Friday, August 17, 2012

How I'm Going to China (Part 2: Job Hunting )

 ***This is a three part series click here for part one.***

 As you read in part one of this series, I managed to find a Mandarin course in my area that fit my time and schedule. A month into the course, I decided it was time to start my employment search in China.  I was pretty set on going the ESL teaching route for reasons that ranged from career interest to ease of obtaining a long term visa.

Before applying for jobs, I knew it was necessary to secure a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate of some kind.  After searching the internet, along with obtaining advice from my friend Jo Gan,  I found a TESOL course that covered lots of material at a great price (As you can see, I’m always deal hunting :)

I dove headfirst into my job search despite an already packed schedule of working full-time, Mandarin classes, as well as, studying for my TESOL certificate.   I started my job search with high hopes, but after several weeks, my high hopes were sinking. This was not due to patience (ok, I can be a bit impatient), or unrealistic expectations; in fact, my expectations were quite realistic when one compared my qualifications and work history.  After reading a number of books, blogs and internet sites, I discovered the uncomfortable truth….

It turns out, obtaining ESL employment could be difficult due to my race.  Apparently, a disproportionate number of employers in Asia are very hesitant to place a black instructor in the classroom for two compelling reasons-ignorance and money.   Many natives wrongfully assume that a native English speaker cannot be Black since a native English speaker may originate from the U.S.A., Canada, Ireland, Australia or the United Kingdom-countries with a white majority population.  If a native encounters a Black instructor, there's an automatic assumption that this person must be from the African continent; thus, they must not be a native English speaker (despite several countries having English as there national language).  If a parent discovers that there is a Black teacher in the classroom, they may question the instructor’s credentials and some will go as far as pulling their children from the class or petitioning for that teacher’s termination.  This places language schools in an awkward situation and a potential loss in revenue; thus, many schools find it less complicated and more financially advantageous to hire a White instructor over a Black instructor despite qualifications.

I understand race is something uncomfortable to discuss in today’s “color-blind” society; however, race still matters to many employers in Asia. I experienced this prejudice first hand when I applied for several jobs that were eager to grant me an interview; but, upon submitting my picture, I would receive  several “thanks, but no thanks responses”  if they responded at all (and no, I’m not ugly :p ).

I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, so I dug deeper into my search and found a minority friendly company.   I submitted a stellar application and I was a tad aggressive in my sales pitch, but this payed off since I received a response quite quickly.  After exchanging several emails, I arranged an interview via Skype that went very well.  During the interview, I expressed my desire to be placed in the south of China (specifically Shanghai) and teaching older teens or adults.  I played the waiting game for several weeks and when finally, I received the “congratulations” email!  Not only were they offering me a position, but the position would be in my choice city (Shanghai) and age level (adults)! I cried tears of joy and waited another week before I accepted the offer (I received several other employment offers despite my race that I reviewed for consideration). The only downfall was that I needed to be there in a pinch (by the end of August, but now early September), so I had to act quickly with everything that needed to be done before that time (which I'm actively doing each and every day).

Thanks again for tuning in and come back for part three!

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