Unemployment rates are up; daily on social media, graduates list their qualifications hoping for exposure to possible employers on their networks. Hashtags such as #Jobseekers or #JobseekersWednesday trend weekly on Twitter, showing the desperation of groups of people who are skilled and qualified but just cannot find employment. This outcry on social media is merely a glimpse of the reality of thousands of people. Thousands more, with qualifications, may not be tapped in digitally. They too are also, daily, on a quest for employment.
For a lot of people, even with this reality, the idea of relocating to a foreign country to teach English is remote. The are several factors that could account for this:
1. The cost
The visa application, medical tests required along with a TEFL certification can all add up and are all possible hinderances for several people who may not have the cash on hand to make all this a possibility.
2. Fear of being scammed
The internet (and other media) is replete with horror stories of people conned into working as teachers in China, only to find that jobs do not exist or the school is not authorised to operate or in some cases, teachers are supplied with the inappropriate visa by the schools. These stories are often the first frame of reference for would be applicants and given the strictness of Chinese laws, most people would rather not find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Most people therefore bypass applying for any jobs in China to avoid experiencing difficulties they may not be equipped with.
3. Skewed framing
The idea that a lot of people have of China is mediated; formed from Kung Fu movies that depict China as rural and undeveloped. Along with these, news broadcasts often focus on China as repressive in terms of civil liberties etc. or stories about diseases such as SARS or the H1N1 virus. As a result of these, the ideas people form of China are quite negative.
4. Relocation to China a foreign concept
People tend to gravitate to established networks. For a lot of people, China is removed from these networks and in a lot of cases, they know no one in China to connect with or to pose questions they may have. This, along with preconceived notions of what China is like, adds to the option of working in China remaining in the imagination.
Despite these challenges, teaching English in China can be a great way of getting a career started, or the means of taking a break from a career you feel is stagnant or not what you thought it would be. It is also a great gateway to exploring the world if after graduating with your degree you feel like taking a travelling gap year or you are not sure whether you are ready to start working or continue towards a postgraduate qualification.
For starters, the Chinese English market is a $63 Billion industry. More and more companies are recognising the importance of their staff being able to communicate in English, especially as China expands its interests outside the mainland with an outlook towards the West and Africa. Parents also are pushing for their children to learn the language. This means that for the next couple of decades, demand for native English speakers as teachers is only going to keep rising.
While the teaching of English in China serves as a social good, it is also good on paper for personal career development. International work experience carries a lot of weight with recruiters; it indicates the ability to get past personal comforts and implies a global outlook on issues and a broadened perspective in instances of problem solving as well as the experience of different leadership styles. Irrespective of how long you stay a teacher, the takeaway is you are guaranteed to have multiple career opportunities in the future based on the international experience and the easily transferable skills such as communication, problem solving and thinking on your feet that you are bound to pick up.
Taking a teaching job in China also covers any gaps on your CV that often make employers uncomfortable. It is a valuable addition to the CV that enhances work experience and shows the drive and initiative on your part, qualities that often sought be recruiters and employers.
There really is no downside to applying for a teaching job in China. It is a win for both yourself and your employer in China. They gain the skill and dedication of a qualified worker while you gain valuable experience. So, take the leap. Apply now.