Why TEFL is a great career builder

Teaching English as a foreign language doesn’t have to mean the end of a career you haven’t started yet. There are endless reasons why TEFL will only help you succeed in your chosen field, whether it’s teaching further or something completely different.

“Being an ESL teacher isn’t going to help you gain experience, you know.”

A dreaded sentence that no prospective teacher who starts their TEFL journey wants to hear.

There’s no doubt that your parents are probably concerned about the future of your career. But the truth is, TEFL provides incredible opportunities beyond the obvious ones. Sure, you’ll get to travel and explore the world, meet new people, and try new foods. But how will this help you with your future career?

If you’re considering quitting your desk job or taking a year off after graduating to become an English teacher, here are a few reasons why TEFL is a great career builder:


“An ability or willingness to change in order to suit different conditions.”

This is a perfect summary of what living abroad and teaching English as a foreign language is like. Whether it’s having to take your shoes off when entering a building in South Korea, or kissing both cheeks when greeting in France, you can either fight or adapt to your new normal.

An experience like this will push you to adjust yourself according to the situation you’re faced with. With the world constantly changing around us, businesses are looking for employees who can adapt to different situations and environments without breaking down.

If you can adapt to a foreign country and all the unfamiliar experiences that get thrown at you, then being flexible in your workplace should be a breeze!

Gain experience by travelling around the world:

Travelling halfway around the world can be a thrilling and nerve-wracking experience, but it’s one that will only count in your favor. Thanks to the advent of social media, many companies find themselves trying to reach a larger audience and establish themselves around the world. Having seen what’s beyond your borders will further establish yourself as someone with valuable international experience.

Teaching English abroad allows you to understand what it's like to work in a cross-cultural workplace, and it establishes you as someone who understands how to work with people that have different cultures and backgrounds. This is an incredible asset to have when hunting for the ideal job placement!

Problem-solving skills:

We’re living in strange and uncertain times. Businesses are looking for individuals that can help them overcome the obstacles they’ll inevitably face in a world that’s constantly changing, and “problem-solving” is not a bad skill to have during these times.

When you’re teaching abroad, things won’t always go as planned. You might have found yourself slaving away the night before on an incredible lesson plan, only to find that your class has been cancelled for the day. Or what works well for one group of students, won't work well for the other group. Teaching English is all about thinking on your feet and adapting to the situation. Thanks to your TEFL experience, you’re one step closer to being the best problem-solver in your new position.

Improve your communication skills:

Whether you’re teaching pronunciation, grammar, or helping your student improve their listening skills, being a good English language teacher is all about communicating your message in a way that helps your students clearly understand what you're teaching them.

If you’ve decided to teach English abroad, not all your co-workers will have the same level of English. At times, you'll feel more like a mime than an English teacher. This teaching experience will allow you to develop communication tools that help you be clear and concise when you’re communicating your message.

This is a sought-after skill in many career fields, and it's a wonderful quality to put on your resume when applying for jobs.

You’ve gained life experience:

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” - Oliver Wendall Holmes.

Travel is a great way to gain life experience and expand beyond your normal way of thinking. Spending time among people with a different way of life, culture and language, allows you to gain a unique perspective on the world and shows employers that you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Having international travel experience on your resume also doesn’t hurt.

Language Skills:

Spending time in a foreign country is a great way to throw yourself into learning a new language. As more companies create a more globalized approach to their business models, having a language skill apart from English can help get you noticed and improve your career.

Whether you want to improve your Mandarin when teaching English in China, or simply because you’d love to read the menu in Russian, taking the time to learn your “adopted” country’s language can help you get the most out of your TEFL experience.

You have confidence:

Teaching English as a foreign language can sometimes feel like you’re in a fistfight with a brick wall. When your only means of communication in a foreign language is “hello” and “goodbye”, it’s impossible to not feel defeated. But there’s no better feeling than successfully communicating your thoughts through badly drawn pictures and hand gestures to 30 little faces ecstatic to have learned a new phrase.

It’s not always easy to have confidence in your abilities, especially as a foreign English teacher, but celebrating your wins and going back to the drawing board when you’ve failed is an important way to gain confidence in your skills and abilities. This is an excellent trait to have, especially when furthering your career in your chosen field. It allows you to effectively share your thoughts, provide value, and enables you to do more.

Time Management Skills:

Whether you’re teaching abroad or online, not making it to class is unacceptable and usually met with strong words or penalties - neither of which are fantastic. During your time as an ESL teacher, you will find effective methods to manage your time. Creating a list of priorities for your students that allow them to get the most out of their English lesson.

Not accounting for every minute of your 40-minute class can sometimes lead to you awkwardly staring at your students as you think of new ways to fill the 10-minutes you’ve forgotten about. However, this is also the perfect time to test your problem-solving skills!

Time management is an important skill to have when applying to any job position, and thanks to your time as an ESL teacher, your time management skills are flawless!

Having a TESOL/TEFL certification:

No one ever said having too many qualifications was a bad thing, right? Even if the position doesn’t require a TEFL certificate, make sure you add it to your resume. Any form of qualification demonstrates your willingness to learn and grow, and it’s a great way to set you apart from other job applicants.

A great talking point:

Over recent years, teaching English abroad (and online) has exploded in popularity. However, because it’s still a new and different idea, many people are fascinated by the concept of TEFL. It's an interesting conversation to have over dinner with friends or during an interview. Having had this unique experience to talk about allows you to stand out from the 100’s of applicants, and it allows you to further demonstrate the skills you’ve picked up while teaching.

Bonus: You’ve gained more respect:

Having respect is an undervalued quality when it comes to thinking about your career. But it’s crucial in creating a well-rounded individual and employee. When you spend time exploring different aspects of a culture, it can be a deeply humbling experience that leaves you with a feeling of respect and admiration for the people around you.

There’s nothing more important than showing your respect for any culture, especially if it’s vastly different from your own. Having this experience is a great way to gain respect for the people around you and the world we live in. When you have a workplace that’s brimming with different backgrounds and is a multi-cultural space, it’s a wonderful quality to have.

What’s next?

You’ve traveled and taught to your heart's content. You’ve gained invaluable experience and skills that you’ll be able to use in the workplace, and you’re ready to make your next move - so what now?

  1. Think about this next phase of your life: Do you want to travel some more? Study further, or settle into a career? Make sure you consider what your next step is going to be before you start updating your CV.
  2. Update your CV: Updating your CV after spending a year or two as a TEFL teacher can feel incredibly confusing. Remember, to keep your resume concise, and provide information that’s relevant to the job you're applying for.
  3. Take it easy: Moving abroad can be a difficult transition. Everything is new and strange. The same can be said about moving back home after your time abroad. It’s important to plan your next steps, but be gentle with yourself in this new stage of your life. Take the time to think about what you would love to do, what makes you happy, and do it!

Deciding your future is never easy. If you’ve always wanted to pursue TEFL but feared how it would affect your career prospects in the future, we hope that this list has helped ease some panic. And hopefully helped mom and dad stop biting their nails with worry!