Transferable Skills for ESL Teachers

"The ideal scenario is one where you find a career that combines what you love to do with what you’re great at doing." Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Occupational Mobility

In today's world, many people change jobs and careers several times throughout their lives. The key to a successful career change is harvesting your transferable skills. Transferable skills are those that you acquire on the job and in your everyday life that are useful in a variety of work environments.

Exits and Entrances

Whether you are an ESL teacher who is burned out or bored of the classroom, or a stay-at-home mom who is itching to enter the ESL teaching field, chances are you have acquired numerous transferable skills that will help you make a career change.

Making Your Exit: If you are currently a teacher, you are likely familiar with the idea of transferable skills. In addition to being a learning facilitator, one of the main roles of a teacher is to motivate students to take their acquired skills out into the real world. Teachers often feel a sense of loyalty towards their profession and their students, and find it difficult to change careers. However, if you know that your heart is no longer in your job, you owe it to yourself and your students to move forward in life. While career change is often a difficult time in life, teachers have an advantage. Many of the skills you use each day are transferable skills required in a variety of workplaces. From teaching to planning, lecturing to counselling, and participation in extracurricular activities, teachers are what some call the Jack or Jill of all trades.

Before you build your resume and cover letter, make sure that you aren't going after a new career for the wrong reasons. Choosing a career because other people think you are suited to it is not always the best idea. While you can always change careers again down the road, it takes a lot of time, effort, and sometimes money, to make the transition. Take the time to answer some important questions:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What aspects of teaching do I dislike?
  • What aspects of teaching do I still enjoy?
  • What did I always dream of doing as a child?
  • What type of work comes easily to me?
  • If I could go back to school myself, what might I study?

Making Your Entrance: If you are a person who is hoping to become an ESL teacher, this page may give you a few ideas about how to demonstrate to a potential employer that your skills are relevant for the teaching profession. Before you build your resume and cover letter, consider the reasons why you are suited to a career in teaching. Have you developed communication and organizational skills in your work as a daycare provider or homemaker? What about in your job as a bank teller or bartender? Ask yourself a few important questions. If you don't know the answers, consult friends or online forums to find people who can provide some insight.

  • What skills do you think teaching entails?
  • How have I been a strong leader in the past?
  • How would previous clients, customers, or family members describe our relationship?
  • What is drawing me to the teaching profession?

Identifying Transferable Skills and Abilities

Once you have decided the line of work you are interested in, take some time to note all of the skills that you will require on the job. If you aren't sure what skills are needed, try dissecting ads for these positions on Internet job sites such as TEFL.net's Job Index. List all of the skills you find and consider each individually. Highlight the skills and abilities you believe you have acquired through your work and life experience, taking note of how you developed each one.

Transferable skills can be divided into various groupings. Before writing your resume, choose three or four that you think are most important to the job you are applying for. Then chart out your own transferable skills, by using the headings you've chosen.

Example Key Skill Areas:

  • Communication
  • Management and Leadership
  • Computer
  • Administrative
  • Organization
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision making
  • Interpersonal
  • Creative
  • Marketing
  • Project Planning

Example Skills Chart (experienced ESL teacher):
Communication Skills Leadership Skills Interpersonal Skills Organizational Skills
Writing lesson plans, reports, and school blog Coaching on the value of teamwork to teachers and students Patient and approachable Time management - prioritizing lesson activities
Editing student projects and essays, teacher proposals, and company brochure and website Providing feedback in monthly meetings Motivating reading skills Able to balance single and group learning
Researching ELT teaching and motivation techniques Teaching and promoting safety, nutrition, physical health Understand the value of active listening Daily and monthly lesson planning
Ice breaking skills Open minded listener Consistently bring a positive cheerful attitude from home to the workplace Punctual and ready for a variety of attendance scenarios
Excellent command of grammar and usage Able to adapt easily Developing strong rapport Creation and maintenance of reusable files
Experience communicating with many cultures Experienced negotiator Office with open door policy Developed logical level system for teaching usage and grammar rules
Volunteer reporting for local newspaper Head of extracurricular activities Interviewing students Tracking grades and progress for report cards
Clear and effective speaker Able to resolve conflict rationally and fairly Sensitive and open to personal needs Meeting company deadlines
Proficient in MLA format and essay writing Expert at task allocation Parent-teacher interviews Daily documentation for administrators

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