Climbing the Ladder – Career Advancement Tips

The language training field spans a variety of teaching sectors from government funded LINC and Adult ESL to College and University EAP and ESL, as well as private sector language schools, career colleges and tutoring agencies.  The job market in this field is vast, immensely competitive and at times difficult to navigate. 

Thousands of new graduates, internationally trained language teachers and experienced educators alike seek employment in the field of English language education each and every day. In this second installment of our blog series designed to help educators in our community find success in their career journey, TESL Ontario has reached out to eight (8) Ontario hiring managers across various sectors in our field and asked them to share the leadership skills that make an employee ideal for advancement and promotion.

Cultivate Leadership Skills  

Striving for advancement and promotion throughout your career journey is a natural progression for many professionals.  Though the education sector has somewhat limited advancement opportunities compared to other professions, there are a variety of administrative roles that provide career growth options for individuals employed in the English language education field.  

What leadership skills should you be cultivating now to ensure you are top of mind when these administrative positions open up in your workplace? We asked eight (8) employers in our field to identify the qualities their most valued employees possess. Here’s what they had to say: 


“Willingness to try new tasks.” Associate Director (EAP)

“Willingness –  I would hire someone who is willing to try over someone else who is holding a PhD and set in their ways.”   Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 

“Willingness/flexibility to show initiative and try new things.” Coordinator (ESL/LINC)

“Being result-oriented, creative, and flexible.” VP Academic (EAP)

Team work

“Teamwork – there is a lot of collaboration required in teaching. It is important for a person to be able to work kindly and contribute to projects.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 

Career Commitment

“A desire to further their own professional development.” Coordinator (ESL/LINC) 

“Genuine enthusiasm for working with immigrants and within the field.”  Coordinator (ESL/LINC) 

“Commitment to giving the best learning experience to learners.” Manager, Continuing and Community Education (NON-Credit ESL, LINC, EAP, ESP) 

Interpersonal Skills

“They have very good interpersonal skills and connect on a human level with the learners.  They reflect on how to best meet the needs of even the most challenging learners.  They are flexible and adaptable as needed.” Program Administrator (LINC/ESL) 

“Compassion, diplomacy/professionalism, and patience.” Program Manager (ESL/LINC/LBS) 

Foster Career Development

When a leadership position opens up employers often look to existing staff to fill the roles. Afterall, it is beneficial for employers to hire from within their existing pool of employees, as internal candidates already have a good understanding of their organization, learner community, and internal policies and procedures.  

What career development pathways should you be focusing on to emphasize your leadership potential? Our employers shared some of the characteristics that make candidates ideal for promotion within their organizations. 

Knowledge of Program Structure

“1) Expertise in teaching, knowledge of TESL and program funding/policies. 2) Systems view of the program. 3) Ability to work with a variety of stakeholders.” Manager, Continuing and Community Education (NON-Credit ESL, LINC, EAP, ESP) 

“Demonstrated investment in and reasonable working knowledge of learners and the Program.” Coordinator (ESL/LINC) 

“They have excellent knowledge of language training, are problem solvers and are willing to go the extra mile if needed.” Program Administrator (LINC/ESL) 


“Leaders – I look for someone who has shown that they can be leaders in the department. They take initiative and are responsible to get jobs done.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 


“Creators – Being creative will give us new ideas for improvement and problem-solving.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 

“Willingness to show initiative and try new things (e.g., resources, new levels/class types, participating in special projects)” Coordinator (ESL/LINC) 

“Lifelong Learners – continuously learning can be in or outside of the classroom.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP) 

It is essential to consistently demonstrate leadership skills, an eagerness to learn and grow and a genuine interest in program administration to establish your interest in advancement opportunities.  Developing a dynamic range of knowledge and experience will enable you to set a clear path forward for future career growth.  

Visit the TESL Career Centre for essential resources designed to help you navigate the English language education employment landscape.   

Career Series

Part 1: Get the Offer – Qualities of a Successful Job Applicant

Part 3: Getting Started in the TESL Field – Advice for New Graduates  

Allison is the Executive Director of TESL Ontario, and has been supporting the TESL community for more than 12 years through her role within the organization. She is passionate about engaging with TESL Ontario members and volunteers and working with the community for the betterment of the TESL profession. She has focused her career in not-for-profit management for the past 20 years, building diverse, member-centric, supportive professional communities.


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