By Guest Writer: Justin Peavey
When my wife agreed that moving overseas would be the best bet to re-energize our personal and professional selves, I immediately began researching. I always begin with a simple “how to” search in Google and start my journey down the rabbit-hole. The journey took me through blog posts, how-to guides, and various companies trying to make a profit at our expense. Two common threads kept popping up. Either A) you research and contact schools on your own or B) you use a reputable recruiting agency.
As beginners in the world of international teaching, April and I agreed that going through an agency was the way to go. But, which one? I came across a plethora of agencies claiming to offer the best teaching gigs in the nicest of locales. Most of these looked unprofessional at best and truly sketchy at worst. Blog posts helped in navigating our way to an agency. A common thread came up several times from former international teachers: if you can afford it, use one of the better agencies such as ISS or Search Associates. We landed on the latter.
The first thing that surprised us about Search Associates was the level of vetting that the company goes through before showing you any of their goods. We had to have a background check, full online resume with a personal narrative, 5 references, and the list goes on! On top of this was the fee. Search Associates charges $225 a teacher to use their platform. For April and I, that was $450. While that is a manageable fee, it definitely made us pause and have the conversation of “Are we sure about doing all this?” We also had a recruiter assigned to us from our geographical area that helped to answer any of our early questions and make sure that we got everything in before we received access to the full site. “Captain Bob” was an invaluable resource to us during the process. Once all the vetting was complete and the fees were paid, we finally gained full access to the site.
The second thing to note here is that Search Associates is not a typical “recruiting agency.” Your assigned recruiter is not going to go find you a job and place you somewhere. What SA offers you is the ability to research schools, view postings that may not be visible by the public, contact the schools directly using the SA platform, and to look more reputable to the schools. Remember, Search Associates has already done the vetting, so the schools do not have to do as much. They give you the access, you do the work.
And so I went to work! The SA search features make it exceedingly easy to find schools that meet all of our wants and needs. I could search for jobs that match both April and my expertise in areas that we approve of. For example, we could easily search for schools on a particular continent that had an open position for an Elementary Art teacher and a High School Special Education teacher. Obviously, April and I are a package deal. We couldn’t consider any schools that only had openings for one of us.The school profiles gave you more information than you could dream of. This included average salaries with savings potential and benefits to the number of students in the building and start dates for the academic year. You also can contact the schools directly through the site with an email directly from Search Associates. Within the first month, I had contacted roughly 40 schools that met our criteria, had responses back from around half of them, and had interviews set up with around 6 of them.
We started the process the second week of September (which I was told was a fantastic time to start the process, FYI). By the end of September, we were thoroughly vetted and gained access to the site. Through October and the beginning of November, we searched and applied to schools. We had multiple interviews through November. Finally, we settled on a school and signed a contract with the American Cooperative School of Tunis the first week of December. If we would have continued the process and did not receive offers, we would have gone to the San Francisco Search Associates Job Fair in February. Fortunately (or unfortunately as we wanted to see what the job fair’s were like) we didn’t have to!
I am a fan of Search Associates. Again, this is a service where you get out of it what you put into it. They’ve done a lot of the work for you. You just have to present the best version of yourself! That $450 fee will more than pay for itself. I really don’t think contacting schools individually, on our own would have given us the credibility to land such great jobs. In the future, if we want to go to another country and teach at a different school, I would definitely use their services again.