In a previous post, we looked at how to build a good TEFL CV. However, while this should help your CV to write itself, you still have to sit down and write it.
Do people still use CVs?
Yes, if you look on websites for TEFL jobs they very often ask you to send your CV and other documentation. In my experience of recruiting TEFL teachers, CVs are very often badly written. Some people send their CVs to so-called professional CV writers, but in my experience this is no substitute for learning to write a well-crafted CV yourself. Ultimately, the job of your CV is to sell you to a company who have never met you, and no ‘professional CV writer’ should know you better than you know yourself.
It is probably helpful to think about how your CV will be used. An academic manager will look at your CV and wants to make a decision about giving you an interview. Essentially, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. To do this we need to keep in mind that our CV should clearly communicate reasons why they should say yes. As an academic manager, one of the things that annoys me most about CVs is when I have to look carefully to find why the candidate might be suitable. In this case, their CV will probably end up in my bin after a minute, possibly less.
Before you start
The first step is to collect together all the information you will need to or could put in your CV. I started a number of tables in a word document containing the details of all the various information I could put in my CV and pretty soon ended up with 26 pages of information. This included details of everywhere I studied, every certification, qualification or award I have received, every job I have ever worked, every skill I have, and details of people who would give me a good reference. Of course, I was not going to make a 26 page CV – the point is that you need all the information to hand, and some things which you have done before that are not relevant to the post you are applying for may be relevant to a future application.
How to structure a CV
This depends on the stage of your TEFL career. There are generally two types of CV – either functional or chronological. A chronological CV is the more traditional format that lists all your recent job history and then explains the responsibilities of each one. This works best for people who have a clear progression from one job to the next. A functional CV focuses on your skills, listing these first and examples of how these were demonstrated in positions you have held. The employment history is then stripped to just the positions, employers and dates. This type of CV is better for career changers (as you can highlight transferable skills), or those without much experience (as you can highlight examples from education).
Another question is often whether you should list your education or employment history first. Generally, employment is listed first but education may appear first if you are a recent graduate. However, if you have a particular qualification (CELTA, DELTA, trinity CertTESOL, DipTESOL, MA, etc.) you will want this to be one of the first things the employer sees. In this case, we can put it into a section at the beginning called profile or objective.
The most important thing an employer needs to know when they receive a CV is whose CV is this. Therefore the obvious thing to do is to put your name in the header in large letters. A common mistake people make is to type Curriculum Vitae instead. This is pointless – if your CV looks like a CV the manager will know that this is what it is. If it doesn’t, you need to rewrite it.
The second most important thing is your contact details. For a tefl position, this is likely to mean your email address, skype name and current location. It is unlikely that a school will want to correspond with you by snail mail, and unless the job is in the same country, they are pretty unlikely to call you. If you don’t have a skype account, it is definitely worth getting one, since this tends to be used by schools everywhere. In countries where it is blocked, you may wish to have a similar service like google Hangouts.
The objective or personal profile
The next section which commonly follows on a CV is a few sentences about you. This is an opportunity to sell yourself in about three sentences by summarising your highest qualification, your best skills and qualities and the position that you want. A good way to begin this section is with a sentence using the formula below:
|Up to 3 adjectives||Qualification||Position||Further quality||What you want|
|Motivated, innovative and diligent||Tefl-certified
|with an eye for detail
with an MA in [relevant subject]
|seeking teaching/management position where my [skill/experience] will be utilised and further expanded upon.|
Two further sentences can be added to this section using phrases such as “proven ability to…” or “track record of …” to introducing further skills, qualities and achievements.
If you are following the chronological model, the next section will include details of your previously held positions. You should provide:
- the job title you held – if you changed position you can write as “teacher/senior teacher”
- the dates you worked there – month and year
- the name and location of the organisation
- a description of your duties and responsibilities
When writing about your responsibilities, bear in mind what an employer wants to know i.e. what groups you taught, did you take on extra responsibilities, did you train other teachers, did you supervise other teachers. The employer does not want to know that you worked between 3pm and 10pm, or that you
Find out what you need
Once you know what you want, your next step is to research those positions. You may not find the perfect position, which is fine – you are not going to be in a position to apply tomorrow anyway. When you are ready, the position may open up, or you may be able to make another position into the one you want. Before you get to that stage however, you need to find out what similar positions ask for. For example, if you want to be a Director of Studies, you will probably find that you need (among other things):
- C2 or native English proficiency
- DELTA or equivalent
- 5 years teaching experience (minimum)
- experience of observing teachers and giving feedback
- experience of running teacher training workshops
Obviously, to stand a decent chance of getting your perfect TEFL job, you will therefore need to build a CV that includes all of these points.
As we can see from this short list, there are three areas in which we particularly need to think about – Qualifications, Experience and Skills.
If you want to rise through the ranks in TEFL, you are eventually likely to need a DELTA or equivalent on your CV. In some cases even this may not be enough, as an increasing number of teachers have MAs, and some also have PGCEs and other mainstream (public school) teaching qualifications and certifications.
Knowing that a DELTA is likely to be necessary in the future, if you are a native speaker it makes sense to start out by getting CELTA (or equivalent), or doing this as soon as possible if you have already started teaching without, as this is the entry requirement for most DELTA courses (most other TEFL certificates will not be sufficient). For non-natives, it really depends on what other qualifications you have as to whether CELTA is worth it, since DELTA courses set their own entry criteria, and they may be willing to recognise a locally obtained diploma in pedagogy.
Is CELTA worth it?
Some people will point out that CELTA and DELTA and their equivalents are expensive courses, and that is true. From an employer’s perspective however they tell two key things:
- You are willing to invest both time and money in your professional development. This shows that you are confident enough in your abilities to invest in yourself.
- You have been trained in communicative language teaching by trainers who must meet requirements set by Cambridge (or Trinity for its equivalent courses). This training includes observed teaching practice and therefore assumptions can be made about your level of knowledge and teaching ability.
For a more in-depth look at reasons why you should do CELTA, read here.
Many positions may ask for a certain number of years experience. While meeting this number may get you into an interview, this may be little help if you haven’t gained quality experience.
How to get quality experience?
One way you can ensure you gain quality experience to put on your CV is to work for TEFL schools accredited by organisations such as the British Council, EAQUALS, English UK and others. Accredited schools are required to meet and maintain standards in their schools, otherwise they would lose their accredited status. In particular, schools are required to observe teachers regularly, something which you are likely to be asked about in an interview. Further, such schools must provide further training and professional development.
Of course, if you really want your tefl CV to stand out, it doesn’t hurt to work for some of the well-known TEFL chains or franchises such as the British Council, International House, English First, Language Link, Wall Street English or Amideast.
If big name or accredited schools are not available to you immediately, you can still get quality experience elsewhere. However, this will require you to research the school or to ask questions at the interview stage (which is advisable in any case). In particular you want to know:
- Does the school conduct observations? How often? How is feedback given? (3 or 4 times, particularly in your first year, is a good amount with written and verbal feedback given).
- How often does the school run training workshops or seminars for teachers? (Many schools run weekly training seminars)
- Does the school run or pay for any other training for teachers? Will the school support you to take further training? (Many small schools will not pay for further training, but at the least they should be flexible about you doing further training, especially if you are paying for it!)
- Does the school have a professional development policy or framework? You should have the opportunity to discuss your career goals and progress with a more experienced teacher.
As we saw from the short list for a DOS position above, not only do you need to gain quality teaching experience, but you also need to have experienced some of the duties which you are likely to perform in that position. The same is true if you wish to be an examiner, a teacher trainer or a materials writer.
In some schools, there may be clear opportunities which exist, or which present themselves from time to time. For example, if you need experience of observing and giving feedback to teachers, your school may allow for more experienced teachers to line manage less experienced teachers. If you need experience of assessing English, your school may run mock IELTS exams which you can get involved in.
However, if your school doesn’t have these opportunities, it comes down to you to find ways to gain that experience. For example, to get experience of observing and giving feedback, you could arrange a peer observation with a colleague. If you need experience of running training workshops, you could identify something that would help other teachers and ask your director of studies about running a session on it.
Some useful ways to gain experience:
|Experience||How to get relevant experience||Extra advice|
|Assessing English||– regular assessment with students
– placement testing
– get involved in mock testing
– design and carry out assessments
|Read about assessment theory in order to talk about assessment using appropriate vocabulary.|
|Running training sessions||– participate fully in sessions you attend and you may be asked
– volunteer to run sessions
– share positive experiences you had in class
– offer to cascade training from a course or conference you attended
|Keep your training session plans and materials as you may be called upon to do these again|
|Line managing teachers||– offer to support new teachers when they arrive (even if this is pastoral rather than academic)
– build good relationships with all of your colleagues, even those who you wouldn’t like to socialise with
|Giving feedback to teachers||– arrange a peer observation with a colleague and agree to share feedback||Note how your managers give feedback to you. Which managers are most effective at this and what techniques do you notice?|
|Writing materials||– write your own materials to use in your lessons
– share your materials with other teachers in your school
– seek feedback on your materials from students and colleagues and adapt them accordingly
|Become aware of a wide range of already published materials. Try to understand what the writer was trying to achieve and judge their effectiveness in this regard.|
Should I stay or should I go?
Not only should you seek out quality experience, but it will also be important to show an employer that you have some staying power beyond simply completing your contract. An employer will be instantly suspicious of a candidate who has done a few months in several different schools. Equally, an employer will regard a candidate as suspicious if they have moved on at the end of every contract. The question going through their mind is “was this person offered a new contract, or did they move because they had to?” The safest way around this assumption is to aim to stay for a second contract as much as possible.
On the other hand, the opposite can work against you if you have spent a long time in one company. If you have stayed for more than 5 years, the concern would be that you will not be able to adapt to a different working context. That said, this is far less likely to be a concern than moving on too regularly, and it is fairly easily countered by showing that over the time you have grown and adapted to (or even lead) changes within the school.
For non-native speakers, the most important skill you need to work on and evidence is your English ability. You are likely to require C2 level in any position of responsibility and this will typically need to be evidenced by a certificate such as IELTS or the Cambridge CPE. For native speakers, you may need to attain a level within the language of the context in which you are working. Even if you do not, attaining a good level in the local language will be helpful in communicating with different members of staff and shows your commitment to working in a particular country for a longer period.
What are you doing to build your tefl CV? Do you have any tips to add?
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