Getting your First TEFL Job in Prague - Part 1

by Chris Westergaard
(Prague, Czech Republic)

Finding work in Prague, especially if you are a non EU teacher, is becoming harder.

I figured I'd write my personal tips down and hopefully it will help a couple of new teachers make it in their new host country.

For starters, I've personally trained and job coached about 1000 new TEFL teachers as a TEFL trainer for The Language House TEFL, so I think I have a pretty solid base to give some suggestions.

This primarily is for people that are on or will be attending a TEFL course in the city.

Here it goes

1. The Training is More Important than the Certificate you Receive
Yes a TEFL certificate will open doors for you and help you get interviews, but it's the training and what you bring to that interview or demo lesson that will get you the job. Learn as much as you can, practice as much as you can and continually try and improve your techniques.

2. Skills are More Important than your Grade
TEFL teaching is not based on a GPA. Whoever is interviewing/watching your demo will see in minutes if you are a skilled teacher, the same way that a basketball coach could assess a player's ability in minutes. Work on these skills, cultivate them. You are going to be competing against other people for the job. The school is most likely going to hire the teacher that performs the best.

3. Start Early!
Don't wait until after your course to start looking for work. You should be submitting CV's and going on interviews before the course ends. If you wait to long, you'll lose motivation and you may simply go back home.

4. Send Massive Amounts of CV's out Initially
This is probably the least efficient way, but it does help. Just get a list of schools from your TEFL course and send individual cover letters to every school you can find.

5. Make Sure Your CV is Written Correctly. Generally a page is enough. You may or may not put a picture on it. Make sure to have a full description of your course and its content. Make sure to have references from your trainers. Make sure to have a cover letter as well. Generally a page is fine. If you can get the name and a direct email to whoever is responsible for hiring or setting up interviews, that's a plus

6. Don't Stop There
This is where unfortunately a lot of TEFL teachers end. They send out an email, don't hear back from anyone and then give up. Don't be like this, it's a recipe for failure. Do you have any idea how many CVs a school gets a week or a month. Lots. It's extremely tedious to go through each one and call/email back each job applicant. The school doesn't do it. They'll email a few of the people and ignore the rest.
Follow this up with

A. A second email

B. A phone call

C. Actually stopping in and meeting the school in person

7. Get an Interview at all Costs
Call the school up and request an interview. Even if they say they don't have work available, ask them politely anyway if you can come in to do a demo lesson. Large schools (well practically all schools) go through TEFL teachers fast. Yes they might not have something now, but they will eventually. If you make a good impression, they'll remember you and contact you.
I can't tell you how many CVs I've received over a period of 7 years. However, I pretty much remember every single demo lesson that I ever sat in on. Even if we didn't have work at The Language House if a teacher made a good impression I always contacted them later when we did.

8. Good Quality Paper is a Must for CVs
If you turn in a CV, use nice paper. Whoever takes it is less likely to simply throw it away. Also if it's slightly off white, it will be easier to find in a stack of others. Seems basic but it works.

9. Network and Make Friends
The best way to get a job is through a recommendation. Find out if any teachers you know, knows someone that is leaving the city. The school will be looking for a replacement for them. If you can get a recommendation from a teacher that is already working at the school, you'll most likely get hired or at least be asked to come in.

10. Use your TEFL Provider's Job Assistance.
Most TEFL schools have a job assistance person working to help find trainees jobs. Use them. Ask them for help. Contact them before the course begins. Let them know what your looking for. Get a list of past graduates that you can contact for help. Ask them to write you personal recommendation or something like that.

11. Obviously Dress Nicely at the Interview
I can't tell you how many times I've had an interview and someone walks in with a T and pair of shorts. It just looks bad. You don't have to dress like a penguin, but semi formal - even a tie or a nice dress can't hurt.

12. Don't Wait for the Perfect Job
This one really annoys me. There's always that one guy that has a lot of job offers but is simply waiting for one specific school. What happens? All the jobs dry up and they're left with nothing. It's your first teaching job, take whatever hours you can get in the beginning. If you don't work relatively soon after your course, you are going to forget everything.
Besides pay and a few other things, the quality of your job will depend on your relationship with your students. Also, it's a lot easier to get more hours if you are currently working.

13. Don't Postpone Interviews
I don't care who is in town or what your plans were for that day. Go to the interview. If you don't someone else will and the job is gone. Schools don't take weeks looking for teachers. They take a day. If they find someone they like they will tell them right then and there usually. They won't wait to interview you a week later when you have the time. Letna Park beer garden can wait people.

To be continued (See part II)

Best of luck,

Chris Westergaard
The Language House TEFL

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