When Recruiting Fairs Give You Lemons

Lemon1241697The window of opportunity for finding an overseas teaching position this recruiting season has just about closed. Unfortunately, some of us who are currently overseas haven’t landed a job for the upcoming academic year. If you’re in this unnerving position and facing a return to your home country potentially jobless, homeless and/or car-less, you’re not alone. Many an experienced overseas educator walked away empty-handed this recruiting season.

Most International Schools require teachers resign their current position well in advance of attending a Recruiting Fair. So what do you do when you resign your international teaching job, fly off to recruit at a Fair or two, and still fail to land a new position? You could try to extend your present contract for the upcoming school year. But chances are your school has already filled your position, and maybe even at the exact same Fair you attended….

One International Educator we spoke with said she and her husband (also a teacher) were forced to return to the States after they failed to find a school with positions for them both and tells us they made their own proverbial lemonade: They rented an apartment (near family) in what they considered a good school district for their two kids, bought a “funky” old car, applied for substitute teaching credentials and simply rode out year. They easily found positions the next recruiting season and have been overseas ever since.

Another teacher reports his unique lemonade recipe: He rented a house near an International School he wanted to teach at and worked there as a substitute teacher. The school, being familiar with his work, hired him for the following year and gave him the foreign-hire status he required.

There ARE creative ways to work around not finding a job at a Recruiting Fair. Have you been in this position? How did you deal with it? Or, are you facing the prospect of finding yourself in this very position? Here’s the place to share your ideas.

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35 Responses to When Recruiting Fairs Give You Lemons

  1. Anonymous says:

    I fell into this exact situation. I chose not to return to my school on the basis of moving into a bigger school, more opportunities for school leadership, and a part of the world more exotic and closer to the United States. If it wasn’t for this opportunity, then I would have stayed at my current employer. I was given a strong confirmation by the new school that the hire would happen only to be traded out for a teaching couple who made a fit for a difficult hire for the school.

    Trusting that I was hired, I did not attend recruitment fairs and expand my options. That was a lesson to be learned. It gets easy for us as teachers to lose focus that the school also is doing what it believes is best for it as an institution professional and financially. Luckily, I learned about the alternative hire in January and I was able to explain the situation to my employer. They understood and valuing the professional contributions i’ve provided agreed to extend my contract.

    A great lesson that you have to expand options until you know you have something definite and a lesson to maintain great relations with your current employer. You never know when you need that favor.


  2. Ain't that a shame says:

    I feel a little better reading some of these posts. I too have found myself back in the hometown I thought I’d never return to. Twice, in fact. The first year I rode out on subbing (tight year, no benefits). The second time, a great job at a charter school sort of fell in my lap right as medical circumstances forced my wife and I to leave our last overseas post mid year.

    Our lemonade? I’m still at that charter school, enjoying paid PD opportunities and other benefits not as easily accessible overseas. My wife is on the road to US citizenship so when go back overseas in a couple years, she will have the awesome and near omnipresent availability of US embassy services. My wife has been subbing, using the extra time to earn an extra degree. We live in a home in the mountains with two dogs and, for the first time in a long time, stability. Not too shabby.

    Closing note, I recommend teachers check out TIC recruiting. It’s a UK outfit. No fees. All Skype based. Much more personal than joyjobs and with a bit (a bit) more scrutiny. Like the big boys (ISS, SA) their bread is buttered by the recruiters, so still do your homework before signing a contract. TIC has been instrumental in getting us some zero hour positions at decent schools. Hope this helps!


  3. Bells says:

    ‘not real’…. what shame they have no idea the quality of our international schools!


  4. trav45 says:

    Geesh–what cynical posts about directors and fairs. Most directors/principals I know (though not all) HATE going to these things and would much rather do the interviewing via Skype. I also think we need to more specific in our predictions of doom for SA, ISS and the like. While the days of FAIRS are probably numbered, the companies still provide a large bank warehouse of candidates and resumes. I was interviewed by Skype, but they found me on Search because I had no interest in working in China, so hadn’t applied. There’s a limited pool of people who apply directly, so that extensive database is still a valuable tool.


  5. Anonymous says:

    1) There are still lots of schools recruiting. TES and various agencies fill my inbox daily. An old head told me there were 3 waves of recruiting Oct/Nov, Jan/Feb and April.
    2) I secured my fourth international job (this one in SE Asia) in January. All interviews were by phone or Skype. Not a job fair in sight.
    3) I don’t know about the US but in England and Wales teachers only have to give 1/2 terms notice in state schools. There is lots of opportunity to get a position that suits you without being a supply teacher.
    4) Unlucky this wave? There are always positions starting in January.


  6. Jody says:

    Lots of positions come available between April and August. Teachers that have accepted jobs sometimes bail due to personal issues, and sometimes new positions are created due to increased enrollment. Don’t give up!


    • exbelfer says:

      True – this is how I found my last two positions. They were sort of short term positions – one year, but this was what I was looking for. However, in both cases, if I only wanted to stay longer, both schools would keep me quite readily. It’s also very true what Judi Bartosz wrote – age restrictions are the issue in most countries. Unless the school is desperate, it will not hire you under “normal” circumstances.


  7. Judi Bartosz says:

    Don’t fret yet! Try to relax and continue with your search. I’ve gotten great jobs of my choice in April and May. Only issue is if you are over 55 or closer to 60 that is when the field of opportunities begins to narrow considerably.


  8. Anonymous says:

    This is a hard hiring season. I know quite a few experienced educators with good references who are not able to find jobs. Schools are hiring interns which take away teaching jobs. Some schools are hiring teachers with no international experience because they believe green teachers will put up and shut up. It is a bit of a mess at the moment. Very different job market then when I started 15 years ago. 15 years ago there were not enough teachers and too many open jobs, now there are too many teachers and not enough jobs. Good luck to everyone.


  9. DWW-Been there done that!! says:

    I agree 100% with Blackie. I have worked overseas for 20 years and started off with ISS. I have been hired with ISS and SA as well as other overseas organizations. When I started out there were 3 organizations that hired overseas teachers, now there are at least 8 or 10 that I can think of. As for the “recruiting season,” for years my colleagues and I complained about the idea of job fairs and why couldn’t technology be used, well they are doing just that today in spades. More and more teachers are being hired in advance of the job fairs as well as after, Skype really does work. Last year I thought I wanted to go overseas again and in 3 days, via TIE, I found jobs, applied and had 4 interviews. In the end I changed my mind and didn’t go, but the opportunities are there and they aren’t all dogs. People move and leave jobs at many different times of the year and Heads must find a replacement whenever that is. So keep looking and don’t stop.


  10. exbelfer says:

    I was once told, that the early resignation request stems from the fact, that the “best” teachers are interviewd via Skype, well before the job fairs frenzy starts. So called good schools want to fill the crucial positions before job fairs. Overseas experienced is right about big recruiting companies. So is Blackie, stating that the days of job fairs are numbered. I’ve got my last two positions via Skype interview. Maybe that’s why these companies are trying to get their buck when it’s still possible.


  11. ken says:

    I have not gone to a recruiting fair for years, and I have landed great jobs, saving thousands of dollars. TES.co.uk Tieonline.com are just a couple of sites that post great jobs.
    More schools than ever are recruiting outside the hiring fairs. Telephone and Skype interviews take the place of the job fairs rat race. You just need to be flexible and stay on top of the listings.


  12. ccluv says:

    I was hired in April for my current position via Skype interviews – almost everyone at my current campus was hired via Skype. I kept applying even after the fairs were over (I went to 2 of them). My colleagues are all wonderful and my location allows me to do a lot of things I could never do from the states. Never give up hope!


    • Anonymous says:

      Do you happen to be in Asia? Everyone keeps talking about all these Skype interviews but I still don’t see them happening often. What’s the skype secret?


      • Blackie says:

        I’m in Asia, they happen ALL the time. Check out schools directly. Check the websites of the recruiting companies (no need to pay SA or ISS – there are lots of GREAT smaller ones who are interested in YOU.)


        • trav45 says:

          I’m in Asia, too, and I think my school (one of the top in the region) hired more than half of next year’s newbies via Skype . That’s certainly how I was hired a few years ago–in October, long before I had to fork out all the dosh for a job fair.


  13. Anonymous says:



  14. Blackie says:

    Like a lot of people, my school asked us to notify them of our decisions on staying or going in October/November. I’ve often wondered why it’s so important as most recruiting fairs happen in February/March/April. I still don’t get it. My boss told me once that the recruiting companies are pushing them to do this.

    So, long story short… I resigned my position at a top international school in order to develop my career further, elsewhere. I signed with SA and booked to go to their fair in Bangkok. The recruiter was very positive and was telling me how many wonderful schools and positions would be available. As someone else said, when the fair came along, these positions didn’t exist any longer (despite my having been in touch with schools and SA)… schools that were down to attend the fair did not attend, jobs that WERE suitable, when push came to shove, the recruiters admitted they wanted a different gender for the position (never written of course.) In one instance, they told me the job was only advertised as the school board insisted it was, but that the principals friend already had the job.

    So, for me, what a nightmare. The costs of attending the fair were astronomical. The outcome, negative.

    I went away and did my own research, worked with smaller recruiting companies and have now been offered 5 positions in very good schools. All based on Skype interviews.

    The days of attending recruiting fairs are dying. Administrators taking their junkets and still hiring teachers that don’t perform are going to have to start justifying to boards/owners, why this happens when a skype interview is free.

    The window for international schools is WIDE open. You just have to get off the ISS, SA bandwagon and do some work. If you’re not the ideal candidate (read “Teaching Couple – no dependants).. then, this is by far the most cost effective and best way. Check out schools on Schrole.com and a bunch of other great websites. Joyjobs is brilliant!

    Good hunting everyone, I’m very happy. For me, I’ve finally learned that I am good enough to find a GREAT position myself. I don’t need a fair, and I certainly don’t want it!!


  15. traveler first says:

    I found myself in this exact position. It was a complete bummer and showed how little the school actually cared about us. Teachers were asked to resign in November. Not knowing how I would feel towards the end of the school year I decided to resign rather than risk it with the new director. The fair I wanted to attend was in February. It would make much more sense to have the fairs in June and July and have teachers give notice in March or April. Of course the directors wouldn’t feel like they were getting their freebie trip to the fair if it cut into their summer vacations. That’s a problem.

    To cut to the chase. The schools I had arranged to interview with had filled my position at earlier fairs. I did get a couple of interviews with other schools but it was to teach a subject other than the one at which I have the most experience and am certified to teach. I didn’t get the job. It was a winning situation for the fair, however, who got their fee out of me even though all the jobs in my area that were advertised as still being available had been filled. There is something unethical about that.

    I reluctantly returned to the US and began looking for a job. Karma has it’s way of showing it’s lovely self when you least expect it. Turned out that the school I had left was short a teacher because my replacement failed to show up. They invited me back. Then they pleaded with me. Then they made offers difficult to refuse. I refused.

    As hard as this may be to believe. I was in a liquor store near my parents house one afternoon (yes I moved in with my parents, I had no place to go) – and bought $8 worth of lottery tickets. I don’t know what possessed me to buy them. I never had before. I guess I was feeling desperate. As fate would have it I won a bundle. No, I’m not a millionaire but I’m set for a good number of years to come. So I thumbed my nose at my old school’s offer and decided to travel until the next year’s fairs. I can literally afford to be picky now.


    • Anonymous says:

      Why would you say it is karma that your old school was left high and dry and short a teacher? YOU are the one who resigned? You never mentioned whether you went crawling back but I sense you did to show so much bitterness. Something about your post just seems so… entitled? Go figure that YOU won the lottery.


      • Johnny says:

        Reread the post. It clearly states the poster “refused” and the school initiated contact with the poster. As far as bitterness goes the emphasis on “YOU” comes across as slightly bitter as well.


        • Anonymous says:

          You are right Johnny. I got so annoyed at the lottery comment towards the end after reading this whining post that I forgot to keep reading to see that the school was the first to approach them on returning. Look, fact is that it is ridiculous that a teacher who opted not to come back and as a result resigned from their job and did not find another job would take so much pleasure in seeing their school in that situation. Then to rejoice in turning them down and brag about that on a forum? Just bad manners and yes, an overwhelming sense of entitlement. But thanks for sticking up for this teacher Johnny!! Your point is well taken.


    • Meg says:

      Schools asking teachers to declare for the next school year in November IS early, but waiting until March/April and holding fairs in the summer is also way too late. It has nothing to do with directors’ (or teachers’ for that matter) vacations being cut into. Rather, there are many places that require months of advanced preparation on the schools’ end in order to legally have international teachers work there. Visa restrictions and requirements in lots of places don’t allow for a school to hire a teacher in July and expect them to be able to show up in August. Not to mention that many schools expect their teachers to report at the end of July or beginning of August. I believe it is unfair to always blame everything that is challenging about the way recruiting is currently done on the perceived selfishness of the administrators, as there are many other factors to consider. (And no, I’m not an administrator myself, just a teacher with the ability to have some perspective outside my own needs.)


  16. Freebird says:

    Just know that if and when you come back to the states, be prepared to substitute first, sometimes for more than a year. This can really deplete your pocketbook because you don’t get any benefits, especially health care and the competition is more intense in the states. It took me 3 years to find a full time position. One year working part-time..Good luck


    • Anonymous says:

      Why would you need to be prepared to substitute if going back to the states? Are lots schools in the states not desperate for teachers? Would they not appreciate a person who taught abroad after teaching in the states? This assumes of course you taught in the states first, keep your credentials in order and worked at good schools while gone. Just curious why you are telling people to “be prepared?”


      • Freebird says:

        It’s a reality in teaching that it is difficult to get back from where you started if you move overseas. Some public schools do not count overseas experience as some overseas schools do not have accreditation. In the states, you will be hired in school systems that are the most needy, like Title 1, etc. urban areas.
        I live in the DC metro area so it is very competitive to get into a good school system. Once people get those jobs they don’t leave.


      • trav45 says:

        Actually, Freebird is correct. If you’ve been overseas for any amount of time, it can be very hard to get back in the public school system (or even some private schools). Several friends have tried, and were actually told that teaching overseas isn’t “real” experience, and principals were worried what kind of perspective they might bring. The global view is not necessarily a positive back home. And these were people with great experience and credentials.


        • Anonymous says:

          Just terrible to hear that those in the USA are so close minded. I hope we don’t have that problem returning back. Our schools are accredited but I can see how this might pose a problem. Crossing fingers.


        • Suze says:

          Went back home expecting to waltz back into my old district–they had just laid off 90 teachers and told me they would love to have me back but couldn’t even look at me until they had placed those 90. Also, if you have more than 10-15 years experience, they can hire a brand new, fresh out of college teacher much more cheaply. Bottom line–there are more teachers than jobs now, and even excellent teachers with great references can walk away empty handed. I recruited the next year and am back overseas at an amazing school and plan to stay here a long, long time! I won’t go back out without a safety net again, not at this stage of life.


  17. Overseas experienced says:

    Let’s also face the facts that the recruiting fairs care more about pleasing the recruiters than they do about the teachers trying to find jobs. Both ISS and SA in particular. Just look at the amenities in the recruiter rooms as compared to what the teachers are offered. Teachers get ice water while the recruiters have food and drink galore.
    I don’t think the window is closed on the international scene and can stay open for another 2 months. Job fairs are becoming obsolete and the only ones who really promote them are the fair operators and the directors, who can use the excuse to run up a bill on the school and live it up.
    Heads up if you don’t have a job yet.


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