Last month I published the first of two articles highlighting the strengths that we expat teachers have to bring with us in our job hunt back home. I briefly talked about Cultural Intelligence, Communication Skills, Public Speaking, Grit, and Attention to Detail. This month’s article will focus on Technical Acumen, Time Management, Humility, and Adaptability. Let’s jump right in…
When I moved to China in 2002, there were no books, no grading system, nor any curricula so everything had to be designed by some of the other teachers and me. This led to early adoption of knowing how software programs worked in different languages. I want you to imagine using a Chinese or Korean-specific word processor with no English menus that only work inside their language-specific Operating Systems. This is where the learning curve for editing and creating documents becomes steep. Only through trial and error and some guesswork are you able to navigate and complete your work on time.
Due to the variety of teaching and business areas we work in, we have to continually find ways to provide meaningful content to clients and students using up to date and effective mediums. This should inspire us to test and become skilled at using new technology. Ten years ago I began using the more basic elements of multimedia into lesson plans a la PowerPoint. Fast-forward ten years and numerous software and web-based tools later, I began teaching a blended course using a learning management system (LMS) to help students find learning opportunities outside class. It was also helpful in providing formative feedback to learners. Using an LMS, authoring tools, MOOCs, Flipped Classrooms, and Blended Learning all require some technical proficiency. If these terms are foreign to you, you are probably not prepared for the revolution happening in education right now.
Many EFL teachers in South Korea start out at the hagwon level and either transition into EPIK, university jobs or become freelancers. For those of us with experience in freelancing, one day can be vastly different from the next. I spent three years in a city called Changwon, working freelance while finishing an online masters at a British university (no they won’t get any free press here). One of my workdays would start at 5:50 AM teaching Business English to engineers at a factory, then off to a different city at an elementary school for three or four hours and ending with a corporate training class for execs after their day ended at 7 or 8PM in yet another city. This meant having two changes of clothes, four to six different lesson plans, and skills at keeping times straight. This was but one day out of five with wildly varying schedules, where keeping the days straight, making appointments and holding meetings was especially challenging.
This is one of those words that everyone pretends to know. Most people imagine themselves being humble but don’t actually know how to personify humility. We all have our distractions, but setting down our iPhones to have a chat with a colleague or a student is an act of humility. It’s showing the other person that “yes, your time is valuable to me” and “I value you enough to give you my full attention”.
Those with humility can look outside their own experiences. As expat teachers, you came here to learn and to discover how other cultures might strengthen you. You are open to seeing the world and valuing what other cultures have to offer. You’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone and are now able to empathize with people from vastly different backgrounds and languages. You can put yourselves in the shoes of your learners because you are learners yourselves. This brings us to our last skill.
You left your home country, you moved to another one halfway around the world with a new language, culture, sets of rules and faux pas. Yet you thrived and saw every challenge as a learning opportunity. Try telling your colleagues or friends who have not lived abroad what it’s like haggling in a fish market with a woman hunched over due to a life of farming. I usually get blank stares from friends who are quick to move on to a different topic of conversation.
You’ve seen, done and eaten things most people wouldn’t dream of and yet you shrug it off as life in Korea (or insert other country here). Life overseas is different and often inexplicable to the uninitiated. I cannot reiterate enough just how challenging moving across the world is. That alone should show recruiters and hiring managers that you are not afraid of change and that you can handle just about any curveball thrown at you.
I hope that these articles help you, give you hope, or just get you thinking. These skills will help you on the resume and in the interview, but nothing can help you get the interview more than your network. If you are looking for more ideas, information or a place to start, start leveraging your network. Join us at repats.net (Facebook), repats.pw (LinkedIn) and feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!