Getting Started in the TESL Field – Advice for New Graduates  

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 third 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 some advice for new graduates getting started in the TESL field. 

Advice for New Grads 

Job search for new grads is uniquely challenging for a number of reasons: limited experience and industry knowledge, smaller networks, unfamiliarity with application processes, and the general overwhelming feeling of, ‘now what?, among many others. So what comes after graduating? What are the next steps? TESL Employers emphasize the importance of getting involved with your professional community, gaining practical experience and tailoring your application to the positions you are applying for.  We asked eight hiring managers what advice they would give to new graduates trying to gain entry into the field of language teaching. Here’s what they had to say: 

Get Involved with the Community: Grow Your Network, and Seek Professional Development 

Professional communities provide numerous opportunities to stay connected, informed, and active within the industry. Associations and organizations related to the TESL field provide relevant resources, professional development events, and volunteer opportunities for you to get involved. You may also find community within your current position(s), or on social media and online forums. Building and maintaining professional relationships is an ongoing process, and essential to staying up-to-date on industry trends and insights, finding mentorship and support, seeking advice and guidance, fueling your motivation, and increasing your visibility in the industry.  

“If I was going to provide any advice, I would recommend becoming a member of TESL Ontario or similar organization. Having access to PD and like-minded professionals can fast-track your career development. I would also recommend volunteering as a great way to network and connect with potential future employers. Also, volunteering with organizations, such as TESL Ontario, can build new skills that can make you more marketable as well.” Associate Director (EAP) 

“Stay persistent and determined, be open to opportunities, and attend workshops, conferences and other events related to the field.” VP Academic (EAP)  

“Network (e.g., through events and through TESL Ontario, TESL London, Tutela etc.); apply for positions in various ways if possible, such as visiting organizations in person; find out about their local providers, what they offer/how they operate and who the learner audience is; reach out to local settlement and assessment centres for information about providers.” Coordinator (ESL/LINC) 

“Introduce yourself to all of the regular teachers/staff when you do supply teach and even post your cell phone or contact info in the staff rooms. Participate and volunteer for local TESL affiliate PD events and get to know other instructors in the area, as word of mouth and references will help.” Program Manager (ESL/LINC/LBS) 

Gain Practical Experience 

The English language education is constantly adaptive, interactive, and dynamic to meet the needs of students, and the educational landscape, and so classroom and industry experience is essential to your career development. Embracing, and staying flexible and open to all types of experiences such as volunteering, supply-teaching, or short-term positions, can provide valuable opportunities for you to develop, hone, and demonstrate your skills, techniques, and knowledge in different contexts, and enhance your overall employability. 

“Be willing to accept supply work and temporary positions to gain classroom experience to build on your TESL training.” Program Administrator (LINC/ESL) 

“Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Teach ESL where you can build your own portfolio: volunteer, in different schools or other types of ESL activity to get exposure and experience. Stay professionally involved…you are your career, don’t do PD just because someone pays you. Do it because you grow your knowledge and expertise that is a career long-term investment. If you find your niche area or specialty, become an expert. Have fun teaching and hopefully doing what you love…teaching or working in ESL.” Manager, Continuing and Community Education (NON-Credit ESL, LINC, EAP, ESP) 

“Get onto every supply list; Apply for all positions, even if the location, levels or times are not ideal. Say yes as often as you can when Teachers ask you to supply for them even if it’s difficult to get to the site, as flexibility is something we look for in our staff.” Program Manager (ESL/LINC/LBS) 

Strategize and Sharpen Your Application 

The pathway to one position won’t look identical to pathways to other roles. Take the time to evaluate your goals and aspirations, refine your career path, and set achievable plans. Once you’re on each of those pathways, remember that the work doesn’t stop there. Continue to customize your resume and cover letters to each individual position to which you are applying and ensure you are prepared for each interview with examples of your skills and experience that relate directly to what the employer is seeking.  

“Select a career goal for yourself and aim for that. For example, if you want a specific role, plan how to get there. If you want to work for a specific institution, plan accordingly. People who are applying to everything and everywhere give the sense of being unstable and reliable.” Associate Chair (LINC, OSLT, EAP, ESP)   

“Simplify and clean up your resumes. Practice interview questions and be ready to give examples and speak clearly and concisely. (This is important because people who ramble in interviews often ramble as a teacher).” Director of Studies ( Adult non-credit ESL)  

Job-searching for new grads can be discouraging and demotivating. Remember that job search is a process of continuous learning. Each of your experiences, no matter how small, are valuable and leads towards finding your network, expanding your skillset, and helps you to evaluate your goals and aspirations. It is important to recognize these experiences as opportunities for growth and as accomplishments along the way. Stay persistent, and resilient. New grads, you are not alone!  

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

The Career Connections: 2023 Career Fair, and a Career Booster forum will take place as part of the 2023 TESL Ontario Annual Virtual Conference this November. Please see the links for more information and updates on the events. 

Career Series

Career Advice Part 1: Get the offer

Climbing the Ladder – Career Advancement Tips

Kiara Kim is the Resource Development Assistant at TESL Ontario for summer 2023. She is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto Mississauga with an HBSc. in Anthropology. Throughout her undergrad, she worked actively within university programming, and various community research projects in fields of anthropology of health, historical archaeology, and English language education. She is looking forward to furthering her intersecting interests in research and education. 


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