Photo: Naosuke Il
WHEN I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE, I had no idea what I wanted to do. A career path wasn’t really apparent, and I had a degree that, although useful for some jobs, wasn’t particularly helpful for me. Spending that next year working a dead-end job, and battling a constant feeling of wanderlust, I decided to finally make some moves.
I had been told that taking time off to travel would significantly put me behind in the race to get a career going, so making the decision to teach English abroad was a difficult one. I grappled with the decision but after doing some research and reaching out to others through TEFL sites like Maximo Nivel and Dave’s ESL Café, I found a bit of a community and a whole lot of validation for my decision.
After a year teaching in China and more than seven months in Southeast Asia, I can confidently say that teaching abroad doesn’t mean that you have to put your career on hold. In fact, I found quite the opposite to be true. How did teaching abroad help me build my career while traveling at the same time?
I gained a TON of new skills.
I learned how to be a teacher while on the job in China. The skills I learned to write lesson plans and teach my classes went well beyond being useful only as a teacher. I learned a sense of independence in my work, creating a plan and implementing it from scratch, how to manage the behavior of a group of people, and how to stand up in front of a room and talk.
I learned about working in an office setting.
Before my teaching job, I had never worked in an office setting before. Things like the copy machine scared the hell out of me and the concept of office culture was completely foreign. Since many jobs out there on the market require people to work in office settings, learning these social and mechanical skills was useful to me.
The networking opportunities.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Teaching English abroad allowed me to make valuable connections with many different professionals. Not only was I able to connect with my co-workers but also local people in China too. And, many of the friends and professional connections that I’ve made are all from various countries which gives future opportunities a larger dynamic.
The entrepreneurial opportunities.
I learned quite a few things about being an entrepreneur while teaching abroad. There were many opportunities for me to find and take on private students outside of my actual job. I learned how to negotiate fees, gather resources and plan out lessons without any help from my employers.
Becoming more cultured.
Being cultured is an underrated advantage to teaching English abroad. It certainly doesn’t hurt your resume to speak a bit of a foreign language or understand more about the world than your competition for a job. Overall, being more cultured makes you seem more well rounded.
The ability to adapt.
Being adaptable is a huge plus for you as a potential employee. With an international job on your resume, employers can see that you were able to adapt in some of the most difficult of circumstances. Being able to learn new job skills while dealing with culture shock, diving into a new language and living out of your comfort zone shows just how adaptable you can be.
Learning about yourself.
Traveling and living abroad teaches you a lot about yourself as a person. My experience taught me about what I was capable of as a person, an employee and as a foreigner in a new place. I also got enough experience to understand what I wanted out of a career which helped me get on the right career path once I returned home from teaching.
The opportunities for jobs after leaving.
Due to the networking I accomplished on the job, I was able to easily find other teaching jobs after leaving my first teaching gig. I’ve picked up online students and also have a well rounded resume for finding teaching jobs in any part of the world, including my own country.