Make sure you (and your partner/family) are ready to go. Do you have the travel bug or yearn for adventure in unknown parts of the world? Are you in a place in your life where you know you want to experience more than the same daily routine? Do you have a great sense of humour, flexibility and the ability to cope with any situation? Do you feel secure in your teaching practice? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, then you are the sort of person who will have a successful and rewarding time internationally. Relocating overseas is an experience that changes your life, in both expected and surprising ways, but it is not for the faint-hearted.

Think about what is important to you – your deal-breakers.

Do you want the experience for a chance to make some extra dollars? International schools usually offer free rental, medical insurance and flights home, giving you the added benefit of renting out your house. Do you want to travel around Europe or Asia or the Middle East? Think about how many plane trips you will need to take to get to different countries, especially if you are travelling with children. Is weather important to you? If you can’t see yourself living in humidity or extreme weather conditions, rethink where you might be willing to go. Is it an issue whether the school is ‘for profit’ or ‘non-profit’? Do you need a large expat community in an established city or would a small school in a developing country suit you better? Your views on access to hospitals, clean air, savings potential, etc. are also worth considering.

Start researching.

Find an organisation with a proven track record of placing teachers in quality schools. The growth in international schools around the world has been massive – there are currently over 7,500 – and conditions and benefits vary greatly. Find someone who can help you sort out which schools are worth applying for and who will look after you.

You can choose to ‘cold call’ schools yourself, but be aware that you will go into the pool with thousands of other teachers. Recruiters at international schools are usually the Head of School. They often don’t get time to read resumés thoroughly and appreciate using a company that screens teachers and prepares them for life overseas.

Talk to as many people as you can for personal recommendations and to bounce ideas off others. A contact already overseas will offer invaluable information.

Attend an information event or recruiting fair.

Teaching in an international school is one of the best-kept secrets in the teaching profession. Some teachers take their first position abroad thinking that it will be their last. However, once started on the ‘international circuit’ many teachers make international education an extended career choice for the excitement, discovery and fulfilment offered.

Consequently, competition is fierce. Researching the best way to apply for these positions yourself and attending an information seminar means that you can find out what schools abroad really want in a teacher. For example, teaching couples with more than two children find it difficult to be placed as tuition, accommodation, flights and medical insurance are provided for the whole family. Also there are different requirements for some countries
to issue visas, and marital status, qualifications, criminal convictions, etc. are all important considerations.

Recruiting fairs are a great way to find out more about schools and living overseas as each school runs a 30-minute presentation. Heads of School are available to meet with and jobs are often offered on the spot.

Seek the advice of a reputable financial advisor.

It’s preferable to find an advisor who has experience with expat taxation issues. Prior knowledge can save you thousands of dollars when it comes to learning about taxation as a resident/non-resident, impacting on your earnings within the country and maximising the savings you make whilst overseas.

Being proactive in preparing for a career teaching internationally can be a daunting task, but it is the chance of a lifetime to immerse yourself in a new country and a new culture, to see new places, learn new things and reinvent yourself.

Nick Kendell is director of Search Associates Australia and New Zealand, the largest international teacher recruitment company in the world. He will be delivering information seminars in Christchurch on Thursday 16 July and in Auckland on Saturday 18 July.

Recruitment fair – one teaching couple’s experience

Arj and Kate Bartholomeusz, teachers from Melbourne, Australia, were determined to give their children the gift of an international education, and attended a recruitment fair in Melbourne to help make sense of their options.

“It felt like cramming six months’ worth of emotions into three days,” they wrote of their experience of the recruitment fair in their blog.

“Literally having to get our heads around the possibilities of living in approximately 20 different countries and how each would impact on our kids, then finding out where the goalposts truly sat and finally investing enough of ourselves emotionally to potentially commit to three different cities.”

Arj, once an international student himself, became intrigued by teaching overseas after chatting with an American he met during a professional development course.

“He was teaching in Singapore and literally implored me to take my family overseas. He spoke about ‘cattle calls’ (i.e. job fairs) which took place all over the world, where hundreds of teachers take their chances in a speed-dating
scenario to try to land a job.”

Over the four days of the fair, candidates hear talks from a number of school leaders and other experts in various fields who will help them land the job they want, or prepare them for what lies ahead. From senior administration staff providing an overview of what it’s like to work and live internationally, to advice about tax investments and how to impress in interviews, candidates can be assured they’ll be equipped to make a fully informed decision.

After the information presentations, the signup session begins, where candidates request to interview with recruiters. This is where the “speed dating” part comes in as teachers have to “sell themselves” in around five minutes in order to score an interview later. For Arj and Kate, they decided to tackle the lines separately so they could make as many interview times as possible.

The lines could be as many as five to 50 people deep to speak with a recruiter. Because one of their preferred schools had a queue of about 50 people, they chose to skip it altogether to speak to other, more available, recruiters.

Arj and Kate attended their interviews over the next day and a half, often skipping meals and breaks. By day 3, they had attended 12 live interviews, two Skype sessions, two follow up interviews to review contracts, and a cocktail reception for all recruiters and candidates.

Recruiters often took the time to meet with candidates to chat and offer advice even though, they didn’t have openings. When recruiters meet a star candidate, they often follow that candidate’s progress over the years, hoping to finally make a match for them at their school.

Arj captures the chemistry between candidate and recruiter in his blog: “The most compelling part of each presentation was the feel we got from the presenter… the sense of humanity conveyed by the director, or principal, or deputy head from each school.

And I guess each of us candidates felt that there were ‘kindred spirits’ with whom we would like to work… They were all impressive… some intimidating and ultraprofessional, some you wanted to go to the pub with and some who reminded you of a close friend or relative.”

Nick Kendell from Search Associates describes his team’s role in the process as that of a filter – helping teachers to identify what’s important to them and to narrow down their options.

“I love seeing their excitement when a decision has been made and they say ‘yes’ to an offer from an international school – it is a really rewarding few days.”

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