A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

Should I use a TEFL Recruiter?

Are they all bad?

Tough issue.  I used one for my first job.  And this was back when many recruiters charged as much as US$500 for placement.  (pre-Internet they could get away with that!)  Even though I had been in the Peace Corps, I was not an EFL teacher in the PC, I still had no idea where to start.  So, I used one - and it worked out. 


Was my first placement problem free?  Hell no!  I lived in eight places in the first eight months (from literally a closet to a shared apartment, to finally - a nice new apartment).  My first school got out of the TEFL business and left me essentially unemployed in a strange land.  But, my recruiter handled it all and actually got me upgraded to a college job. All of a sudden I went from one week of vacation per year - to four months paid vacation!  Wow!

Was I Lucky?

Yes and no.  I was patient and dealt with my recruiter in a reasonable way.  I asked for their assistance.  I didn't demand it, swear at them, call them crooks and criminals, or demand an investigation!  Many others did react in such ways.  Because I was reasonable - and behaved in a culturally appropriate way - my recruiter tried hard to solve my problems and - in the end - did a great job.

Western Assertiveness - (this IS important!)

Western assertiveness an be your greatest downfall.  Other cultures deal with problems in different ways.  Try to learn the most appropriate way to get things done - to get the things done that you want done.  I always knew what I wanted, what I needed, but I used their cultural behavior to get it done.  Overassertive behavior would not have worked.  I got what I wanted, many others didn't.  I don't care who is right or who is wrong.  I just want done what I need to have done.  Period.  Follow the cultural rules.  They work.

My Favorite Phrases

What did I say for getting things done - even when it wasn't my fault and I knew someone was jacking me around?  "I'm sorry I am such a problem - can you help me with this?"  Another one that works well is, "What would you do if you had this problem?"  Swallow your pride.  Life overseas is more like a fun cultural game.  Learn how to play it - so YOU win.  It is fun and challenging to figure out.

The "What would you do . . ." question got me a driver's license in Taiwan, only seconds after the same clerk told me it was impossible - as my USA license had expired a few days before.  I asked her the question - she stamped the forms - and gave me my license!  Getting angry and assertive would not have worked.  She was right, she was following the law and had every right to refuse my request.  But because I asked for her help and advice - she gave me a license.

Recruiter or Not?

Up to you.  Check them out - ask on the boards.  BUT - check out the employer just as you would if you found the job yourself.  Because a recruiter finds you a job, does not mean you have to take it!  Check out every angle.

Would I use one again?

Sure, if I thought it would help me find what I wanted.  Do most people overseas agree with me?  Probably not.  But why not take every advantage you can to improve your situation?


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