International jobs fairs are a whirlwind of schools, CVs, headteachers, handshakes and hopefully a successful interview or two.
The last jobs fair I attended took place over three eight-hour days, and by the end I was ready to drop. I did, however, come out of it with three job offers.
Job fairs are a popular option for teachers looking at schools overseas because you have the opportunity to apply for a number of jobs at the same time, often using the same CV and cover letter.
International school recruitment begins much earlier than teacher recruitment in the UK, with some international job fairs happening from October onwards to recruit teachers to start the following September.
Here’s how to take full advantage of the opportunities they offer:
1. Plan ahead
There will be a variety of international schools attending each fair, so be sure to thoroughly research as many as you can in advance.
Ask questions on expat teacher-specific forums. Find out as much as you can about the leadership, student body, work-life balance and package. Keep an open mind and don’t focus on a single location.
2. Arrive in plenty of time
You will have to register beforehand, so allow yourself time to get all the admin completed, as well as time to grab a coffee and network with other expat teachers.
3. Dress professionally (and comfortably)
Dress as professionally as you would for any job interview but also remember that you may be interviewed by headteachers from different cultures, who may have different views on bare shoulders and extremely fitted clothing.
You will be on your feet a lot of the time, so ensure that your shoes are comfortable.
4. Bring supplies
You can use your laptop to research schools and respond to any emails from attendees at the jobs fair. It is a long day, so having some fruit to nibble on is preferable to eating pastries and biscuits all day.
5. Think about first impressions
Hold your head up high, smile and make eye contact with everyone in the room. Consciously or not, headteachers make judgements on first impressions of you. Make sure you are memorable for the right reasons.
6. Network, network, network
International teachers have very few chances to network, so these job fairs are a great way to meet like-minded peers.
I learned so much from educators I met during the fair I attended. I was able to find out the truth about working and living in their respective countries as well as learning more about their schools and packages.
7. Hone your interview technique
During an international jobs fair, you will hopefully have a number of interviews with headteachers and HR representatives from schools all around the world.
As each interview goes by, you will realise that certain questions are always asked, regardless of school type and location.
By the time you’ve answered that question for the third time, you’ll have started to edit and improve your answer, and will sound more confident.
With that in mind, why not try to schedule your preferred schools somewhere in the middle of the fair, so you’re well practised but not completely shattered?
8. Stay calm and confident
International jobs fairs can be overwhelming; hundreds of teachers in one room applying for jobs, practising for interviews or nervously waiting to hear how they did.
At times, I felt a bit panicked, especially when I would look around my table and see exasperated teachers frantically typing on their laptops in stressful silence.
Do not allow others’ anxiety to affect you. Instead, take a deep breath, go for a walk around the venue or head outside for a few minutes for some fresh air.
9. Get enough sleep
An international jobs fair can last up to three days, and meeting so many new people and participating in so many interviews is exhausting.
Make sure you get enough sleep each night to feel relaxed and energised to tackle anything the next day throws at you.
Sorcha Coyle has taught at schools in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for the past six years. She also runs the Empowering Expat Teachers community, which can be found on her blog.