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Speed dating for teachers: tips for international school job fairs

Are you interested in a new adventure teaching abroad? A good place to start is one of the job fairs held in the UK – but be warned, you’ll need nerves of steel. Article by Mary McCarney for Daily Telegraph

Every January, international schools start to search for new teachers for the following academic year at job fairs. The atmosphere at these somewhat daunting and chaotic events is like speed dating for teachers keen to find the perfect job, according to one who has been through the process.
Search Associates is one of several organisations currently holding educator job fairs worldwide. Over four days in London this week (Jan 21-24) principals from 165 schools will meet with around 650 prospective teacher candidates, approximately 50 per cent of whom will be hired.
Competition is fierce, and for first-time attendees, the job fair experience can be extremely daunting.

“I’ve heard it described as a ‘meat market’, and it can be rather overwhelming. But I would liken it more to speed dating,” said Annalee Higginbottom from Manchester, who was hired as a technology teacher by an American school, thanks to a London job fair.

“On arrival, it felt a bit like the Boxing Day sales as candidates gathered outside. Once the doors opened, everyone rushed straight for the schools with the best reputations and most attractive packages,” she explained.
At that stage, the goal is to speak, briefly, to as many school representatives as possible and decide if you want to follow up with an interview.”
Sometimes these are done via Skype, and sometimes face-to-face. Annalee booked a face-to-face interview with Atlanta International School headmaster Kevin Glass. When he offered her a job, she accepted with delight.
“In a moment of joy and excitement, I hid behind the school brochure, squealed and did a happy dance in my chair,” she recalled.

Analee Higginbottom landed a job in Atlanta after meeting the headteacher at a careers fair

Patrick Hurworth from Chislehurst, Kent, is high school principal of Hong Kong International School, and has experienced job fairs as both a candidate and a recruiter.
“As a candidate, you are presented with life-altering decisions that have to be made often within 24 hours of the job offer. It’s not uncommon to be mulling over a two-year contract in Caracas, Jedda or Geneva, for example,” he said.
“Ultimately, those decisions are made with pretty limited information and often influenced by gut feeling.”

For those attending job fairs this year, Annalee has some advice. “Be prepared: know where in the world you would like to go and where you absolutely do not want to go,” she said. “Check out schools in that country and create a list of those that interest you. Research the schools, the country, the cost of living.”
Recruitment fairs are also a two-way process: “Remember you are interviewing schools as much as they are interviewing you,” she said. “It’s very flattering to receive an offer, but if you don’t think you will be happy at the school or in that country, decline the position.”

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