Friday, December 24, 2004

The 10 Day Job Search: Thailand

by AJ/Skald
(First published by Transitions Abroad)

stupa_in_bangkokStupa at the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Within ten days of arriving in Thailand, it is possible to have a job.

The best way to get a teaching job is to get on a plane, fly to Bangkok, and search once you are there. This can seem intimidating. Many worry that they will arrive with a tight budget and not find work.

It is a logical fear, but unfounded. If you are a native English speaker and have a college degree (any subject) you can get a job in ten days. Just follow the steps below.

Day 0: Pre-arrival
There are a number of things to do before boarding the plane.
1. Pack nice clothes. For men that means ties, collared shirts, and trousers (or khakis). For women, bring two or three business outfits. Pack a nice pair of dress shoes.
2. Resume. Put together a resume before leaving. Save it to disc (CD) so it can be printed at an internet shop in Bangkok. Emphasize teaching, training, and travel experience.
3. Degree. Bring your college diploma in a protective case, such as a hard plastic tube. Bring several copies.
4. College transcripts. Some employers ask for university transcripts. Request these before leaving home and pack several copies.
5. Reference letters. Most employers ask for 2-3 references. Arrange these before departing. Ex-bosses, teachers, and co-workers make the best references. Ask each to write a brief letter of recommendation. Tell them you are applying for English teaching jobs. Ask them NOT to date the letter (so you can use it for a long time) and to include an address, phone number, and email address.
6. Pre-contact the big chains. Before leaving, send emails to the big schools in Bangkok such as ECC, Inlingua, AUA, and English Plus. These schools have multiple branches and continual job openings. Email a brief letter - tell them when you will arrive, summarize your qualifications, and ask to set up an interview. Paste your resume into the body of the email. You may have a job waiting when you arrive.

Day 1: Arrival
If you are on a tight budget, head straight to the backpackers' area in Banglumpoo (Khao San Rd). Use a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to find a guest house for any budget. Relax. Sleep. No job search today.

Day 2: Get Bearings
No job search today. Sleep late. Take a stroll. Let body and mind adjust to the new environs. Only one task today. Unpack one set of interview clothes. If they are badly wrinkled, take them to the guest house's laundry service and have them ironed. Once ironed, hang them up. Polish shoes if they need polishing. Unpack resume disc, degree, transcripts, etc.

Day 3: Mobile Phone
Employers will want to call. Asking them to leave a message at a guest house is both tacky and unreliable. It is best to get a cell phone. Mobile phones are cheap and easy to find. Take a taxi to the Central Shopping Mall in Pinklao. Tell the driver Sentan Pinklao. On the fourth floor of the mall are many shops that sell both new and used phones. A good phone goes for 2000-2500 Baht (around $50) although cheaper is certainly possible.

You have a phone, now you need a telephone number. For that, you must buy a "sim card". The main sim-card service providers are DTAC and 1-2-Call. They are both reliable and easy to use. Most mobile phone shops also sell sim cards, and will install them (very easy to do). If they do not, take the phone directly to the DTAC (4th floor) or 1-2-Call (2nd floor) office. A sim card costs about 300 Baht ($7.50). Once you have a sim card, you can receive calls. Before leaving the store, ask the staff to switch your language options to English.

Finally, to make calls you must put minutes on the phone. This is done by buying prepaid phone cards, available at any convenience store (including the omnipresent 7-11s). Simply go to the counter and ask for a DTAC or 1-2-Call Card (depending on which sim card you have). Cards come in 200, 300, and 400 Baht amounts. To activate the card, call the access number (printed on the card), then enter the serial number (followed by #) and password (followed by #). In a few seconds, the money is added to the account.

Day 4: Computer Work
Go to an internet cafe with the disc that holds your resume. Open the resume and add the new phone number to the top. Then print twenty copies. Cheaper shops charge only 5 Baht per copy (100 Baht equals about $2.50). Store resumes in a thick folder to keep them clean and unwrinkled.

Next, head to This is the main internet site for teaching jobs in Thailand. Scan the job listings and copy any that sound promising. Email a cover letter and resume to each job. It is better to paste the resume into the body of the email rather than attach it as a file. Many people will not open attachments. In the cover letter, tell the school that you are currently in Bangkok and are interested in a position immediately. Ask them to look at your resume and ask for an interview. End the letter with your phone number and email address.

Take a break, get some food, stretch your legs. Then back to the internet shop for round two. Visit Go to the international job board. This site is not specific to Thailand but there are often Thai jobs listed. Scan the entire list and email promising Thai jobs, even if the listing is old. Always state that you are now in Thailand. Always ask for an interview (politely) and always include contact information at the end of the letter (even though it is also on the resume).

The final task for Day 4 is to contact the big chains - the ones you emailed from home. Send each another email. Stress that you are now in Bangkok and are prepared to start work immediately.

Day 5: Hit the Pavement
Put on business clothes, gather a stack of resumes, diploma copies, and copies of reference letters. Almost all schools will ask for a recent photo when you apply, so head to Khao San Road. Khao San has numerous photo shops that take Polaroid passport-size pictures. Most charge 100 Baht for four pictures. Get 12 or more.
Next, check email for responses from yesterday's inquiries. Immediately call or email any schools that express an interest. Schedule an interview and get directions to the school.

The remainder of Day 5 will be spent visiting schools. This is an inefficient way of job searching, but it is good to have face to face encounters. Get comfortable talking to employers. Smile and show enthusiasm. The best place for walk-in visits is Siam Square, which has a high concentration of English schools. Tell the taxi driver Siam Square. Once there, just stroll. The British Council, ECC, English First, Go Chula, and Siam Computer have schools in or near Siam Square, as do a few smaller companies. There is an Inlingua branch across the street, in the Siam Discovery shopping mall. Visit these schools.

Then take the BTS sky train to Ratchidamri station. From the station, walk south (towards Lumpini Park) for five minutes to arrive at AUA, a large and well known language school. Drop off a resume and try to arrange an interview. Next, go to the tall building immediately next to AUA (to the right). There is an EFL school on the first floor. Visit them.

When visiting schools, greet the receptionist, ask to talk to someone about a teaching position and hand them a resume. Smile. You may get an interview, and a job offer, on the spot.

But do not be discouraged if nothing happens. Remember, the purpose of walk-ins is to grow more comfortable talking to employers.

Day 6: The Bangkok Post and The Nation
After breakfast, go straight to a bookstore (or coffee shop) and grab a copy of The Bangkok Post and The Nation: Bangkok's English language newspapers. Sit down and scan the classifieds. They always contain ads for English teachers. Circle them and immediately call those which list phone numbers. Mention that you meet their qualifications and are interested in a position. Arrange an interview.

Next, get back on the internet and check email for responses to inquiries. Immediately respond to them, preferably by phone. Arrange interviews. Email contacts from the Bangkok Post and The Nation that could not be contacted by phone.

By this time, interviews should be rolling in, so devote the rest of the day to them. When interviewing always overdress. Dress like a banker. No matter how casual the job itself may be, it is best to dress very conservatively for the interview. This is especially true in Thailand, where many employers will judge you by appearance, smile, and enthusiasm more than qualifications or work experience. In Thailand, it is often better to look good than to be good!

Day 7: Interviews
Check email and respond to inquiries. The rest of the day is devoted to interviews, as several should be scheduled by now. Dress well, smile, and show enthusiasm.

Day 8: Relax
Unless there is a promising interview scheduled, take it easy today. Sleep late. Get a massage. Relax. Do check email and respond to inquiries, but otherwise this is a rest day.

Day 9 & 10: Interviews and Contracts
Check and respond to new job listings. Check email every morning- and immediately respond to inquiries. By Day 9 you should have one or more job offers. Do not accept the first job offered. Examine the contract carefully. Ask questions: How many hours a week will you teach? (over 25 is too much). Will they sponsor a work visa? (They should). Will they help find an apartment? (They should). How much do they pay? (300 Baht an hour is bare minimum). If possible, talk to other teachers at the school and confirm that they are treated well and paid on time. Once satisfied, sign a contract.

By following the above steps, anyone can find a job in ten days or less. TESOL jobs in Thailand do not pay well by Western standards. However, by local standards they are more than adequate. By living simply it is possible to cover expenses and save $200-300 dollars a month. Furthermore, there are a huge number of jobs. With a neat appearance and a little organization, it is easy to find a job within ten days of landing in Bangkok. Follow the steps above, and success is assured.

For More Info
The best internet job board for Thailand. Also general information about living and working in Thailand.

Dave's ESL Cafe
His international job board contains Thailand openings. Also a lot of information about teaching English, including lesson ideas.

ECC Thailand
A major chain with branches throughout Bangkok and Thailand.

A major chain with many branches.

English Plus
Another of the large language school chains.

A well respected language school with several branches.

Stickman's Guide to Bangkok
Extensive information about living and working in Bangkok, including information about English schools.

Effortless Language Acquisition
My other blog. What to do once you get the job: Teaching techniques and resources.

Travel and Get a Degree

by AJ/Skald
(originally published in Transitions Abroad)

chao_praya_river_in_bangkok_thailandChao Praya River, Bangkok

Arun Temple glows pink in the setting sun. Sand barges slide silently down the Chao Praya River, long tail boats race around them. I sit in a small cafe with a beautiful view of Bangkok's river: laptop on, notebook open, pen ready. Time for class.

I am enrolled in a Masters program through Shenandoah University's distance learning program, studying Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Armed with a laptop and notebook, I can attend class anywhere in the world.

When people think of study abroad they usually think of traditional student exchange programs. Distance learning, however, is a powerful alternative to that approach - one which offers maximum flexibilty. It is now possible to earn a degree from an accredited University while living in Kathmandu, or teaching in Prague, or exploring South America.

This does not imply that distance learning programs are easy. They are not. An accredited program requires the same dedication and effort as an on campus program. In addition, most distance degrees demand a high level of initiative and self-motivation.

Extra rewards balance the extra demands. Distance programs are ideal for self-directed, independent students. They allow students to tailor the course schedule and requirements to fit individual needs and are perfect for nomadic individuals who wish to see the world and further their education at the same time.

How Distance Programs Work
Shenandoah University mails videotaped (DVD) lectures to each student at the beginning of the semester. Once received, students are responsible for viewing all classes and completing assignments by the semester deadline.
With a laptop and a pair of headphones, students can view class DVDs within view of the Eifell Tower, or London's Big Ben, or Bankgok's Grand Palace. They can move abroad and settle in a foreign city, or can remain on the move - traveling around the world while earning a degree.

Most programs use a software package called "Blackboard" to design their courses. Professors use the software to post assignments, create discussion forums, display materials and articles, add links to assigned readings, and create online tests. Each student has an individual Blackboard account, which contain their current courses. The program is easy to use and soon becomes second nature.

Written assignments, such as research papers, are submitted electronically - via email or Blackboard. Grades are likewise posted on the Internet. Final exams take one of two forms. The first approach is to administer paper finals which are observed and certified by a proctor (usually an embassy official or foreign university professor). The other approach is to use timed, online final exams.

Finally, most distance programs require short campus visits. Some have intensive summer semesters while others require only a visit to defend a thesis. Shenandoah University, for example, requires all Masters students to make one on-campus visit before graduating.

The Benefits of Distance Learning
There are many. Time flexibility is one. Distance programs allow students to "attend" classes and complete assignments any time of the day or night. It's easy to schedule schoolwork around a job or travel.
The flexibility of distance learning provides unique travel possibilities. The minimum requirements for most programs are a) a means of viewing DVDs and b) access to the internet. With these two requirements met, students can study from any internet accessible point in the world. For example, last semester I took my laptop to the island of Koh Tao in southern Thailand. I dove the islands' coral reefs during the day, and worked on the degree by night. Three months later I visited the mountains of northern Thailand while studying for final exams. I rented a motorcycle in Chang Mai and explored when the sun was up, then returned to the city in the evening to study and take exams.

Most of my time, however, has been spent in Bangkok, where I teach private English lessons and work as a substitute teacher in my spare time. With laptop in tow, I've studied in a cafe next to the Grand Palace, viewed lectures while watching boats ply the Chao Praya river, and written papers while relaxing in Chinatown.

Despite the rich travel experiences, I have saved money by studying in a distance program. Thailand is much cheaper than America. Monthly rent for my apartment is only $60. Furthermore, tuition rates for distance programs are often cheaper, as they do not have the built-in costs of on-campus infrastructure (activity fees, fitness centers, computer halls, sports facilities, roads, health centers, etc..).

Finally, distance degrees provide unique academic opportunities. As a distance learner, its possible to do internships with foreign companies, observe classes in foreign universities, and explore foreign cultures. As part of my program, I have completed internships at Thailand's Thammasat University and at the AUA Language School in Bangkok.

For those who are adventurous and self-motivated, distance learning opens a wealth of travel and learning possibilities.

[See the Distance Learning links on the sidebar for more information.]

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Just Another Day

by Skald

Ah, to be free. To spend a week on a tropical island awash in sunsets, dance, ganga, geckos, ocean breezes, and chocoloate....

To awake today in the city, walk among wooden stalls covered in flowers, cross the River, watch the longboats slice through the water--- the suspension bridge standing proud in the background.

To breath deep as slow sand barges plod upriver... towed by sputtering tugs-- flags rip and ripple in the downriver breeze, blowing from the north.

To feel the sun's heat on my head- hot and intense even in the cool season..... I stroll this same route every day.

But today, nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Just watch, and listen.

This is why I left America. This is why I travel.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Phangan Island

by AJ

This is what its all about. Kicked back on the front porch of a bungalow..... sea breeze blowing strong from the right,... pulsing red stars above a mountain of palms..... Kristin next to me, slowing sipping a Singha beer. Me- immersed in the moment.

Blue Lotus Bungalows, Koh Phangan, Thailand. Watching two men with a lantern wade in the shallows, looking for crab. Listening to the push/pull of waves sliding to shore.... Dreaming in a womb of star-points.

Two beach dogs sprawling at the bottom of the stairs.....

On this cloudless night we do not speak--- just watch and listen.