As English takes its place as the lingua franca of the 21st century, its use in boardrooms, classrooms, and communities around the world is at an all-time high. For many around the world, English proficiency is seen as a stepping stone to success and, as a result, governments and parents around the world have begun to step up their efforts to properly educate their schoolchildren. Because the scale of the demand for English teachers in non-English-speaking countries is so great, governments and private institutions around the world are actively seeking to recruit native English speakers to their classrooms. It’s a seller’s market for these international educators and the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Nevertheless, while the sheer range of job opportunities and locations may exhilarate some, for others the prospect of beginning a career teaching English abroad can seem every bit as intimidating as it is exciting. After all, as a would-be English teacher you may not very well-versed in the industry you are about to join, much less to the specific ESL business practices used in the country you are interested in. Fortunately for you, however, someone else is: your ESL recruiter. Reputable ESL recruiters make it their job the know the ins and outs of the industry, meaning they have the connections, knowledge, and experience you may need as you look for a job overseas. Plus, since anyone considering teaching abroad should secure their first position before moving, an ESL recruiter can put present you with far more options than you could solicit yourself.
Although the services offered by ESL recruiters can vary by country, here are some of the key advantages offered by reputable company:
- Customizable job listings drawn from their on-location connections based on your preferences
- Interview set-up and contract negotiation
- Information to prepare you for your experience
- Step by step instruction of the visa process.
- Travel preparation and plane ticket arrangements
- Airport arrival information and assistance
- Ongoing support after you arrive
This last point is crucial and underscores the importance, as always, not just of advice in general but good advice in particular. Reputable recruiters – and there are a lot of them! – can set you up with good, dependable teaching assignments from halfway around the world. They can make the process simple, easy, and attainable for first time teachers. The problem, however, is that just as it can be hard for people at a distance to distinguish a good school from a bad one without a recruiter’s assistance, it can be likewise hard to distinguish a good recruiter from a bad one under the same circumstances. In the recruiting industry, barriers to entry are low and the power of the internet (and a well-designed website) is such that some small ESL recruiting companies are inexperienced new start-ups while others compensate their employees for quantity and not quality. In either case, the implications are clear: disreputable companies or individuals who are overeager to place teachers in order to close a deal or pad their incomes may, at times, provide second-rate or self-serving information just to make a placement. Worse still, while the best recruiters offer ongoing support once you arrive, the worst may leave you high and dry once you have signed on.
On the bright side, it is far easier to investigate the quality of a specific recruiting agency than a specific school and, by definition, in any given country there are far fewer recruiting agencies to evaluate than schools. As always, use your best judgment and understand that established, reliable ESL recruiters will have an extensive paper trail online and plenty of solid references in online forums like Dave’s ESL Cafe.