How to Find an International School Job

While much of the world is making its list and checking them twice, you’re making another list and checking it tenfold. The dreaded “where am I going to land next year?” list. It can really distract you from the joys of the holiday season. The fairs, the child care while you’re gone, the cover letters, the Skypes in your suit top and gym shorts (you thought you were the only one?) and the agony of the wait.

It’s not easy. Well, relax. You only go around this carousel once. Enjoy the ride and stay focused on your passion. So, here goes, my annual “how to land an international job” list with updated revisions for 2014.

1) Don’t wait for the fairs: Thanks to technology, the only thing fairs have become is where candidates who have already Skyped several times go to sign contracts and shake hands. If you wait for the fair to start talking to schools, you’ve missed the boat. Most experienced int’l educators know this. If you’re new to the game, start checking school employment websites now and don’t wait for the fair postings.

2) Apply to all jobs directly on school web sites. You can often “avoid the herd” if you find listings with the school’s “HR” email or other non-agency or intermediary address to apply to.

3) Show up in the off season: There’s a LOT to be said for heading to say, Berlin, and hitting the handful of int’l schools in the area just to say “Guten Tag” and introduce yourself to the department head or director of studies. They may have an opening, they may not. But having a bit of face time and showing a professional interest in the school will pay off when and if they have something. When a fellow showed up at my door in the Swiss Alps with his backpack and muddy Mammot boots saying he was hiking the “Haute Route” but wanted to say hello because he always wanted to teach at my school, I wanted to hire him on the spot (and trade places, to be honest).

4) Okay, #3 doesn’t help you now, but it’s a good one to keep in mind. Next, find out something the school needs or does that your unique talents can help. For example, if you find out they are starting a technology program or introducing the PYP, or a service program, or something in their profile that attracts your attention outside of the usual, then make that a part of your focus. Schools appreciate when you point out their unique strengths and want to be a part of it.

5) Change your CV to highlight SKILLS, not where you worked or went to school. Right at the top of the page: “Teacher Leader” (and then you list of bunch of really cool stuff you did). Then “Outdoor Leadership” (and then make that list). Where you worked and went to school should be a bunch of one liners on the second page. No one cares about that stuff anymore. It’s what you can you for us that counts.

6) CONSUME the website and find unique facts to use in your cover letter that other people miss. You’d be amazed at what you can find if you dig a little. I quoted a passage from an alumni that I found way back in the archives of a school’s magazine. I believe it helped me land an interview.

7) Clean up your digital footprint and make your own. Google yourself again and make sure you’re presented as the professional you are. You don’t have to have a Twitter account but more and more professionals have websites highlighting their work. This doesn’t hurt when schools research you online and you can use the link in the package you present.

And whatever you do, stay strong, stay connected with people who support you and meditate with an open mind and an open heart. I didn’t waste my blog on what I’ve been through this past year, but let’s just say it’s keeping me Cosmically Conscious

Enjoy and God Bless.

2 thoughts on “How to Find an International School Job”

  1. Hi Stephen,
    I wanted to say hi. I have had the honour and privilege (I believe) of working with your wife Stephanie. I am currently a Master’s student with UBC and I believe that your wife is a colleague of mine. She is a beautiful writer and such an asset to the program (I have told her this too). When I read this article and the “about Stephen” I realized that maybe she is the Stephanie from my program. If so, say hi for me. Thank you for your insight into landing an international job.

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