Hunting the Elusive Job

After spending four hours applying to jobs online, I have decided that the term “job hunt” is appropriately named, as it requires perseverance, experience, and a lot of waiting around in the woods (if the woods are symbolic of unemployment and financial ruin). And if an in-state job search is like hunting deer (which you could easily mow down on the Parkway with a Smart car), then an international job search is like hunting snipe (which don’t exist).

Every day, I get an e-mail update from Search Associates listing recently posted positions I qualify for. And I am not sure what they mean by qualify, because once I’ve opened the posting, I am bombarded by a slew of mysterious acronyms that ultimately stand for ‘You Are Not Qualified (at all, in any sense of the word).’ AP, IB, MYP, DP, IGSE are like an academic pack of guard dogs staunchly defending my dream job from applicants like me.

It goes like this: a job is posted in some idyllic location, perhaps Finland, Chile, or Ireland:

Needed: High School English teacher.

Great. That’s me. I qualify.

Overseas experience of at least three years required.

Perfect. Got that.

Looking for enthusiastic candidates with a strong background in English literature.

Me. Me again.

Must hold standard teaching certificate and be highly qualified in subject area.

Certificate uploaded! Bachelors in subject area AND fancy Masters! Yup! $100,000 in the hole for both of those pieces of paper! But they’ve gotten me this far!

Experience teaching MYP, IB certified desired*, but not required. (Oops, typo. We meant to say required again for emphasis.)

What is MYP? Is that like PYT? I might qualify for the latter!

Nevertheless, I plow onward, e-mailing the school through Search Associates. I am never sure how to word these e-mails. Sophisticated professional? Amicable professional? Overly enthusiastic and chipper idealistic young teacher (IYT)? For many schools that really pique my interest, I search for the director or principal’s e-mail address and send another, more personal e-mail.

This often requires conducting thorough research of the school, specifically familiarizing myself with mission statements, philosophies, curriculum guidelines, extracurricular activities, and recent events.

And because I live in Egypt, it also requires patience and absolute determination, a willingness to work through frequent power outages that log you out of the application or prohibit you from researching the school’s website.

This morning, while applying to a fantastic school in Scandinavia, the power failed twice. I grabbed my iPhone and took advantage of my 3G to read every detail on the website before typing a detailed, heartfelt interest letter on Word and waiting for the power to return so I could send it along.

I sometimes want to include this in my application: PS – In the course of writing this, I lost electricity twice, endured my boab jackhammering something on the roof, and plugged my ears with cotton to block out the sound of the man selling empty propane cylinders in the street. Please hire me.

I also think that teaching in Egypt should count for something. It adds years to us, with friends going gray at 25 and air pollution shaving precious years off of our lives. If that’s the case, then teaching here for three years should really represent six years internationally. And I’m sorry, but boldly soldiering on to work every day amid protests, political instability, violence in the streets, harassment, and for some, hour+ commutes, should really give us an edge over people who teach on compounds in Saudi Arabia or in quiet suburbs in Germany. We are a gritty, dedicated bunch of resilient, adaptable teachers who can pretty much withstand anything you throw at us. School suddenly canceled due to protest? No big deal, work’s on the online learning center. Someone’s stolen the internet cable from the street outside? Cool, I’ll switch up my group research lesson with five minutes notice. Power outage disabling all technology, air conditioning, and lighting? Got this. Reading and writing don’t require technology! We can sweat it out. (Literally.)

It really is like stalking a leopard on foot, armed with a handmade spear and loopy optimism. As if that isn’t enough, I haven’t even been granted access to the illustrious London fair, a Mecca for highly ranked schools around the world that is occurring next week. Like a shameful step-child, I have not been invited. For my friends and I using Search, obtaining an invitation to this fair has been a hunt in itself. Three of us were denied invitations by our representatives and had to push to obtain them. I apparently did not push hard enough. Getting an interview with a school is difficult enough; fighting to get an invitation to a place where maybe you’ll get an interview and maybe even a job should not be this hard – especially when you’re paying $200 for it. While my friends head off to London this weekend, I’ll be stuck here, sweeping the chimney and singing with sympathetic mice.

What’s worse is that all of these schools I’ve been fastidiously applying to are attending the London fair. Most have ignored my e-mails, my CV’s, my carefully researched and well-worded letters of interest. Some have shot out the standard reply: Thanks. We’ll put your letter with our applicants. Hope to see you at the London fair!

But I wasn’t invited! I’m not allowed to go! My friend suggested I fly to London anyway and lurk about the hotel premises, telling schools that I will be in London at that time and would love to interview — just not through the fair. As outlandish – and stalker-worthy of a Lifetime movie – as that sounds, I’ve given it serious thought. Meeting a school face-to-face is a huge step up the ladder to an interview. In many cases, it makes all the difference. Being able to approach someone you’ve e-mailed, CV in hand, and say, “Hi. I e-mailed regarding the English job. I’m a real person” can really be the ticket to an interview. Especially if you’re charismatic and good with people.

My hands feel tied. I’ve begged and argued and attempted to persuade to get to these fairs, but I’ve been repeatedly told that no, I do not qualify, and perhaps I should attend the Dubai fair and teach in the glorious Middle East, the one place I have stated I do not want to work again. I feel like a small child who wants to play with the cool kids on the jungle gym but am instead pushed into the sandbox and told to play there. (Illegally, as the sandbox requires work visas that I do not have.)

And to top it all off, I have to inform my school (which is wonderful, by the way) by February whether I am staying or going. Talk about risk-taking. I’ll spend the spring months out on a tightrope without a net, which brings the possibility of grabbing for anything to ensure I’m employed in the fall.

Happy hunting.

3 replies »

  1. I’m an international teacher in Venezuela, and I totally understand about living with protests, power outages, and other shortages. I ended up getting a new job (also in Venezuela because I still love it here) by working my network. Good luck with your job hunt!

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