Saturday, March 31, 2012

International School Job Fairs: Fast and Furious Part 2 - Hong Kong Drift

In my last post of this title I attempted to give you an idea of how one goes about securing a position at an international school via an int'l school job fair. So that was the story of how we landed our first gig in Frankfurt, Germany.  Three years later we were feeling the need for a change and we decided to activate our SEARCH Associates profiles and start looking again.

This time around we knew that we had more experience and would be better candidates.  The difference was that we were looking for two positions instead of one, which requires a bit more luck and the best of timing.  As before we were open to go anywhere in order to keep our options open, and we signed up to attend a job fair in London this past January.  It was just as busy, nearly as stressful, yet ended with a slightly different result.

The flow of the fair was similar to last time: interview sign-ups on Friday, interviews on Saturday/Sunday and if all goes well.............an offer before leaving on Sunday afternoon.  We came in to the fair with the intentions of interviewing at a few schools:  Munich, Frankfurt (another school obviously), Hong Kong, London, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Lima.  I should preface this with the fact that we had already received several initial contacts from interested schools, which led to a skype interview with a school in Hong Kong.  The skype interview actually culminated with an offer for both of us, which was a huge confidence booster going into the fair.  Nevertheless, we went on with the fair and tried our luck at the interview sign-up on Friday.

The large conference room was packed with candidates and was wall-to-wall with representatives from schools around the world - alphabetical by country.  We inched around and stood in lines to secure interviews with schools in London, Leipzig, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Ho Chi Minh City.  We went to bed exhausted on Friday after working through the week, traveling to London, and putting our best foot forward to nail down a few interviews for Saturday.  We knew that Saturday would be equally busy and could possibly decide where we would be spending the next two years.

Saturday was full of interviews and information sessions on potential schools.  It was beginning to lean toward offers in London for both of us at different schools or a separate offer for Marisa at another school in Hong Kong.  Ho Chi Minh City was a bust because the offer wasn't a good fit - nor was the fit in Indonesia. We had a really great conversation with the director in Saudi Arabia, but one of the jobs was already taken.  He really tried to make it happen anyways, but without a perfect fit the Middle East would be a tough sell.  Let's just say it was quickly narrowing down to London and Hong Kong.  We really wanted Munich to happen, but the positions weren't certain and we found that people don't want to interview candidates for potential positions with the limited time at a job fair.  Leipzig also wasn't a strong fit.  It seemed that Germany wasn't in the cards.  While nothing was officially on the table, we began discussing the pros and cons between London and Hong Kong as we called it a night on Saturday.

Whereas at our first job fair we were able to accept a position on Sunday and walk away with something in hand, this time it wasn't the case.  Marisa turned down the offer in Hong Kong because it would be a little too much for her to handle while continuing her grad school work.  However, we made a strong impression on our two schools in London and came away with all but an official offer.  It was evident that more experience doesn't necessarily guarantee multiple offers at teaching fairs.  It's more about timing and luck.  It was still early in the game of recruiting, but we couldn't help but feel a little disappointed that we didn't have multiple offers to choose from as we had expected.  

We spent the next 2-3 weeks mulling over our options and flip-flopping between envisioning two years in London vs. Hong Kong and comparing the packages and in the end we decided on Hong Kong!  We've heard amazing things from our colleagues that have both lived and traveled there and it seems like an excellent, central place in Asia to live in and travel from.  At times it still sounds kind of extreme, but hey, you can do anything for two years, right?

So, now you'll be getting a few more months of European adventures before we head back to the United States for the summer and then on to the other side of the world.

--Justin

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