11 Tips to Update Your Resume After Teaching English Abroad

by Published

You’ve had the time of your life teaching abroad, but it’s time for a new adventure. Although you’ve learned so much from your job as an ESL teacher, you’re not quite sure how to put teaching abroad on your resume. Whether you’ve taught abroad for six months or six years, you’ll have to plenty of skills to update and elaborate on for your potential employers.

Two former ESL teachers after working abroad

You had a great experience teaching abroad—but how do you market your new skills in the future?

It can be a bit nerve-racking adding teaching experience to your resume to make it stand out amongst your competition. Fear not you travelista, you have advantages that a typical applicant does not. Let’s spice up your resume and get those job interviews rolling in. 

Things to think about before you update your resume

Why do employers care if you taught abroad?

“Oh, I’m sorry. You clearly have no experience, can’t adapt well, and have minimal people skills,” said no employer ever when looking at an internationally tweaked resume. Adding teaching experience to your resume and the skills that you’ve gained while living abroad will be an automatic “wowza” to employers back home. Hiring managers who sift through your resume will likely be drawn in by someone who has hopped around the globe by teaching abroad. By altering your resume to fit the employer’s needs and adding in the uniqueness of your international experiences, it will give you bonus points as a candidate for the new job.  

[Reflect On Your Experience then Leave a Review of Your Teaching Job Abroad]

What’s your next move?

What’s your goal in the next chapter of your career? Are you looking to further your education and plan to apply for grad school? Do you want to stick to the education field and learn to make good resumes for teachers? Or maybe you’re saying, “Nah, that whole teaching thing is cool but I actually have completely other plans.” Before updating your resume, you need to consider your path and what you want to do post ESLing abroad. 

  • Applying for grad school? Schools love the idea of people who have real world and international experience. You may have a similar education and experience as some other grad applicants, but you have the diversity of having already lived and worked abroad. Knowing how to put teaching abroad on your resume or application will likely bump you higher up on the accepted list. 
  • Applying for a job in education? Seems obvious, right? Good resumes for teachers include having multinational and multicultural experience! You love to work with kids, teens, or adults. You can control a classroom of youngsters who don’t even know what the words “be quiet and sit down” mean. You can create tedious lesson plans while also winging it. And you’ve done this all with bosses and coworkers who may not even speak your language. Having diverse experience in the education field will set you apart from other candidates who are looking to compete with you in the job market. 
  • Applying for something completely unrelated to teaching? This may be the most intimidating option when coming back from teaching abroad. But you can do it! It’s all about transferring relevant skills onto your resume toward the job that you are applying for. It may not be necessary to talk about the Youtube channel you found for the kids to sing along with or the way you taught past tense, but go a bit broader. You can highlight many other transferable skills that make you the best for the job. 
  • Travel more! Now that you’ve boosted your savings account (RIGHT?), there’s never a better time to throw caution to the wind and hit the road for an unknown amount of time. You can find even more amazing travel programs—volunteering, adventure travel, maybe becoming a foreign language student yourself? Adventure on, intrepid soul!

Regardless of your future plans, when throwing your resume together think confident, concise, and creative

Person writing on a journal

Reflect intentionally so that your resume will showcase the best of your new skills.

What are the most transferable teach abroad skills?

Updating your resume after teaching abroad goes beyond “I can sing the ABC’s and throw a lesson plan together in five minutes.” While teaching abroad, you’re forced to step out of your comfort zone, deal with issues that you never knew existed, and go with the flow in an entirely brand new work culture. Adding teaching experience to your resume is more than just skills about lesson planning and public speaking. There are tons of transferable skills that you’ve gained and you can easily learn how to put teaching abroad on your resume as something extremely positive. 


YES YES YES. If you were living abroad in a primarily non-English speaking country, you were forced to learn brand new communication skills. This didn’t  just apply to your students, but to your colleagues, boss, cab driver, and the waiter at your favorite restaurant. You were forced to adapt to a new communication style and this will go far in any type of job.

Flexibility and adaptability. 

You’ve likely run into loads of scenarios that you didn’t expect, and you’ve learned how to have a “go with the flow” attitude. 

  • You showed up early for class on the first day of school and waited for the students. They slowly came in and you ended up starting class thirty minutes late. Oops. Oh well. It happens. 
  • You slaved away during an evening planning a lesson and brought it in the next day excited to share it with your students. Their reactions were complete silence. Oops, try again. 
  • You asked your coworker a question about a student and she responded with “I don’t know” and shrugged it off. Figure it out later. 
  • You found out last minute that you had to work on a Saturday due to a workshop and had to cancel plans. It happens. 

These situations weren’t always ideal, but you’ve had to deal with them and adapt to them in a culturally sensitive way.

Time management. 

With teaching abroad, you’ve had to show up. There’s little leniency for missing classes or having unexpected time off. Also, when lesson planning for a 45 minute class, you were told to plan for every accountable minute. You’ve wanted to make a good impression at your school and be that all-star teacher who knows how to get it together and check the clock. Even if you’re living somewhere a bit more casual with their time and schedule, you’ve learned the basics of time management which is a crucial skill in any sort of job.

These three skills all go hand in hand. They are basic people skills, life skills, and job skills. An employer would rather hire someone who is communicative, flexible, and timely that they can train than someone who has more experience but zero soft skills. So check these off of your list when updating your resume after teaching abroad. 

[Get Interviewed on Your Life Abroad & Help Future ESL Teachers]

Young girl

Why stop now? Consider finding teaching jobs in your home country!

11 tips for your resume after teaching English abroad

There was never harm in embellishing your resume to sell the best you. Just remember to be honest, to the point, and to give it a bit of pizzazz to make your future employer beg for you to be a part of the team. 

Here are 11 key to-dos on updating your resume after teaching abroad:

1. Keep relevancy on the top. 

Employers spend about 10-15 seconds scanning your resume for the first time and then throw it into the no or maybe pile. Put anything important, relevant, and interesting that is related to the job on the top where it is the most seeable. 

2. Add keywords. 

Who will see your resume first—a computer or a person? Make sure to add keywords from the job description into your resume so that employers (or the internet) can find that you are actually an eligible candidate for the job. 

3. Check your verbs and adjectives. 

“I am so wonderfully awesome at doing everything in this job.” Ok calm down and no—don’t do that. First off, do not speak in the first person. Second, you might be wonderfully awesome, but employers hate that. Third, be careful. Use your verbs, adjectives, and words wisely. If possible, match them with the words from the job description while giving making it personable, but in a professional light. 

4. Don’t add in your first job from when you were 16. 

Again with the relevancy. While in your 20s or 30s, employers don’t care about the three months you worked at McDonald’s in high school. Also, you can consolidate your jobs. If you were abroad for six years and worked at six different schools, you can just make this one section. Highlight your most recent and relevant jobs.  

5. Emphasize that you have worked with diverse groups of people. 

Employers love diversity. You have worked with people who speak all sorts of languages, have been employed by a non-English speaking agency, can adapt, and have learned tons. This is key! Employers will love that you have worked in a diverse environment because they automatically know that you can step out of your comfort zone. 

6. Think hard skills vs. soft skills. 

Take inventory of your hard and soft skills. Soft skills are things such as communication, time management, flexibility, cultural sensitivity, and public speaking while hard skills are computer and software skills, typing speed, database knowledge, degrees, certificates, and professional development workshops. 

Bonus if you speak more than one language! Add that to your hard skills.

Girl sitting on laptop

What do you want to do after teaching abroad? Work, school, more teaching, more traveling? 

7. Write down specific examples. 

You make all of your deadlines and lesson planning has become second nature. You can literally write down that you’ve planned out 20 lessons a week over the course of a year making that a whopping 1,040 lesson plans. Use numbers! You can also add details of your class structures. How many students did you teach? Do you have specific examples of what they learned? Are there any stories of how they later succeeded because of you? A resume that is more specific and detailed will get you more “wows!” Yes, you can be generic in some situations, but if it’s relevant to the job add it! Did you have to present lessons to 30 kids a day 5 times a day? Yes, you are a pro public speaker and planner! You’re a star.

Details > Vague.  

8. Did you ever get a promotion? 

If you were teaching abroad for over a year, did you move up? Did you get promoted or learn the language which therefore gave you an edge as a teacher? Add in any sort of awards that you got while abroad and how your teaching abroad career transformed throughout your adventure overseas. 

9. Fill in the gaps.  

Do you have any gaps in your resume when you weren’t working? Employers may be concerned if there are any long periods of unemployment. But work with it. Were you backpacking? Volunteering? Visiting family? What were you doing to fill the time? Keep in mind that you may need to add a bit of info to any employment gaps. 

10. Add volunteer experience if relevant. 

You spent some time post ESL-ing abroad as a volunteer abroad. This counts! You can definitely use this as work experience that employers will find impressive. Make sure to embellish what you did during this period of time as a volunteer with key details that may be relevant to the position you are applying for.   

11. Proofread your resume. 

And of course, PROOFREAD. Keep your resume to one page if possible and have a friend read through to check for errors. We don’t always catch our own mistakes, especially when we are writing about ourselves. Having someone else give it a look through gives you the reassurance that it is in tip top shape. 

You’re set! Updating your resume after teaching abroad isn’t so bad. So go on and apply for that job you’ve been eyeing ever since you got home. It’s all about formatting it to get the employers eyes on it and draw in their curiosity.  

Now that you know how to put teaching abroad on your resume, go forth and APPLY, APPLY, APPLY! 

Young student smiling

Who inspired you the most while you were an ESL teacher abroad? Use these insights to decide your next chapter.

Creating a resume is your chance to brag—humble brag of course. But you can use all of the experience you’ve gained while teaching abroad as a structure to outline the best resume for you. Even if you don’t have all of the tedious and detailed skills that employers ask for in their job descriptions, you have unique experience outside of the norm. Use this to your advantage and run with it. Create the best resume for you and you’ll be getting loads of phone calls to schedule those interviews before you know it. 

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