I received a job aplication from a teacher looking to teach in China a few months ago. Like all new TEFL graduates, she was keen, eager to start speaking to schools and recruiters and find her first teaching job.

I'm sure you remember what it was like? You've worked hard (harder than you probably thought you'd have to, right?) on your TEFL course, completed all of your assignments and learned more grammar structures than you knew existed. Now you've got your teaching certificate in hand and are now looking at the many teaching job adverts online.

So this girl gets in touch about finding a teaching job in China...(that's a great start straight away!), and so we ask her three very simple questions:

1. What ages do you most want to teach? 
2. Do you have an location preferences?
3. When are you looking to start?


By asking these three questions down, we can whittle down from a very large number of teaching vacancies to a very small number of relevant choices for her to consider. So, question 1, teaching kids. Great! Question 2....somewhere in the south of China with cleaner air. No problem. Question 3...a year from now. Fantas...wait, did you just say 12 months from now??

When is the best time to apply for teaching jobs in China?

There are two main types of teaching jobs in China. These are with English training schools, which teach students English in the evenings or weekends, and Monday to Friday jobs such as at primary schools, high schools, universities or internation departments.

Now here is the thing; no school in China will be interested in speaking to you one year in advance. Most won't be interested in speaking to you even six months in advance; it's just far too far ahead of time to be applying.

Why is applying for a teaching job in China six months ahead of time too long?

Schools won't really want to speak to you six months ahead of time ever. The girl who applied to us was super efficient and highly organised. Her idea was to beat the crowd, get interviewed for a job early and to get something concrete lined up. There is nothing wrong with that and it is very commendable. However the fact is that this works for her, but it doesn't work for schools in China. 

The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly the number of teachers who get cold-feet about coming to teach in China is way more than you would imagine. It's a big, bold step moving to another country and things in life come up which make us have to change our plans. In 50% of cases where a school interviewed a teacher six months ahead of time, then they'd either pull out or emails between both parties would dry up. In short, a waste of everyone's time. Schools just an't afford to do this.

The schools have no idea of their recruitment needs so far in advance

The second, and most important, reason why schools in China don't want to look too early for teachers is because they don't yet know their recruitment needs so far ahead of time. English teachers in China sign rolling one-year contracts. Let's say a school has a team of 5 foreign teachers. Maybe two of these teachers signed a contract with the school during spring, one in the summer and the other two in the autumn. The school is a stable school and usually just needs five teachers. How can the school know if they need a replacement 6-12 months ahead of time? Ideally, the teachers they have will want to stay on (this is always the preferred choice for schools - the parents like and trust the teachers, they don't have to train new staff and go through the titanic hassle of applying for visas for new teachers). They will only need to find a replacement once a teacher confirms that they won't be staying and will be looking for a new job or returning home. 

Additionally, student numbers at the school may rise or fall throughout the year, making needing more or less teachers way later in the year a lottery...an expensive lottery. Schools just cannot speak to teachers for jobs a year down the line.

The same thing applies with public schools in China. Contracts are usally for eleven months to cover two academic semesters. Public schools will also not be able to think about hiring new staff until they know that some of their current staff will be 100% crtain of leaving. Then, very begrudgingly, they'll start the arduous process of finding ew teachers. Again, this is the very last thing they'll want to do.

Applying for teaching jobs six months (or even more time than that) is pretty much a waste of your own time as the response you will get back will be negligible. The very optimum time to apply for teaching jobs in China is 12 weeks.

Why is 12 weeks ahead the very best time to be looking for jobs in China?

Appying for teaching jobs in China 12 weeks prior to wanting to start is the very best time to do so because around that time schools will be asking their teachers if they will be staying on or not as they need to plan. The best organised schools will start looking for their new teachers three months ahead of time (never earlier, they simply can't), and so by looking then you'll be lining yourself up with the most-organised schools - never a bad thing at all. 

Additionally, the work visa process can take anything from 5-8 weeks, which gives you 4-6 weeks of being able to speak with schools and interview for teaching jobs in good time, unhurried and well-organised. All of the schools you see have vacanices will all be live vacancies, keen to interview you.

12 weeks is also the best time to speak to public schools in China

Let's say you want a university job in China with semesters starting in September and March each year. 12 weeks ahead of time is asl othe best time to appy for these jobs too. Again, the public schools need to know if their current teachers will be staying or not before looking for replacements. Before each semester begins, there is usually a two month break where the staff are home on holidays and so can't interview and doing all the admin work needed to hire you. 

By applying 12 weeks in advance for public school jobs in China, you are again putting yourself in the shop window at exactly the right time. You'll get more resume views and attract more interest from the university, high school, etc. 

Why is applying through RAY English Recruitment a smart choice?

We are a British-run company based in China. We have a good mix of high ethical standards and professional teacher support mixed with good China know-how. We know the HR departments of the schools and will make sure that your application lands on the right desk and will take priority.

Importantly, we'll make sure that you feel well-looked after at all times and any questions you have will be answered quickly and fully. You are in very good hands with us and you'll be cared for from the moment you apply to when you actually land in China to teach and beyond. 

Head over to our jobs page to see what we have for you.

Published in Articles about China
Welcome to the download page of our award-winning Guide to Teaching in China! To download our free Guide to Teaching in China PDF, please scroll down to the bottom and click the download link.

The Guide to Teaching in China has everything you need to know when first coming to teach English in China. How you might get culture shock, the type of Chinese food available, getting around and exploring your new city in China, how much things cost in China, learning the language, what kind of English schools you can find in China, getting a Chinese working visa, and loads more!

The www.rayenglish.com Guide to Teaching in China is your indispensible guide to living and teaching in China and is free to download as a PDF.

Just find the download link at the bottom of this page to download the Guide to Teaching in China.
Published in Articles about China
An Older Teacher's Experience of Teaching in China

An Older Teacher's Experience of Coming to Teach English in China

Here we were in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand; the land of the free, a beautiful land, the land of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Both daughters, all grown up and independent, had flown the coop and were off on their own adventures, seeing the world.

So, having got over our empty nest syndrome and seeing no reason to be the ones left behind, my husband Michael and I decided to take life by the horns, make a life changing decision and create an adventure of our own.  In hindsight, maybe we simply had what so many of our friends called it (not so quietly behind our backs), the dreaded MLC (mid-life crisis).

Anyway I digress, the research began and we started to think about where we wanted to go, what we wanted to do and what opportunities were out "there" for us.  It didn't take long before reality hit.
 
Needing a Degree to Teach in China

Despite having run our own successful businesses in New Zealand for over 30 years, having trained, coached and mentored in the corporate world for over 15 years and having bucket loads of experience, neither of us had a university degree.  Although not old, one of us was just past the required “use by date” for most visa requirements to live in a foreign country.   Oh well, never mind we tried! Yeah rite...we became more determined than ever!

We set our sights on China and decided on Teaching English, a career change for us.   For every roadblock that appeared, we were determined to find a way around, over or through each and every one of them.
 
Action Required ~ February/August 2012

Having completed the majority of my papers extramurally over a ten year period, I got back on the "study" horse and completed my Bachelor of Business Studies at Massey University.   With no time to celebrate I dove head first into a six week, full time, 125 hour TEFL training course to obtain a Cambridge ESOL CELTA Certificate.  The course was intense, the learning significant and the people I met absolutely awesome.  I have never been so thankful for a B Pass!
Michael, not a studious type, completed a TESOL on-line course to add to his adult education certificates and experience and give him the basics for Teaching English.

Upon reflection, the CELTA course set the bar high and was definitely great training for teaching English.  The tutors, Jo & Marty, were experienced and had a passion for the job which helped to make the learning fun, even through the difficult and sometimes very stressful times (those who have completed CELTA will understand what I mean (week two and three are killers!!).
In the meantime, we scoured the internet and made contact with anyone who knew anyone in China.  We asked everyone and anyone for advice.  We talked together, over and over about the pros and cons.  We read everything we could find on moving to China and teaching English. Nothing was going to stop us now!
 
Securing an ESL Teaching Job in China ~ September 2012

We researched and chose our preferred city - Qingdao in Shandong Province.  A seaside city, by all accounts a beautiful city, a 2nd tier city with what looked like a strong expat community and connections to New Zealand.   In line with my experience we narrowed our job search to teaching adults Business English and sure enough as soon as the decision was made, more road blocks appeared.
Despite the internet overflowing with ESL teaching positions being offered for TEFL teachers, the roles, the pay, the conditions and the requirements for teachers vary significantly.  I learnt very quickly that:

• 30+ years experience pre-degree meant nothing when 2 years post-degree is required.
• extensive experience in adult education, training, coaching and mentoring, meant nothing without "ESL teaching" experience.
• most feedback on-line is negative, so you have to be very selective about what you read - negativity continually in your face, can easily take you down.
So, we widened our search, adjusted our expectations, answered every ad for teaching adults and gave ourselves a time-frame i.e. to have secured a full-time role and be in China by the end of 2012.

Getting Responses from Schools

We got responses from throughout China for a variety of teaching roles and we made a decision to work with two awesome recruitment companies.  Through them they narrowed down what I was looking for and who had the best offers out there for me.  I was offered a variety of roles and after researching the various cities and institutions we chose a role Teaching English to Adults in a Private Language School in Nanjing.

The main reasons for this choice:
1. Their contract was easier to read, not full of fines and conditions if you did not perform as required - it felt more like the carrot than the stick!
2. They were open to negotiation, provided everything we required to move to China and were willing to speed up the process to have us in China asap.
3. Of all the skype interviews this one stood out as different.  The interviewer for this role, Jacqueline was the only one who showed her face on line. Most others who interviewed me on line, tended to prefer a one way camera (telling me the internet didn't seem to be working properly at their end).  For me this was a big deciding factor, it told me I wasn't just a number, they were interested in me as a person.
4. After a whole lot of research it came down to gut instinct - it just felt like a fit.
 
Applying for a Z-visa for China ~ October 2012

So now the fun begins, getting through the paperwork to gain the right visa for entry and permission to work in China.  It may be different where you come from and us both being Kiwi's I think that the information could be clearer and because there are alot of "grey areas".

Warning here - read everything on-line, then go to the embassy of the country you are wanting to move to and get details of what you require directly from them.  Push and ask questions even if they seem stupid questions.  If you don't feel right about an answer given, keep digging.  Rules and regulations change, information from the internet can easily be out of date and it is better to be talking to someone right there who knows what is required now!

Don't Cut Corners 

Even with all the research we still made errors in the process and we were just lucky they were picked up in NZ where we could change them prior to our departure.  Again both recruitment agencies were wonderful - both gave very good advice on the process (sometimes it just got a little lost in translation).
Having only been in Nanjing a month - I have already met other foreign teachers who have been caught here with incorrect documentation (working on an L visa specifically).  It has cost them a whole lot in time, energy and money to get things put right.  Don't try and do it the "easy" way.  Do it the "right" way and everything turns out a whole lot better in the long run.

AND, the paperwork does not stop once you arrive.  We have had to complete medicals again, do a whole lot more paperwork and have ID photos for everything.  We have registered with local police and checked in at the Exit and Entry Bureau.  We have now been issued with our expert certification and residency for the year.  We have copies of everything - I don't know how they did it in the "old days" before iphones and instant photos were invented.

We were very lucky to find three awesome people on arrival in Nanjing:
Sam - we found Sam through the Nanjing expat website offering her services as a guide.  We arranged to meet Sam on our first day in Nanjing and her guidance was invaluable.  She helped us get orientated in a new city and gave us our first tour, showing us the closest grocery store, where we were going to work, where to eat, how to get a mobile phone sorted and all those little things that are important when you first arrive.

Bamboon & Chen Lei  (also through the Nanjing expats website).  Bamboon responded to our advert looking for an apartment and they were both life savers. They helped us through the fog of unknown, picking us up and taking us to where we needed to be to complete the different types of paperwork required.
 
The Arrival in China ~ December 2012

From our experience, expect that when you arrive in China you are on your own. One thing I would insist on if I did this again would be to make sure I was met at the airport on arrival.

We arrived at a reasonable hour in Nanjing and the immigration process went smoothly.  Within no time we found ourselves in the airport terminal.  We had been advised to take the airport bus into the city, then grab a cab to our accommodation.  This didn't seem doable as we had too much luggage to get on and off a crowded bus.  So our thinking was that on arrival we would negotiate with a taxi driver to take us into the city.  Our thinking (in error) was that there would be "taxi stands" highlighted, signs indicating buses etc.  WRONG.  There was minimal signage, just a whole lot of men surrounding you saying "TAXI, TAXI, TAXI".

Dodgy Driver

Taking a moment to collect my thoughts, we chose a person who advised in broken English he knew where to take us and the cost was 200RMB.  I stood and negotiated with him and made it clear that we would only pay 150RMB (still high, yet I just wanted to get to our hotel).  It was a good ride in, it felt safe. He spoke no English, so the ride was also quiet as we took in our new surroundings.  He also found the hotel we were staying at straight away.Then the crunch came. Supposedly, according to him. I had agreed to 300RMB - 150RMB each. NO WAY! Leaving Michael to argue I quickly found reception, checked we had the correct hotel and they were expecting us, went back down pulled our luggage from the car, gave him 150RMB and walked away leaving him "yelling" at us.
Not a great arrival and we definitely learnt from the experience.  The more you can plan before you leave home, the better.

by Anna Anderson

Anna Anderson is teaching with her husband in Nanjing. She came to teach English in China at a mature age and so can give valuable perspectives on what it is like to come here and teach when older. She has a busy blog, which is fun and very informative. You can visit her blog here.
 
Published in Articles about China

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