island, with streams of tourists moving from crap shop to crap shop and decided we were happy taking pictures from the water.  We went around the island, our driver making sure we got all the good angles and were happy with our pictures before moving on to our next destination.  I’ll be honest; the actual James Bond island part of this trip was probably the worst bit – the canoeing and our next destination were definitely much more enjoyable.  Seeing James Bond island is more to be able to say you’ve been there, and have the picture on facebook to prove it.

James Bond Island itself

James Bond Island itself in all it’s glory

Our third and final destination was Koh Panyee (which I have written about before here) – a place that I have always wanted to visit since seeing the story of their floating football pitch in a Thai advert and on a Vice documentary on YouTube.  This floating community seem to have set up camp where the environment makes it almost impossible to do so – completely built on stilts with no dry ground to speak of – it’s a good thing they like eating fish.  We had a top notch dinner stop (affording our driver to claim his free plate of fried rice) which actually wasn’t too expensive and was really, really tasty.  Side note: this is a Muslim community (the shining golden mosque dominating the village is a slight giveaway) so please don’t do what my dad did, and ask for a large Chang beer while also wearing a Chang vest.  Cringe.  After our food we went on a quick explore through the village; we had to tunnel through endless lanes of more crap souvenier shops before getting to the parts where the locals hang out.  We were mostly interested in seeing the floating football pitch, so after making our way there we headed back to our driver, who took us back to the pier where our car was parked.

Koh Panyee from the water

Koh Panyee from the water

The whole trip was just under 4 hours long – plenty of time to do and see all that we wanted to.  We kept our driver’s number this time so that we can come back during low season to see what it is like without being surrounded by other people!

Here are some pictures of the day – as much as I complained about the amount of people and the little hidden costs, it was really nice to explore the area and I think the pictures say it all.

Click on any image to take a closer look.