A couple years ago I had to look real hard to find things to get excited about. I had (have) a beautiful and amazing wife, a home I love, and a solid paying full time job in human resources. The icing on the cake: I even liked the company I was working for.
However, spending my working hours staring at spreadsheets and emails was getting to me. Every morning I was looking forward to lunch. Every afternoon I sucked down coffee just to keep my head from hitting the desk in bordom. On Monday I was thinking about Friday, and on Saturday night I would start feeling anxiety about going to work on Monday. I never planned on working in human resources cubical as a long term game plan, but I never imagined what a grind it would be.
In May of 2012 I felt like I was seriously hitting my limit. I desired to travel and see the world. I wanted to have my own business and work that I was interested in. I missed waking up and looking forward to my day. I had to make a change.
While looking for work that would allow me to pursue my dreams, I stumbled upon teaching English. I knew there was opportunity to teach English overseas, but I didn’t know much about it. As I started doing research I felt like the blinders were being removed from my eyes.
I was thinking either teaching ESL is awesome or this is too good to be true.
As it turns out, teaching ESL has been perfect for this season of my life.
Teaching ESL is low stress
- The lesson plans are done for me – no prep.
- I have a teaching assistant that handles direct contact with disgruntled parents.
- I’m paid well enough that I don’t have to worry about finances.
- I basically play with Chinese kids in English.
Teaching ESL gives a lot of opportunity to travel
- I’m living in China.
- During my 3 week spring break I went to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.
- I get 3 weeks of paid vacation, plus all of China’s holidays are paid.
- If I give notice I can also take unpaid leave as long as I can find substitute teacher or rearrange my classes.
Teaching ESL gives me a ton of freetime to pursue my dreams and passions
On average I work about 15 hours per week.
Most of my working ours are on Saturday and Sunday. This leaves Monday through Friday nearly wide open for me to do whatever I want.
Teaching ESL can be very lucrative
- In the U.S. I made twice as much money, but had a hard time saving any of it.
- It is easy to save $1000 a month in China, while having a housekeeper, eating out, having a good time, and only working 15 hours per week.
- If you turn up the hustle and work 40 hours a week, it is quite possible to be making another $2000 to $3000 per month.
- If you aren’t blowing all your money on western food and drinking all weekend, it is very realistic to be saving $4000 a month.
I wouldn’t want to live that lifestyle for years on end, but that’s not what we are talking about. I’m talking about spending one year teaching English, and realistically saving anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 (or paying off debt).
How much closer would an extra fifty grand bring you to your dreams?
And the bonus pay: undistracted free time to figure out how to smash those goals.
Where should I start?
Last year I came to a point where I thought, “Why not start applying?” I figured that if I changed my mind I could always just not get on the plane. I started looking at jobs advertisements, and had a found that schools in China, Korea, and the middle east paid the best relative to the cost of living.
Being loosely familiar with China from a previous trip, my wife and I decided to play it a tiny bit familiar. We had visited Qingdao and knew it was one of the nicest cities in China. I also have an aversion towards lung cancer, and the air quality in many cities here is straight up toxic. Qingdao, on the other hand, is a bit of a slower vacation oceanside city with enough industry to not be the only foreigner within 100 miles.
I applied for every job in Qingdao first, and then as a backup plan started applying for Beijing. This took place over the course of a couple evenings on the couch.
Almost immediately I started getting replies. It was like a little Christmas in my inbox every morning.
The best site to find ESL jobs is Dave’s ESL Cafe.
If you are looking at Qingdao specifically (and I would recommend it) these sites are more local:
You can also email me and I can put you in touch with some friends and schools.
Don’t Be a Slacker
The best job opportunities will come to those who stand out. I’m pretty sure an American high school drop out could get a job teaching English somewhere in China, but higher quality schools will expect at least some effort.
Also, many of the recruiters ask for you to include a scan of your passport, a picture of yourself, and a copy of your college transcript. If you want to look like a professional on a real job hunt put this stuff together, along with a well written resume. Hey! If you play your cards right it’ll be the last one you’ll ever write.
Many of the recruiters will request a Skype interview. Don’t be nervous. If they want to interview you it means you basically have the job, they just want to make sure you aren’t a total psychopath. You’re golden.
Teaching English has given me a year of freedom that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve on my own in 2012. I’ve lived in China, traveled to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, learned to speak Mandarin, and had a ton of free time to boot. It truly feels like a shortcut to success. If you’re feeling stuck in a job you don’t like or you are unemployed, consider trying something a little different.