Returning to the U.S. job market after teaching ESL abroad is no easy task. It’s currently my second time around. As a job seeker, it can be a frustrating transition, but there’s a way to reenter the job market without going insane.
So, you’ve returned home from a teaching position in Asia, the Middle East or Europe without much money and no job prospect. Sound like you? Though you’ve had experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, your memories aren’t going to help you earn the income you need to support survival in a city, rent an apartment and be the independent person you once were before.
Only 63.2% of Americans now participate in the labor force — meaning they have a job or are looking for one. That’s the lowest rate since August 1978.
The truth for current job seekers is painful across the globe. Entering the job market at any point in your career can be challenging enough. Here, former expatriate Randy Kim, and myself, share our top tips on how with patience and persistence, you too can enter the job market after teaching ESL abroad. Follow our 3 steps and be on your way to find your dream job:
1. Stay Connected
While abroad, Randy says it’s important to keep in touch with old professors, college classmates and internship directors. While you’re overseas, Randy says, strengthen your ties with your previous professional contacts, and continue to update them on what you’ve done, and see what they’re doing. After all, it’s important to not forget the people who’ve helped you get to where you are. Whether you end up finding a job that gets you closer to the job or the job itself, you owe your success to those who believed in you and encouraged you to be and do your best. Start by reconnecting with people on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is great for job seekers who want to enter the market. Randy suggests that professional networking is the way to go. Having informational interviews with someone you respect and look up to in your field is a great way to get insider tips into the industry you’re interested in. Back in 2011, I went to New York City to meet with the senior editor at Sesame Workshop. It was uplifting to talk about my experience and gain great career advice from a professional. Never be afraid to stay in touch or ask for new leads from your contact, Randy says.
2. Volunteer, Freelance, Do Something!
While teaching in Beijing from June 2012 to 2013, I interned at Time Out Beijing, an expatriate magazine for expatriates in China, for three months. There, I learned about Photoshop, more about content management systems and became great at reading press releases, gathering information and blogging about them under tight deadlines. Best of all, I gained first-hand experience working under British and American editors in China.
When Randy became interested in communications-related work for a non-profit organization, he joined an expat volunteer group in Busan. It was in the role as volunteer leader he learned more about fundraising events, donation drives and social media driven publicity. His newly gained skills helped him in becoming a top-notch nonprofit candidate in his own job search.
The last thing you want on your résumé, Randy says, is having resume gaps because HR will question your work stability. He adds, make sure you know what skills you plan to contribute to the company or organization you seek.
3. Manage a Job While Job Searching
When I found two unpaid internship opportunities in the publishing field in 2011, I took them without hesitation. For income, I worked in a restaurant as a hostess, waitress and cashier during mornings and weekends. Currently, I freelance for a ESL app company in NYC. Whatever job you choose, make sure to give yourself time for interviews. If you’re applying consistently, someone will call back. And when they do, you want to make sure you’re available to meet in-person.
The real key is to keep a positive attitude and stay active in your field before and after you return home. If you really want your dream job, you must make an effort and put in the work.
As my high school English teacher, Mr. Foster, used to say “No guts, no glory.”
***Randy has lived and taught in South Korea from 2009 to 2012. Randy has worked at the Korean-American Resource and Cultural Center on immigration advocacy in 2012-2013. Currently, he works as a Community Outreach Coordinator for a private hospice company and is a freelance social media writer for a local IT company in Chicago. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.