Caimin Browne writes about the benefits of thinking outside the box when it comes to your teaching career, and why teaching overseas on a Meddeas teaching programme can be such a rewarding and enriching experience.
Why did you take the step of coming to Spain with Meddeas?
I was finishing my degree (Saint Patrick’s College-DCU) in Ireland and I had limited options here. I wanted to do teaching in Ireland, but I couldn’t get onto the the course I wanted to do. A friend reminded me of an email I received to teach English in Spain, related to TEFL. Although I didn’t speak Spanish I thought it would be worth applying for. I’m very glad I did.
If you had to choose one specific memory of your Spanish experience, which one would it be and why?
THE HEAT. I have never experienced such heat and it being considered normal. I was wearing shorts up to December and playing a rugby match on the first weekend of March, and it was 25, 26 degrees Celsius. Coming from Ireland, where the weather is always in the public domain, I couldn’t believe how normal temperatures in the mid-20’s were in October, and people wearing jumpers and jackets. Madness!
What relationships and/or friendships do you keep from your stay in Spain?
I still stay in touch with staff from the school and the rugby team I played with, on an ongoing basis by Facebook or WhatsApp.
In what sense has your worldview changed after your experience teaching in Spain?
The role I have to play in life. I left Ireland to teach English in Spain. I was no longer a student, I was seen as a grown up, an adult with responsibility, whose main objective was to teach as a language assistant in a school and instruct, kids are going to use what you teach them to broaden their own horizons and develop their own lives. Spain for me was the first time that I was doing something I always wanted to do.
Did you improve your level of Spanish? Has this skill helped you in your professional career? Do you use Spanish in your everyday life now?
It most certainly has. Before I left to teach English in Spain, I had a very basic level of Spanish, but I looked on this as an opportunity, where any progress was a bonus. The Spanish in Andalucia is distinctly different to Spanish spoken elsewhere in the country, so in some ways not having a firm footing in the language and being able to learn from scratch was a bonus. At the moment, I’m studying to be an Irish and French Language teacher, but also having Spanish is a huge bonus both professionally and personally.
How has this experience improved your CV and professional life?
It’s made a huge difference. I learned a new language, gained exposure to a new culture and got invaluable teaching experience. Furthermore, having work experience abroad has shown that I am able to adapt to work outside of Ireland. I am currently studying a Masters to be a school teacher here in Ireland and am hoping to work teaching French and Irish at second level.
What advice would you give to someone joining Meddeas in order to make the most of this experience?
I would advise anyone to do this. Spain offers so much; beautiful food, compassionate and kind people, fantastic weather and so much culture and travel. The year I completed will go down as one of the best of my life and there is not much I would have changed about it. It’s great to get exposed to a totally different way of life and culture. I would say to anyone, don’t just dream about travel, live it and use it to enhance and inspire your career and other life choices.
Having your CV and LinkedIn profile matching up, and displaying your skills and experience in the best possible fashion, is one sure way of standing out to recruiters. HR teams use the social media platform on a daily basis, so make sure your profile is an all-star, helping you stand out from the crowd. These five steps can help you on your way.
1: What employers do you want to see your profile?
If you’re looking for a job in engineering, for example, you’ll need to research other profiles in the engineering field. Have a look at some successful people working in the area that you want to get into, see how they’ve highlighted their skills, knowledge and experience. You may not have the experience they have yet obviously, but you can work in key phrases, keywords and terms that the industry use, which will help your profile show up on search results. It is vital that you tailor your LinkedIn profile for the industry in which you want to work, the same way you need to tailor your CV for a particular job you’re applying for.
2: Write accurately and professionally
The same way a poorly written CV or cover letter ends up in the discard pile; a recruiter is not going to dwell on a poorly written LinkedIn page. They will be checking to see that your profile makes sense, that it uses proper grammar and punctuation (no emoticons or text speak!!).Make sure there are no unexplainable gaps in your work history or education. Again, research what others have in their profiles; make sure you include some keywords or phrases similar to those used in the job description you are applying for. Also, get a pair of fresh eyes to review it. It’s very hard to spot your own mistakes all the time, so get a trusted friend or family member (with a good eye for grammar) to check it over for you. In addition to grammar, focus on detail in terms of what you can offer. Again, taking engineering as an example, focus on technical capabilities, software knowledge, courses, certifications or other industry-relevant experience.
3: Get recommendations
Recruiters place value in well written recommendations below your profile as opposed to easily-clickable endorsements. If you don’t have enough employment experience for a reference or recommendation, perhaps your manager or senior colleague from an internship of work placement can help. If it can be from someone in your industry of choice even better! Also, be visual, if you have video clips or pdfs of projects that you’ve worked on; share them on your profile.
4: Connect and be professionally social
While the CEO of a major international firm is unlikely to connect with you straight away, other professionals in your chosen sector likely will, as will college alumni and department heads relevant to the sector in which you want to work. It’s best not to solicit connections randomly or anonymously, you’ll likely meet potential connections at careers fairs or other events so its better you introduce yourself before you try to connect. Also, there is an etiquette here, don’t try and connect with someone who you may be going for an interview with or who you have just had an interview with, it’s too over-familiar and could affect your application.
5: Use a professional photo
Sounds simple doesn’t it? But you would be surprised. You know that photo of you balancing the three beer cans on your head on the beach in Thailand? Don’t use that one! You don’t have to be in a business suit, but a full three quarter length photo in smart clothes shows you’re work-ready and aware of appearing professional.