The interviewer entered the room quickly, introduced himself, offered a business card and sat down. He had my resume and an application form. He furrowed his brow and reviewed my work history in silence. "Ten years teaching, that's got to be a record." He let it linger. It was an observation that needed to be addressed. Fortunately, I was prepared. I went into a spiel on my working in Japan, then in Thailand, then back again. I emphasized the fact that English teaching positions were the easiest to find initially, particularly in Thailand. I didn't distance myself to greatly from teaching as it would have been detrimental to speak ill of something I had done just shy of a decade. I made it a mentioning some of the managerial work that I had done in the role of a teacher-trainer. The interviewer seemed somewhat assuaged by my response. He asked me about my time living in Quebec, Canada. He asked me why things hadn't worked out in Thailand. I had rehearsed answers to those questions in point form (not memorized, canned responses). I handled the questions well enough. The interviewer then moved onto my language ability. He was pleased to see I had passed a Japanese proficiency test. I assured him that I had maintained, if not improved my Japanese since taking the test. He then invited me to ask questions, a point at which the tone of the interview became decidedly more pleasant and the hard questioning ended.
I got the job.
It is not an easy thing to overcome a resume. I know of one friend who has found himself in a number of jobs that he was less than passionate about, but with each passing job he was defining himself more as a technical writer and less as a creative one. Another woman acquaintance couldn't escape data entry positions. Her attempts to break out of the job were met with more offers of the same. CV, curriculum vitae, the course of your life. Whether we like it or not, our resume defines us to employers. The best way to enhance our resume is to add to the 'work experience' section. Of course, therein lies the catch-22. For those of us who have spent a long time teaching English overseas, it can be extremely difficult to land a job outside the industry. Even for those with degrees and certificates in education must be careful not to let to much time lapse, lest they lose their employability back home.
In all of this, there does seem to be one thing that an overseas teacher can do to add luster to the resume... learn the language. Easier said, than done (though language is less done, than said). For those planning on living overseas for a long period of time language skills are invaluable. A real mastery of a language can lead to opportunities otherwise unavailable. For those with a shorter time horizon, partial acquisition still looks good on paper. Some certificate, passing mark on a test, time spent in a language school, etc. gives the appearance of earnest endeavour, not just idle indulgence while abroad. In both cases, studying the local language is a smart investment in the future.
With things recently coming apart for teachers in Japan, those with Japanese language skills have found themselves in a much better position than those without. I leave you with this cautionary note - a great number of teachers in the former Nova graduated into management positions without needing Japanese ability. When G-Communications took over operations of Nova it sent out a form to every employee asking about language ability. Within in several months, G-Communications unceremoniously lopped of the heads of almost all of the foreign management in non-teaching positions. People with years of management experience, but little Japanese were given with the following choice; get back in the classroom or face the Japanese job market... there are some nice suits in the classroom these days.