When I decided to move abroad to teach ESL I expected to hear some well-meaning pushback from family and friends such as:

“I hear it’s not safe there.” 

“What do you mean you don’t know the language yet?” 

“Wait, you’re moving halfway across the world and you don’t know anyone there?” 

I took all of this in stride and expected most of it, but there was one question I did not expect: “What about your resume?” It was as if I was taking a year off to “be one with nature” or to go find Bigfoot.

“What about my resume?” 

… What about it? 

If I got a new job where I sat in a cubicle all day that would be acceptable, but somehow teaching ESL is a red-flagged liability to future employers? 

It didn’t add up, and over the past six years I’ve seen firsthand how teaching ESL is the exact opposite of a resume liability. 

Let’s go over five reasons why teaching ESL boosts your resume.

1. Your ESL experience will make your resume stand out 

Many job openings receive hundreds of resumes of interested candidates. The only way to get your foot in the door is to have something on your resume that makes the employer say, “I want to meet this person”. In a sea of pencil-pushing candidates, presenting a resume that lists experience teaching in a foreign country explodes off the page. 

From job openings to grad school applications, experience teaching ESL abroad gives you an edge over the competition. It’s different, it’s intriguing, and any halfway decent recruiter or employer knows that the skills it takes to teach ESL are widely applicable across all career fields.

2. You have highly desired international work experience 

Our world is more globalized than ever before. Most companies and organizations have some sort of international connection in one way or another. Knowing this, applicants with experience working and living abroad are instantly more desirable to hire.

When it comes to sending staff abroad for business meetings, special projects, or starting a new branch, companies seek out those with previous international experience because they are far more reliable and likely to have success once on the ground. 

Since they’ve already experienced things like culture shock and jet lag before, they know how to prepare for them and can hit the ground running instead of standing wide eyed on the tarmac scared out of their minds. 

They’re also more likely to be aware of cultural differences, things to avoid, and may even know some of the language. ESL teachers gain all of these valuable assets while teaching and living abroad.

You know how to make yourself at home anywhere.

3. You’re not easily intimidated and used to adapting on the fly

Success in the business world doesn’t come from following some predictable series of steps over and over. Success is dynamic and involves seeking creative solutions while facing challenges head on. 

Let me tell you, life abroad can be anything but predictable

  • I arrived at school and was told that instead of teaching I would be leading a parade through town and needed to change into Singaporean traditional attire immediately.
  • I attended a wedding only to be informed that I was the best man. (This has somehow happened to me twice!) 
  • The principal of my school stopped me on my way to class and demanded that I come with him to hand out awards at a ceremony that had nothing to do with English, and in fact was not even in English. (I still wonder what my students ended up doing.)
  • I was asked to wear “something sporty” to Sports Day but ended up in a three hour meeting with administrators decked out in their fanciest outfits while I wore a bright red Manchester United jersey.
  • My bike chain broke on the top of a mountain as the sun went down — and then it started raining. 

The point is, the longer you live abroad the more you learn to not just roll with the punches, but to actually thrive in the fluctuation of it all. You’re forced to take risks that you wouldn’t have normally taken. You’re faced with challenges that don’t let you cower in the corner. You must explore any and all options in order to achieve success, and in doing so you realize that therein lies the key to success itself. 

So when a deadline gets pushed up two weeks at work, you’re not intimidated by it like everyone else. “This is nothing compared to that time when the other teacher at my school called in sick so the school decided to combine his class with mine at the last minute”

No matter what problems arise, you’ll be the most prepared to embrace the changes and seek out the opportunities that the new situation is providing, rather than spaz out about things not going according to plan. Employers hire and promote those who solve problems, and ESL teachers are seasoned-problem solvers.

4. You’re used to working with an extremely diverse group of people to get things done.

At your school, it’s likely that on top of working with the local staff, your coworkers will consist of expats from countries and cultures around the world. 

I love being able to look around my staff room and see people from four or five different continents all working towards a common goal. These experiences allow you to effectively translate to the business world where organizations expect teamwork and collaboration amongst their staff, no matter their background. 

5. You have highly developed time management and organizational skills

The ESL classroom demands a lot from its teachers. You teach multiple classes a day, have different books or materials for each class, sometimes have to travel from classroom to classroom, have homework to check, grade, and correct, and you have to be on time and prepared for all of it. 

ESL teachers successfully navigate these schedules each and every day. Employers know this and love hiring former teachers for this very reason.

Bonus: You’ll be electric during the interview process

The reasons above will get you in the door, there’s still the massive hurdle of the actual interview itself. Here’s where former ESL teachers come alive. 

You’ll lie and wait like a jaguar daring the interviewer to ask you about “a time when you had to adapt to a new situation or find a creative solution to a problem”. 

You’ll nearly laugh when they ask how you work together in a team. 

You’ll make the interview go long as you share the most engrossing moments of your time abroad.

Simply put: your experience teaching ESL will have employers offering you jobs you didn’t even interview for, and it certainly is not a liability.

So go forth into the adventure that awaits you with no fear of “resume gaps” or what employers might think of your time abroad. If anything, think of this time as an investment in yourself that will make it ten times easier for you to pursue a career in any field you desire once you return. 

So what are you waiting for? The journey toward your future success starts with a lifetime-guaranteed worldwide TEFL certification through TEFL Adventure! Start boosting your resume today!