A rollercoaster. This is the term I would use to define my first year officially “on the market” as an international educator. There were many ups and downs during the process, and fortunately for our family it ended very well. Having said that, here are a few lessons that I have learned along the way:
- Know what you want. It seems obvious, but is an essential part of the search process. Your goal shouldn’t be to get a job. That’s easy. Your goal should be to get the “right job.” And in order to get the “right job” you need to know what parameters define it – both personally and professionally. What are you looking for in your new school? What are you looking for in your host country? What are you willing to be flexible on and what are your non-negotiables? If you don’t have a firm understanding of what you want, you don’t know what to look for. And if you don’t know what to look for, you won’t know if you’ve found it.
- Know who you are. Recognize that you aren’t perfect. Like everyone, you have strengths and you have weaknesses. Understand them. Then, to use a sporting analogy, play to your strengths and use your weaknesses as areas of growth. We can always find ways to improve ourselves. And be mindful that while technology will not replace teachers, a teacher with technology skills will replace a teacher without them.
- 30 minutes. That’s about all the time you have to sell yourself in an interview, whether via Skype or in person. Reconcile the fact that this span of time doesn’t define who you are as a person, however from a recruiter’s perspective it defines whether you have the skills, aptitudes, and qualifications to be a good fit for their school. Practice, practice, practice. Then make it count. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
- It isn’t all about you. Or maybe it is if you’re single. But if you are a family then a whole host of other factors come into play. Your spouses’ job prospects, the age of your children and whether the school and the environment will be a good fit for everyone. And if you have pets … you get the idea.
- People first. Throughout the process you will meet, and hopefully interview with, many a School Director or Principal. Some you will really connect with. Some you won’t. During this recruiting cycle we have met some wonderful individuals representing various schools, and even though most schools were not matches for our situation, we definitely came away from some interviews with a sense of “Wow, I would definitely love to work with them!”After all, “goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else it is about how we treat other people.” (Dennis Prager)
- “The match.” Obvious but important. If you are a teaching couple this makes all the difference. There has to be both a job for you and your spouse. Depending on what positions you are both seeking this could be easier said than done. Vacancies are very fluid so matches might appear, or conversely they might just as easily disappear. Keep your eyes and ears open, and be mindful of this aspect of the recruiting process, because even though everyone might like each other and want to move forward, if there is no match it just won’t happen.
- Network, network, network. When you get right down to it the international teacher circle is fairly small. Someone knows someone who has worked with someone who … you get the drift. Ask your colleagues, visit school websites, and when you travel make it a point to visit the school there and put your foot in the door – you never know.
- Plan B. Sometimes things just don’t work out. Were this to happen, what is your Plan B? While hopefully you will not need to use Plan B, you do need to have a Plan B – because otherwise it is just too easy to “settle.” And with most initial contracts being two years, that is a long time to be settling for and rueing the could’a/should’a/would’a scenarios. Hindsight is always 20/20.
- Papers, papers, papers. Whether you are establishing a file with a recruiting agency, or have already sealed the deal, you will need to have your papers in order. Prepare early and make sure you know where to find either originals or copies of your important documentation (think things like your birth certificate, various degrees, any Professional Learning certificates, etc.) Better yet, scan and file them in a new digital folder that you can revert to when the need arises.
And that’s about it I think. So wherever you are in the search process I wish you luck and hope that this information has been somewhat useful. If I forgot to add something let me know.
“So … be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way!” (Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss)