One of the big reasons why someone might be hesitant to teach abroad is that they don't want to jeopardize their long-term career goals by dropping everything and moving abroad for an extended period of time. However, there's no need to be afraid! In fact, going abroad as a teacher can be a great resume builder for a wide variety of careers. Here's 9 things that you will learn while teaching abroad that can help your job prospects no matter what field you go into!
1. Communication skills
- This is a no-brainer. As a teacher in a foreign country, you are likely teaching English as a foreign language, so it goes without saying that you will develop some amazing communication skills during your time teaching, and hone your existing skills. When language barriers come up, it is up to you to overcome them in constructive and positive ways, whether you’re trying to explain the nuances of certain words to your students, or just trying to differentiate between foods while you’re at a market. Find ways to convey this to potential employers (come up with examples of when you overcame a communication-related challenge, or be prepared to discuss strategies that you used to overcome those challenges), and they will understand that the challenges of communication in a professional setting will be no match for what you’ve already conquered.
2. Intercultural skills
- Navigating the cultural landscape of a new place, let alone holding down a job as a teacher there, is not something that everyone can do. As a teacher, you should take pride in this, so why not use it on your resume as well? Plenty of career paths value intercultural skills, especially if it’s a public facing role Consider having a story ready about overcoming cultural barriers that you can share in conversation or when prompted by a prospective employer, and it will help them understand that you are a tolerant and understanding individual that does not let differences in culture get in the way of meaningful human interaction.
- Depending on the country, this can take many forms. Whether you’re navigating the shock of vast socio-cultural differences, or just learning how to use foreign toilet designs, anyone who has spent more than a week living in a foreign country and survived can confidently put down “resourceful” as one of their positive traits. Imagine the following situation in an interview:
“So, one of your strengths that you listed on your cover letter was resourcefulness. What was a time in your life when you demonstrated resourcefulness?”
“Well, last year I decided to move to Vietnam and become an English teacher for a year. It was completely different from any experience I’ve had before, and it was an extremely rewarding experience that taught me a lot about how to make the most of any situation, even being a stranger in a foreign country.”
- Similar to resourcefulness, adaptability is certainly a good trait that you can leverage after living and teaching abroad for any period of time. While abroad, you’ll need to adapt to a different place, a different job, and depending on the location, a vastly different culture than what you’re used to. In today’s world, professionals in almost all fields are usually expected to perform a variety of different tasks and be light on their feet when given new roles and responsibilities to juggle. Make sure to have a quick summary ready of how you adapted to everyday life, but also to difficult special situations, if they happen to occur while you are abroad.
5. Interpersonal skills
- This goes hand in hand with communication in many ways. As a teacher abroad, you will have to navigate difficult challenges in and out of the classroom. You will have to rely on your interpersonal skills to carry you through language barriers and cultural differences that would often divide people. Employers will value this skill, because if you can manage a classroom of children who can’t speak the same language as you, you can likely manage the interpersonal challenges of other professional environments.
- Teaching abroad is a huge responsibility. You are responsible for your students’ educational wellbeing for the duration of your employment, you are responsible for your conduct as an informal ambassador for your home country, and you are responsible for yourself to make sure you make it through your time abroad with as few hiccups as possible, both in and out of the classroom. Demonstrating a willingness to take on responsibility like that will look good in the eyes of employers, who will want someone who is not afraid to take on new and challenging tasks in the workplace.
- Living abroad isn’t for everyone. It takes drive and dedication to go from your familiar life at home to a completely new place to take on the responsibilities of a teacher. Make sure to demonstrate that when you talk about your abroad experiences with potential employers, and they are more likely to see you as a self-starter who pursues their goals no matter how much effort it requires.
8. Time management & Planning
- By the end of your time teaching abroad, you will have developed effective habits of time management and planning that will carry over into whatever comes next. You can mention how you run your classes, the time you spend grading and lesson planning, or even travelling during your leisure time to drive this point home: Living abroad requires strong planning and time management skills that are essential to excelling in a professional environment that often requires employees to juggle a number of different projects and responsibilities.
9. Living abroad is a great conversation starter
- For most people, interviews are extremely nerve-wracking and often awkward as a result. The best way to ease the tension in an interview and ensure that you display all your good qualities is to approach it less like an interrogation and more like a conversation. Teaching abroad gives you an extremely interesting topic to chat about, especially if it was recent. If the interviewer asks you to discuss your recent employment history, you can say that you just got back from teaching abroad, which can easily lead to a discussion that demonstrates the skills listed above. Don’t be afraid to show how much you love teaching abroad, either. It shows that you are passionate about something, which automatically makes you more interesting and likable. Depending on the role you are interviewing for, consider practicing a 60-second description of your time abroad that includes examples that display qualities that make you a good fit for the job you are applying for.
We hope that this list helps quell your fears of going abroad, or is helpful for former teachers looking for ways to use their abroad experience to boost their resume. Safe travels, and happy hunting!