Work abroad sign. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Attention TEFL teachers: remember the excitement you felt a year or two ago, when you were preparing to jet off to a foreign country for exotic adventures and easy money?
If you’re the driven type, that excitement has probably been replaced by nagging worries and questions like: Will my TEFL experience help me get a job back home? Should I include my teaching experience on my resume? When I was a teacher in Taiwan these questions always popped up at expat get-togethers.
As time goes by, many expats begin to feel themselves sinking into to the quicksand that can become teaching abroad. They know that they don’t want to teach forever, but they fear that their time their time spent teaching will be seen as a negative to employers back home.
This is a common mistake that many expats make (myself included). We tend to underestimate the fact that employers are gradually valuing international experience.
In the growing global marketplace, employers desire employees who are culturally sensitive. However, a College for America survey released in April found that 85% of HR respondents have a hard time finding well-qualified applicants with basic skill sets. Chief workforce strategist at College for America, Julian Alssid, emphasizes that, “Today’s employers are expecting practical skills, not just theory — proof of an ability to learn, but also a proven ability to execute.”
Working abroad provides you with an opportunity to procure practical skills that are highly sought after by employers. These skills include:
- Language ability
- Critical Thinking
- Cross-cultural teamwork
- Cultural Sensitivity
- Travel skills
- Analytical skills
- Working independently
- Working in a high stress environment
- In-depth knowledge of international issues
- Adaptable to ambiguous situations
- Ability to work outside your comfort zone
No matter what industry you are applying to, these are all highly transferrable skills that can be effectively marketed via your resume. Now you are probably thinking, “How can I market my teaching abroad experience on my resume?” The answer is actually quite simple.
If you follow these 3 simple steps below, you will write a resume that optimizes your teaching abroad experience.
Step 1: Add your New Skills to the Career Objective
The career objective is the first thing an employer will see on you resume. A career objective is a 2-3 sentence statement that provides an overview of your experience and skills that are relevant to the position. Adding your relevant skills to this section will definitely catch the hiring manager’s eye.
Unfortunately, the career objective receives a lot of flack for being outdated and applicant-centered. This is due to the fact that most people misuse the career objective.
Bad examples of a career objective:
- Looking to work for a company in a great environment.
- Hoping to use the skills I learned abroad to advance in your company.
- Seeking an opportunity to develop my international career.
The above examples are awful because they lack specificity, don’t highlight experience, and are all about what the applicant wants. A good career objective tells the employer the abilities and knowledge you possess that can help the company achieve its goals.
Here is a good example of how a working abroad career objective might sound:
A professional with 2+ years of experience working in a trilingual environment and collaborating within a cross-cultural team. Seeking to leverage my critical thinking skills and in-depth knowledge of Chinese political issues to effectively fill your China analyst position. Possess a BA in international affairs and am fluent in Mandarin.
The example above is a great example of an effective career objective because it mentions your relevant experience, showcases skills pertinent to the specific position, and notes your education level and an additional skill of relevance. Finally, its important to note that you MUST be able to prove the skills you added with points in your professional experience section.
Step 2: Turn Your Skills into Examples in Your Professional Experience Section
The professional experience section of your resume is where you can really sell your working abroad experience. Be strategic when including your teaching abroad, don’t make the mistake of simply listing your job duties.
When writing your professional experience section, try to extract the qualities and experiences that the employer values in the job description. Then, make sure to add those qualities and experiences with points proving your abilities.
The key to a strong professional experience point is an action verb, a specific task, and quantifiable data proving your ability. While not every point in your professional experience section needs to be numerically quantified, it helps to add numbers to help give your experience some authority.
Here are some strong points you can add to your professional experience section:
- Organized and planned 10+ student performances and plays.
- Functioned in a multilingual office environment with co-workers from seven different nationalities.
- Taught seventeen weekly two-hour English classes to 160+ students, aged two to thirteen.
Although these points may not directly relate to the position you are applying for, they work to demonstrate your exceptional abilities. These points help convey your ability to communicate, collaborate in a cross-cultural teams, works in a diverse setting, organize, and work in a high-stress environment.
Step 3: Include Foreign Study in Your Education Section
During your time abroad, you probably enrolled in a language program at a university or language institute. Depending on your level of professional experience, you should consider adding your foreign study to the educations section of your resume.
Even if you studied at a short-term program it is still worth including in your education section.
Here are some points you should consider adding:
- Program/University name
- Length of program
- How many hours a week
- Academic Clubs/Organizations
If you already have a wealth of professional experience, then there is no need to go into too much detail in this section. However, if you are a recent graduate with minimal experience then feel free to include more details about your program.
When writing your resume, remember that your experience abroad is highly desired by employers, so it is crucial that you effectively showcase your qualifications. By following the steps above you will create a bridge between your teaching abroad experience and the skills valued by the employer, thus ensuring that you have the best chance of getting an interview.
Erik Episcopo is a career and resume expert at resumegenius.com, an online resource for resume writers, job seekers and the unemployed.