Making the most of your career


Over the last eight years I’ve looked at a lot of CVs and done a lot of interviews. Some people have bowled me over with their brilliance – Some – like the guy who sent me a CV saying it was his lifelong dream to work at our ‘internationally famous hotel’ (?!?) – have put a smile on my face. Others – like the woman who confessed that she loved everything about teaching, ‘except the bits in the classroom’ – have made me shed tears of frustration.

Looking at the number of CVs and job applications cluttering up my Outlook in-box at the moment, it seems to me that there are a lot of people out there abandoning a lot of ships. Competition is fierce – so you need to work harder than ever on your CV and interview skills. If you are happy where you are but want to progress, then, you’ve guessed it, you’ve got to work harder than ever to impress. Work, work, work!

Here my tips on making the most out of your career

Choosing a school

1. Be careful who you apply to

I used to think all pizzas were good pizzas. After 12 years in Italy I’ve finally understood that not all pizzas are good pizzas – especially any pizza that has roast duck and plum sauce on it. Just like pizzas, I’m afraid, not all schools are good schools.

Use the web to your advantage before sending out your CV –

– Are they part of a reputable association of language schools that can add some assurance of quality? E.g., in Italy the Aisli group is an association of quality language schools  – If the school is not a member it doesn’t necessarily mean they are ‘bad’ (they may simply be too small or too new), but it can be a good place to start looking for decent schools.

– If the area is not familiar, check it out on Google maps in Street View

– Email the school and ask to speak to a teacher currently employed there

Here are some questions you can ask:

1. How many and what hours are you expected to teach?
2. Are salaries paid on time? Are holidays paid? Sick pay?
3. How much training is on offer? Will I be observed?
4. Who are the students? Where are the lessons? Am I paid travel time?
5. Are flights/accommodation paid for? What’s the cost of living?
6. What books are used? How are courses structured?

Writing CVs

I have a lot to say about CVs – but I can summarize it all in just two golden rules: Keep them short. Keep them simple.

– If possible, stick to one page. A 20-page CV is not going to be read.

– Write them in English – ‘I want to teech at your school’ is not a good way to impress.

– Keep them relevant. I don’t want to know what newspaper you read or what you won your Blue Peter badge for.

– Be specific about your experience – ages, levels, class size, course type, etc.

– Keep them professional – No flashing rainbow effects or smiley faces!

For more in-depth tips on career management and a look at writing CVs, check out the Career Tools podcast 

Attending interviews

This is your chance to shine! So it’s really important that you prepare well.

– Dress smartly even if it’s a Skype interview. I’ve had a few people turn up for interviews in suits. I’ve had others turn up in jeans and t-shirts. I had one guy come for an interview in paint-splattered overalls. Only one of those says ‘I want this job’. Most Skype interviews are done via  video – so make sure you look smart.

– Do your research about the school (see above)

– Remember, the person interviewing you is not just checking to see if you would be a good teacher. They are checking to see if you would be a good colleague – someone who fits the ethos and approach of the school. Make sure you come across as friendly, modest and willing to learn and develop.

– Always have some good questions up your sleeve.

– Think about questions you are likely to be asked and prepare for them.

o Why did you become a teacher?
o What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
o What do you do on a regular basis to develop as a teacher?
o Why should I give you the job?

– Take a recent lesson plan with you. Talk the interviewer through what you did, what worked and what went wrong. Try to give them a real sense of your teaching style

Progressing in your current job

The sad truth is that you are unlikely to get a position of responsibility if your attitude is considered negative or obstructive. The current managers are looking for people to help and support them. So, if you want to progress, don’t be a drain. Be positive. Be a colleague that solves problems not one that moans about them.

If you are planning to move into academic management, find out about the business side of the schools. The average DoS probably spends more time worrying about budgets that they care to admit. You might even consider taking a course in academic management to show your ambition and commitment, e.g., International House London offers an excellent selection

Last thought: Throughout your career be as authentic and positive as you can and have fun!





Read more in Mike’s ‘Making the most of…’ series by following the links below:


Making the most of observations

Making the most of training sessions

Making the most of your time

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