Monday, 24 March 2014

Search Associates Job Fairs

I attended the Search Associates (SA) Spring Fair in Bangkok this past week. What a learning experience! It was one of the most stressful weekends of my life. It is almost a week ago and I am still not over it. I hope this blog post will help you if you are considering using Search Associates or International School Services to find a teaching or administration job overseas. The Spring Fair is much smaller than the earlier Bangkok Fair in January. We were not eligible to attend the January Fair as my wife was considered a non-teaching spouse and I did not have PYP experience. Schools tend to look for candidates who are: (1) Teaching Couples (2) Single (3) Teacher with dependents. Going as number 3 and without PYP experience I was not in the best position.

According to SA 50% of candidates jobs come from job fairs while the other 50 come from connections made with schools through their site. It is very important to get to the fair as early as possible and to be in constant communication with your associate prior to and during the fair. I was particularly blessed having John Ritter as my associate as he really knows his stuff and tells it straight. If you would like to contact John his email is, I would highly recommend him as he has been principal for a number of big schools and is a pleasure to work with. Again, he really knows his stuff.

I arrived to the fair at about 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, meaning I missed all the school presentations. When I came in, I saw the associates with their backs to me as in the photo above. I immediately introduced myself to John and asked him to get me in the game. Up to this point we had just been in contact (a lot) by email. He told me to check my mailbox. Each school and each teacher has a mailbox where they can communicate with one another.

On Friday night they have the "sign ups". All the schools are at a table in a big ballroom. You then go around the room and ask if you can have an interview. If you have a slip in your mailbox from a school you get to go to the front of the line to ask for an interview. You use a schedule sheet to timetable in as many interviews as you can handle. I had about six scheduled for Saturday.

After the sign ups, I went back to my hotel to bed. Saturday was full on with the interviews. Most of them took place in hotel rooms, some at the bar. It was very interesting to see which schools were well organised and which were not. Common questions I was asked were: What would your classroom look like? How would you plan and deliver a unit of inquiry? How do you use technology in your class? Why did you become a teacher? Why do you want to live in ..... and other such questions.

I asked the same questions about the package school's were offering as getting benefits for my family was a priority for me. I had already identified all the school's I was interviewing with as being schools who teach the PYP. I later learned that whether the school is "for profit" or "not for profit" is a very important point. Another important question would be how stable is the board that runs the school. That night there was a social event where candidates and recruiters met. This is a place where jobs are sometimes offered. It is very important to remember that with SA a verbal offer is considered binding. If you break a contract you may be blacklisted from their site and fairs.

The following day we waited to hear from the schools. As you can imagine, offers were given, usually through your mailbox. Little notes were dropped in if you did not get the job. This was tough as candidates were let down and you could see it on their faces. I was delighted to come away with a great job and am looking forward to our move to China next year. Overall the experience was great, as I said I learned loads, but boy was it stressful. I hope this helps somebody before going to your first fair.