How to Land a Job Teaching English in Paradise

Posted July 2, 2013 by Lauren Manuel in Expat Life

While English teaching jobs are a dime a dozen, finding a job in a beautiful place is not quite as easy.  When it comes to Asia, the big, polluted cities have plenty of positions to go around.  But as soon you seek to live outside the city and stay close to mountains, the ocean and the great outdoors, there are none to be heard of.  As a teacher currently living on the tropical island of Koh Samui, I can honestly say I am one of the lucky ones. Both my husband and I teach on the island and get to explore waterfalls, nearby islands and snorkeling beaches.  But it didn’t come easily. Here are some tips on finding a job in the most desirable places:

1. Go door-to-door.

This is quite a mission in comparison to clicking a button and sending an email.  Schools and language academies in the best locations always have people literally knocking on their doors.  We arrived in Koh Samui, loved the look of it and went around on our scooter with resumes.  Wherever we saw signs beckoning prospective teachers, we paid them a visit.

2.  Look presentable and respect the cultural dress code.

While this may seem like common sense, when you’re on a tropical island, the last thing you’re likely to wear is a suit, trousers and formal dress, but believe me, it goes a long way.  In a country like Thailand where the dress code is what they dub ‘polite’ and conservative, you don’t want to stroll in wearing a beach dress or vest and ask for a job.  Despite having a degree, TEFL and a smart dress on, my first classes were taken away as I had revealed my shoulders. Shocking, I know, but luckily I found another better job and I learned my lesson.

3.  Digital attack.

Once you have disseminated your CV, smile and good manners all over your desired location, increase your chances by following up with emails.  I found an online Koh Samui directory of schools and emailed all the ones I had not come across on our island recce.  Some replied and many didn’t, but at least I was covering all my bases.  Companies are not big on replying to emails in Thailand, but in the end it landed me a job.

4. It pays to be persistent.

Even though I knew that international schools usually only employ certified teachers, I continued to send reminder emails that I was very keen to work at the school.  After a few weeks of no replies, while I working at a language academy, I received an email asking me to come in for an interview.  Turns out that I came at the right time and two teachers who had worked there for years were leaving.

5. Keep in mind that paradise isn’t perfect.

Living on an island with coconut palms and a turquoise ocean may sound perfect, but that isn’t always the case.  Sometimes holiday-making regions are more expensive as they know the constant stream of tourists will pay high prices.

Even though you’re in a stunning place, doesn’t mean the problem of work visas disappear.  As we’ve discovered, employers are not keen to sponsor work visas due to the transient nature of island life and because they know that more teachers will come along.  Many language academies allow staff to work illegally on tourist visas. Aside from the risk of being caught, the regular visa runs prove quite expensive.

6. Sign a contract.

To this day, I have not signed a contract detailing my work hours, pay rate and any obligations I have to the school.  This is dangerous for me as they could ask me to continue taking on more responsibility, which I did not previously agree to and is risky for them as I could run away at any time.  From the get go, clarify your work terms, salary, medical insurance and visas to save you the trouble of having to argue with the school about who said they would cover which costs.

About the Author

Lauren Manuel

Six continents later, Lauren still has itchy feet and wanderlust for adventure in all corners of the earth. Together with her husband, she is traveling the world pausing only to find work, take photos and write. She is currently mentoring English teachers in rural Malaysia and sharing everything about her expat life on WildJunket. Follow her wanderings on The Travel Manuel .

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