So, you’ve taught ESL abroad! You’ve immersed yourself in a different culture, created lesson plans, and forged new friendships. But now that you’re back, how do you transfer the skills you have obtained into full-time work? Don’t worry, teaching abroad has given you an array of marketable skills and abilities – even if you don’t know it yet.
“One of the most important skills you learn is how to be an effective communicator,” says Beth Davies, who previously taught English in Korea. “Being able to succinctly convey ideas is certainly something that employers look for.” Davies studied political science at St. Francis Xavier University, and currently works at a macroeconomic consulting firm.
So, what inspired her to work in Korea? When she was in high school, a Japanese exchange student stayed with her family, and this experience sowed the seeds for travelling abroad and teaching later on. The point she raises is a good one. Teaching English abroad forces you to communicate your ideas effectively, despite the added hurdle of a language barrier. And excellent communication skills are integral to excelling in the workplace, no matter your industry.
“Travelling abroad can give you an interesting perspective on the world, and your place in it,” Davies explains. Now, more companies are looking at problems in a global context, and it is critical that people who teach abroad emphasize their global knowledge.
Ash Pugh, business development manager at Teach Away, agrees. “The biggest benefit to employers is that teaching abroad increases your International IQ.”
International IQ, you ask? Let us explain. Due to globalization, the work sphere has become a much more globalized environment. Because of this, having an intimate knowledge of the political, economic and cultural spheres of a different country can make you a fantastic asset to any company.
Being exposed to a different culture for an extended period of time can also give you great insights into how problem solving is approached in different parts of the world. “It makes you more open to new experiences, and gives you a lot of general skills we take for granted in the West,” Davies laughs. “Before, I knew nothing about solving problems!” The ability to approach challenges in a unique way, and bring a different way of thinking to the table, can make all the difference when trying to stand out from other candidates.
According to Pugh, flexibility is another important skill that working abroad imparts. “Someone who hasn’t experienced a cross-cultural environment can’t quickly flex and adapt in the way that someone who has taught abroad can.” Many jobs require you to flow and change as needed, and learning to thrive in a completely unknown environment takes a great degree of adaptability.
Even if you are not interested in pursuing a career in education, the job preparation skills that teaching abroad offers are rich in scope. Learning to play up these skills as valuable assets will turn an unforgettable life experience into one of the most versatile parts of your work experience.