I came to a decision last spring that I would spend the next four years (while my youngest finished high school) saving as much money as I could so that I could move abroad after she graduated. In October it was time to renew the lease on my apartment. Being the procrastinator that I am it is unsurprising that I dropped the ball on finding a new, cheaper place. As I contemplated the options available on my current apartment I chose the longest term available as it gave me the lowest monthly rent. I lamented to my dear friend K about the hassle and expense of having to move next August so that I could find a cheaper place. I was telling her how my car would be paid off in September (next year) so along with the cheaper rent I’d be able to save a lot of money. My friend K asked me why not just travel or move abroad now instead of waiting. I thought about it and really could not think of too many reasons to stay. At this point, I was not decided. But as the school year began and I realized that I was done with teaching public school. I won’t go into the reasons why but just know that this decision was a long time coming.
I have a few friends that had abroad and they all told me that I should start my job search early. Did I mention I have a tendency to procrastinate? Yeah…I looked at job openings and even joined one of the sites a friend suggested since she’d used it successfully. But that’s just it. I did a lot of “looking” but no “applying”. You’re probably wondering the reason behind my inaction. I wish I knew. But anyway fast forward to the end of January and a hiring fair held here in Houston for schools located in Latin America. I saw this fair mentioned on the site I joined. Now, none of my friends ever mentioned attending any such events so it wasn’t something I had initially planned to do. I decided to attend mostly because it was here in town. Most of the other fairs were being held in London or Bangkok.
My experiences/advice can be categorized as follows:
Registration and Fees I was surprised to learn that applicants have to pay to attend these things. In my experience, job fairs are usually free for participants. I am quite frugal and wasn’t sure that I’d get $109 worth of value from attending. Now, of course, had I registered earlier it would have only been $89. Again with the procrastination…When I asked my friend K she told me, and I quote, “pay the damn money”. So I did.
The fair was being held on a Friday and Saturday. I didn’t register until Friday afternoon. Why do you ask? In order to register, you needed to upload your CV (curriculum vitae). Mine wasn’t done until Friday afternoon. Again this is another area of procrastination for me. Maybe I need to work on this… In my defense, I did have a work thing that I could not skip so I couldn’t attend on Friday anyway. (I don’t suggest attending on the second/last day of a fair. It seemed like most of the action had taken place on Friday. I kept thinking about how picked-over it felt.)
IF I’d registered in a more timely manner I would have been able to access the list of schools in attendance and the openings they had. I also could have actually prepared for the interviews. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
What to Do BEFORE Attending Do some recon on the schools in attendance. This sounds like a no-brainer of course but I think it is important to state anyway. I didn’t do any research at all. Don’ t be like me. It isn’t so much that I didn’t know things about specific schools (which surely would have been helpful) but I didn’t really understand how international schools function. All of my experience has been in public American schools.
Determine what your preferences really are. Do you have a specific country or region in mind? In the beginning of my search I thought that I really didn’t care where I ended up. I’d envisioned teaching in the Middle East or Southeast Asia but felt open to just about anywhere. But the more time I spent thinking it became clear that I really wanted to learn Spanish at this point in my life. Obviously this meant I needed to be in Latin America or Spain. The sooner you can figure this out you’ll save yourself some time and hassle.
What to Bring to the Hiring Fair
Make sure you have physical copies of your CV, teaching certification, contact information for references.
Depending on the size of the event it would probably be a good idea to bring your laptop or some other device in case you need to access files, check school websites, or a host of over things. Especially if you have down time between interviews.
As old school as it sounds bring a pen and a notepad. When I spoke with schools I wanted to make note of some of the benefits and numbers they rattled off so I could compare them later. I also wanted to write down the names of the various people I spoke to in case I needed to send a followup email.
Interviews At some schools I did what they termed a “pre-interview”. To be honest this was a chance for the school representatives to see my CV and determine if it was worth their time to even talk to me. If they deemed me worthy I was given a time for a real interview later in the day.
Practice, practice, practice!!! I was so out of practice it wasn’t even funny. You need to be prepared for the kinds of questions they might ask like:
What is your teaching philosophy?
Describe a typical day in your classroom.
What are some examples of innovative things you’ve done with students?
Why do you want to teach abroad?
Be prepared to ask questions of the interviewer(s). I was not. Maybe you’re starting to sense a theme here…I don’t just mean questions about pay and benefits. You should be able to ask intelligent questions about the school, the position, and the community. I’ve had pretty good results asking the interviewer their favorite thing about the school.
Despite my missteps I do feel that attending this hiring fair was a positive experience. I learned A LOT (admittedly most of it is what not to do). I also have at least 3 solid leads on positions for next year. When/if I get an offer I’ll write a post about it.